Signing documents electronically has become a legally valid way to become bound to an agreement. Luckily, following a number of changes during the peak of COVID, electronic signing has extended to electronic witnessing of documents. 

For a witness’ signature to be valid, it must adhere to some specific guidelines under the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW). In order to witness a signature virtually, these key factors should be in place: 

  • The signing needs to be conducted through an audio visual link
  • The witness must be able to see the signee sign the document
  • A statement confirming the signing of the document met all legal obligations must be validated by the witness 

There are multiple benefits for businesses utilising the availability of e signatures. Ensuring you are using the right medium and properly adhering to the guidelines, the electronic witnessing of documents can improve efficiency and provide convenience when running your venture. 

Who Can Witness A Document?

Generally speaking, a witness is someone who:

  • Is over the age of 18
  • Knows the signee
  • Can confirm the identity of the signee
  • Is not a party to the agreement

Not all documents will have the same requirements for a witness, therefore, whether or not someone can witness a document largely depends on the kind of document in question. 

Witnessing a document traditionally involves all parties being physically present and together at the same time. The witness will watch the signee add their signature to the document and then sign the same document to confirm they witnessed the signature. 

The purpose of having a witness is important in establishing the validity of a document. The witness’s signature confirms there was no fraud, mistaken identity, duress or anything else unlawful that could render a document void. 

Despite the traditional method of signing a document as a witness being practised widely, electronic signatures have been gaining favour for their ease and convenience. 

How Do You Witness Documents Electronically?

Alterations to NSW legislation means the witnessing of documents no longer needs to be in person. This mainly came about following travel restrictions during the peak of COVID. 

Initially, electronic witnessing was introduced as part of the emergency provisions. However, the NSW Government made the electronic witnessing of documents permanently legal in November 2021. 

According to the requirements, the signature must be witnessed via an audio visual link such as Zoom or Skype. The witness should be able to hear and communicate with the other parties as well as see what is happening. This is imperative as the setup needs to mimic real-life witnessing. 

This applies for both wet and electronic signatures. If there are any other requirements that come along with witnessing the document, such as confirming identity, the witness is also able to do this over the audio visual link. 

After witnessing the signature, the witness will need to sign their part of the document via email or a scanned copy. If an online signature tool is being used, the witness can add their signature in immediately after. 

In addition to this, the witness must also provide a statement that confirms the signing was done in accordance with 14G of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW).  

All of these requirements need to be met completely for an electronic witness signature to be considered valid. 

What Is The Electronic Transactions Act?

The Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW) is the legislation that covers electronic witnessing in NSW. Part 2B of the legislation goes through remote witnessing in depth. 

More specifically, the Act states that the witness must be satisfies that the document they signed is the same one as the signee. It also places no restriction on the medium that can be used to obtain the signatures. 

A witness also has the right to determine that they are unsatisfied with how and what they saw. For example, they could claim that they did not see the signee add their signature properly. If they are not happy with it, then the entire document can be considered void. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As a business owner, this means that signing documents such as Employment Contracts, Shareholders Agreements and Contractors Agreements can now be done online. Put simply, the law has allowed signatures to no longer be restricted by location and time. An online signature does not require travel or other materials, but rather, it can be done at everyone’s convenience. 

So, for your business, this means signing documents can be quick and easy, allowing you room to focus on other business activities. It also makes processes more efficient as the paperwork is being handled quickly, and you can focus on your steps moving forward. 

Sprintlaw’s E-Signature Tool

If you’re looking for an e-signature tool for your business, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve had a number of clients providing valuable feedback, and from this, we built our very own E-Signature Tool which you can access as part of our Sprintlaw Membership

So, what would this mean for you?

Using our E-Signature Tool means you can keep all of your documents in our online portal and send them off to the people you work with. This way, you can keep track of your key contracts and important details, like when they were signed. When you enter into contracts with other parties, both of you will have copies of the final, signed document. 

Essentially, our tool helps your business stay on top of your legals by building an efficient method of sending and signing documents electronically. You won’t have to worry about your electronic contracts being invalid – chat to our friendly team today to learn more. 

Next Steps

Witnessing a document online legally contains some key elements:

  • An audio visual link
  • All parties need to agree to a remote witnessing
  • The witness needs to clearly see the signee adding their signature to the document
  • The witness should give a statement of declaration stating they are satisfied that all legal requirements have been met 

As a business owner, the updates to the legislation make things much more convenient and accessible. If you are interested in our E-Signature Tool and how it can work for your business, you can talk to one of our legal consultants today. 

Our legal experts are happy to answer any questions regarding the use of e-signatures for your business, what kind of witness you may need and any other questions you may have. Reach out to our team of legal consultants at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

About Sprintlaw

Sprintlaw is a new type of law firm that operates completely online and on a fixed-fee basis. We’re on a mission to make quality legal services faster, simpler and more affordable for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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