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Signing and witnessing documents in the time of COVID-19

In an era of social distancing and working from home with limited printing and scanning facilities, it

has become more difficult to physically sign documents in ‘wet-ink’ and witness documents in person. In response, the NSW and Commonwealth Governments have implemented temporary changes to the laws regarding the electronic signing and witnessing of documents. While these temporary measures are helpful, parties still need to take certain steps to ensure that electronically executed documents are valid and binding and (if required) any witnessing of signatures over audio visual link is done in accordance with legal requirements.

Electronic Execution of Documents

Electronic execution involves the application of a digital signature to a document. It is not to be confused with printing, signing and scanning that document (which is essentially a wet-ink signature). A digital signature can be applied to a document by electronically inserting a picture of your signature on a document, using cloud-based signature platforms like DocuSign, or signing a PDF of a document using a stylus or finger.

This table summarises the current legal position in NSW on the electronic execution of documents.

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