Is it mandatory for me to provide remote signing and witnessing services?

No, it is not compulsory for you to undertake remote signing and witnessing and you should only do so if you are comfortable and capable of using the technology needed to do so.

What should I consider privacy wise when dealing with remote documents?

As stated in the Justice of the Peace Handbook: “you do not need to keep originals or copies of documents in order to protect yourself in any future dispute”, similarly you should not keep originals or copies of documents when providing remote witness and signing services. In this case it may involve proactively removing such documents from your electronic devices at the completion of remote witnessing and signing.

I usually see the principal at some point on their own when witnessing an Enduring Power of Attorney. How do I manage this remotely if they present with other parties?

You should undertake a remote session with the same diligence you would undertake a non-remote session. If you wish to see the principal on their own then you should ask any others to leave the room and, if required, to hand the communication device to the principal. You may wish to ask the principal to scan the room with their camera to confirm no one else is present.

What should I do if documents have been emailed to either party and have not been received in time to finalise the remote transactions?

If you do not receive an email in a reasonable amount of time (an email should be expected to arrive within 1-5 minutes) then you should first check your “spam” or “junk” folder in your email. An email from a person who you have not previously corresponded with can be identified by an email program as a spam/junk email and moved out of your inbox.

If you have still not received the email, then you should end the session and investigate and resolve the email issue before again proceeding.

How can I be sure that I can confidently assess the capacity (such as when witnessing an Enduring POA) of the person virtually?

You should undertake the same assessment you would undertake for a non-remote assessment. If you arrive at the conclusion that you are unable to confidently assess the capability of a person (for any reason, including the limitations of the technology you are using) then you should not proceed.

Do I need to provide specific security software on the devices I am using for remote transactions?

You should undertake the usual precautions you would usually undertake when using these types of software, such as ensuring that there are no unauthorised persons participating in the audio-visual session. You do not need additional security software.

What happens to remote practices when this legislation is revoked?

The legislation provides that they will expire 6 months after the commencement of the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020. Thus, these remote practices will no longer be able to be conducted after midnight on 26 October 2020.