Good news for lawyers in the sunshine state as “The Queensland Parliament has now passed regulations allowing for Wills and enduring documents (including enduring powers of attorney and advance health directives) to be witnessed via an audiovisual link.” This follows as NSW passed similar regulation to ease restrictions for witness signing of documentation late last month. For QLD, these new regulations will apply to documents signed between 15 May 2020 and 31 December 2020.
How do the new regulations work?
Wills must still be witnessed by two people. However, the regulation allows both witnesses to witness the signing via audio visual link, and at least one witness must be a ‘special witness’. For enduring documents, the only witness required for an audiovisual link is a special witness.
The following qualify as a special witness:
- a lawyer
- justice of the peace
- commissioner for declarations who is employed by the firm who prepared the document and who normally witnesses documents of that kind
- a notary public
- the Public Trustee or an employee of the Public Trustee (if the document is prepared by the Public Trustee’s office)
Requirements to be met:
When witnessing documents via audio visual link, the following requirements must be met:
- the special witness verifies the identity of the person signing the document
- the audio visual link enables the witness to be satisfied, by the sounds and images made by the link, that the person is signing the document
- the witness observes the person signing the document in real time
- the person signs each page of the document
- the witness is satisfied that the person is freely and voluntarily signing the document.
What happens after the witnessing?
While the regulations acknowledge that the witnesses may not be able to sign the original document or a copy on the same day the document was witnessed via audio visual link, it is advised that they do so as soon as practicable after the document has been witnessed via audio visual link. The witnesses is required to sign each page of the original document, or sign a true copy of the signed document.
What else does my witness need to provide?
If a document has been witnessed via audio visual link, the special witness must provide a certificate, stating:
- the date the document was signed and witnessed
- the document was signed and witnessed in accordance with the regulation
- the steps the witness took to verify the identity of the person signing
- the process followed for signing and witnessing the document
- the special witness qualification (lawyer, justice of the peace etc.)
- whether the witnessing via audio visual link was recorded
- any other matters the special witness considers relevant to the signing or witnessing of the document.
This certificate must be kept with the document that was signed by the witnesses.
Maintaining good standards:
With the easing of restrictions around face to face witnessing of signed documentation, it is important to maintain good morals and ethics regarding who is signing documentation. Always consider things like a person’s capacity to sign, the possibility of undue influence, and verification of identity (VOI).
A solution to assist:
InfoTrack offers a remote VOI solution, WebVOI that allows your client to verify their identity anywhere at any time and keep their verification documents secure. This means you can verify a client’s identity remotely and then have documents witnessed via video link. WebVOI features four layers of identity verification smarts which are a first for the Australian legal industry. These layers of verification all work together to reduce identity fraud whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines and keeping clients safe.
4 layers of innovative technology verifying your client’s identity
- Document Verification Service (DVS): Eligible identity documents are sent to the national verification service which compares them to Australian Government records to confirm the details are valid.
- Facial recognition: Facial recognition technology detects facial patterns and matches images regardless of angle, posture, lighting, facial hair of whether the user is wearing glasses.
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR): Text is extracted from images and auto-populates the data into our WebVOI platform to ensure identifying information is recorded accurately and quickly. This means no manual data entry saving you time and reducing the possibility of human error.
- Video verification: The newest WebVOI feature and an Australian legal profession first, video verification allows your clients to video themselves speaking a randomly generated code. It serves as an extra layer of verification increasing your confidence that your clients really are who they say they are.
Since March and ARNECC’s updated recommendations around remote verification and reasonable steps, usage of WebVOI has grown 260%! Amanda Spencer from Bridge Legal, an InfoTrack client, said “Once our staff knew WebVOI was compliant with ARNECC recommendations they were very keen to use it and now it’s as if it is something that we have used all the time. Our clients are time poor and many can’t readily get to a post office, given the current environment. Using WebVOI was a relief that we could get through the verification of identity process quickly and efficiently, whilst putting our clients at ease.”
These updated regulations allowing electronic interactions minimises the impact of social distancing and reduced capacity for face to face meetings. InfoTrack’s suite of cloud-based products have been built for use anywhere at any time, keeping up with you when you are out and about or in the office. To find out how you can further digitise your processes, get started with InfoTrack today.