Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Document witnessing - measure twice; cut once


The rules in relation to witnessing wills (see the following post - Signing estate planning documents) and power of attorney documents are mandated by legislation.

This said, the rules for witnessing power of attorney documents are frustrating given each state has its own regime (see further comments in our earlier post - Witnessing powers of attorney). At one end of spectrum NSW essentially mandates that lawyers must witness whereas in WA there are dozens of categories of eligible witnesses including virtually all professions.

With other legal documents the rules are less certain and unfortunately will often depend on the application of internal rules by third parties.

Generally with most deeds they may be witnessed by one or more witnesses, not being a party to the instrument. While generally not strictly the position at law, the witness should ideally also not be related to anyone in the deed (for example, spouses should not witness each other signatures).

Practically, if documents are provided to (for example) a bank, the bank will generally require an independent 3rd party witness, regardless of the legal position.

Indeed, often financiers will refuse to accept any document where a witness has the same surname as the person whose signature is being witnessed.

Furthermore, often the bank’s position on refusing the validity of the witnessing does not come up until very inconvenient moments; often triggering significant time delays and unnecessary costs.


Image courtesy of Shutterstock