Witnessing documents via audio-visual link

COVID-19 has impacted the way we live and work together.  At BAL Lawyers, we are working in new ways to ensure our clients and staff are safe as we carry on our services with as little interruption as possible.

Our Canberra City offices are open and we are available to meet with clients in person with appropriate hygiene and physical distancing measures in place.  However, where clients need, or choose, to remain at home, the ACT Government has enacted changes to legislation governing how legal documents can be signed and witnessed.

Effective 14 May 2020, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (ACT) enables “relevant documents” to be witnessed via audio-visual link[1]. For the purposes of the legislation, relevant documents are Affidavits, Wills, General and Enduring Powers of Attorney. Audio-visual link is a 2-way system of communication linking people on a computer or phone with internet connection, so that people can be seen and heard in different places.[2] Signing and witnessing documents by audio-visual link removes the need for clients to meet with their solicitor in person.

What you must do:

To witness a signature by audio-visual link, several requirements must be met.  The witness must:

  1. observe the person signing the document in real time;
  2. confirm that the signature of the person signing the document was witnessed by signing the document or a copy of the document;
  3. be reasonably satisfied that the document the witness signs is the same document, or a copy of the document, signed by the signatory; and
  4. provide a statement on the document or a copy of the document detailing:
    1. the method used to witness the signature of the signatory; and
    2. that the witnessing of the document occurred in accordance with all the above requirements.

The use of audio-visual link to witness relevant documents will remain in place for the duration of the ACT Government’s COVID-19 state of emergency, and for three months after the state of emergency has ceased.[3]

For more information about how your estate planning and probate documents may be properly executed during this difficult period, please contact the Estates and Estate Planning Team at BAL Lawyers.

[1] COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (ACT) s 4.

[2] COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (ACT) s 4(5).

[3] COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (ACT) s 4(6).