e spend a lot of time witnessing documents and providing independent legal advice on behalf of clients and often get asked why such a process is required. Witnessing and certifying documents is not as straight forward as you may think and exists for very good reasons.
Legislation often requires Lawyers to be a Signatory and Witness to documents such as Enduring Power of Attorney Documents or Guardianship documents. These documents are very powerful and long-lasting in nature as you are authorising other people to make financial + lifestyle decisions when you are absent or incapacitated. Given the seriousness of these documents a Lawyer is required to explain the effect of the documents and to also make sure you understand exactly what you are signing. We often prepare enduring guardianship documents for elderly clients and we always make sure they have capacity – (understand exactly what they are signing.) in some cases elderly clients do not fully understand and the documents cannot be created. These documents are also very lengthy and can be difficult to fill out especially if multiple parties are involved such as two or three siblings so it is also great to have a Lawyer available to explain the ins and outs of them.
Another reason Lawyers are required to witness and certify documents particularly with bank and financial documents is to protect your identity. Without having an authorised witness certify your documents it would be easy to forge them and create havoc which sadly happens all too often in the financial sector. Take the example of an unscrupulous husband who signs a loan document on his wife’s behalf and lodges the documents with the bank. By having your Solicitor sit with you and witness your signature and verify your identity, this scenario becomes much less likely and identify theft is minimised.
Finally, independent legal advice is crucial in terms of protecting your long term interests. Your Lawyer becomes a type of Guarantor for you in that they are confirming the validity of the document and can be sued if they are not advising or witnessing the documents correctly. Couples often sign onerous loans agreements together only to break up a few years later with complicated situations they cannot back out of. Your lawyer when providing independent legal advice will be skilled at looking for un-usual terms such as high interest rates or onerous terms that are not common with the type of document you are signing.
Do you need a Lawyer to witness documents or provide you with Independent Legal Advice? We are available after hours and provide home visits to fit around your busy schedule. Give Maspero Legal a call today on 02 8052 3322.
Written by Jim Maspero