When do I need a witness?
As a general rule, witnesses need to be present at the execution of certain legally binding documents, such as:
- Property deeds;
- Trust deeds;
- Power of attorney instruments;
- Financial agreements between partners; and
Using a witness to witness a document is one of the most common methods used to identify the signatory and testify to the validity of the signature to safeguard against forgery and fraud. After sighting the signature, witnesses typically need to sign on the same document as proof that the document has been properly executed.
Who can be my witness?
As a short answer to the question, a notary can act as a witness. However, a notary acting as a witness cannot then proceed to notarize the notary’s own signature.
Broadly speaking, there are certain restrictions imposed upon the selection of witnesses that a notary should keep in mind when performing a notary act, namely the witness must be:
- A neutral third party who has no interest in the outcome of the matter and will not benefit from the document being executed;
- At least eighteen years of age;
- Of sound mind; and
- Able to identify the signatory either by personal knowledge or by evidence produced to verify the signatory’s identity.