Photo by Andrew Neel

Electronic witnessing of signatures – what is valid?

There is still plenty of confusion around the use of technology for signing documents and witnessing signatures.

The Law Society of NSW has recently put out a memo on the topic of witnessing signatures to provide some guidance on this. Some comments are:

  • You cannot witness the signing of document over Skype or FaceTime; and 
  • You cannot witness the signing of a document using online or cloud-based document signing services. 

Rather than ask what is valid on a technology basis, it is best to ask yourself three key questions before deciding whether you a valid witness or not:

  1. Are you physically present?
  2. Can you be sure that the document you are witnessing is the same document and not a copy?
  3. Are you signing at the same time as the witness?

There is a real danger for lawyers incorrectly claiming to witness a signature when they have not met the three minimum requirements in bold above because it could be considered dishonest or misleading conduct.

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