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COVID-19, self-isolation, and witnessing documents

By Chloe Howard of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, a lawyer in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

Whilst there have been leaps and bounds in recent years when it comes to the merging of law and technology, properly executing legal documents has escaped this evolution. Even though NSW and some other states have an Electronic Transactions Act, this does not assist with present difficulties imposed with executing Deeds and other formal documents during self-isolation.  Whilst Zoom, Skype and FaceTime can make it seem like you are in the same room as someone else, ultimately the law is clear – this technology cannot replicate the requirements needed for the valid witnessing of formal documents. These requirements include that a witness must be physically present when the document is signed.

But what if you are locked down in self-isolation?

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, this had not really been a pressing issue. But with the Australian Government advocating for more people to work from home and for people generally to self-isolate, what happens to the requirements for witnesses to be physically present to witness a document being signed?
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