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Witnessing of E-Signatures and Execution of Deeds

February 2022

Due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, people have been forced to work from home and self-isolate. With government restrictions and social distancing measures being in place, the use of electronic signatures to sign documents and certain deeds has increased significantly. This newsletter from January 2020, Electronic Signature of Deeds and Contracts, looked at the law on this subject and views from the 2019 Law Commission report.

Professional bodies such as the Law Society and HM Land Registry have updated and issued further guidance to clarify the position on the use of electronic signatures during the pandemic. Whilst the law in this area remains unchanged, there has been clarification and confirmation on a number of points. It is confirmed that a witness must still be physically present to witness the signature (whether electronic or not) and a witness can be present even if separated by a car or house window.

HM Land Registry has also introduced temporary measures to accept electronic signatures where a deed must be registered (which would normally require a ‘wet-ink’ signature) to keep transactions moving during these uncertain times. Specific requirements must be met, and this will usually only apply where all parties to the deed are legally represented.

The Guidance Note: Electronic Signature of Deeds and Contracts has been updated, to clarify the position following the Law Society practice note and updated guidance from HM Land Registry.

For more detailed information, the Law Society practice note can be found here and HM Land Registry’s updated guidance notice on the execution of deeds and documents can be found here.

A review of the law in this area was called for and has been expedited because of the pandemic. A working group has now been set up to review and improve the use of electronic signatures and other means of legally executing documents.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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