Frequently Asked Questions

There are always times when you come across something that is a bit different and you are not quite sure how to go about things.  That is when it can help to check out our Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQ ) section. Find answers and ideas from experienced authorised witnesses for those situations where you need a hand.

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Common Questions

General Witnessing

Q: How much do I owe you?
A: Nothing, it is an offence for JPs to accept any form of payment, however a smile would be nice!

Q: Can I witness a document if it is in another language?
A: Yes, although it’s not necessary to be able to speak the language, you still need to confirm that a JP is one of the people authorised by the originating country to sign the document(s).

Q: Can I witness a document from overseas?
A: Yes, if the document specifies that a JP is allowed or authorised to do so. If in doubt, it’s advisable to confirm the conditions specified in the document

Q: Can I witness documents for my family, i.e. spouse, child, in-law, etc.?
A: It is not unlawful to do so, however consideration should be given as to the possibility of actual or perceived  ‘conflict of interest’ [ JP Handbook pp 22 & 67, para 7.3.5]

Q: Can I witness documents when I am interstate?
A: No, unless the document is a Victorian document for use in Victoria for a Vic resident. 

Q:   I’ve been asked to officiate at a wedding.  Can I?
A: No, JPs are not authorised to be civil celebrants.

Q: What colour pen should I use when witnessing documents?
A: No specific colour is stated, but it is recommended you using blue so your signature doesn’t look like a photocopy, unless otherwise stated as a requirement in instructions accompanying the document. [JP Handbook
p. 14, para 6.4]

Q: The document before me has been pre-signed.  What should I do?
A: Cross out the signature and initial, then re-sign and date the document as usual, e.g. adding the words “re-signed in my presence“.

Q: Should I ask for ID when witnessing documents?
A: Generally no,  unless specifically required requested by the documents and stated as necessary. [JP Handbook,
p 16, para 6.12]   Note: COVID-19 conditions have altered some requirements.

Q: There is a ‘personally-known’ requirement on the document but the client has just moved here from interstate.  Can I sign it if I don’t know them?
A: No, refer them back to the issuing authority to look at options for them to sign. [JP Handbook, P 46.]

Q: Can I sign an overseas document for a client, even though it says a Public Notary?
A: No, if it says a Public Notary, then a Public Notary is required.

Q: Can I sign a proof of life document for a client if it’s in a different language?
A: Yes, just make sure that you are sure of what is required, e.g. signed in my presence for clarification and that you understand what is written. Many of these documents are bilingual (including English).

Q: Can you sign an application for a firearm licence?
A: The requirements for a firearm licence are that you are a “referee” – that is, you must have known the person for at least 12 months to verify their identity. This has nothing to do with being a BJ or JP. 

 

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Certified True Copies

Q: Can I certify copies of identity documents if they’re brought in by someone other than the owner of the document?
A: Yes, as the focus is the documents and not the person bringing them in to be witnessed.

Q: Can I certify copies of birth certificates etc.?
A: Yes, there is no limitation from BDM in Victoria since early 2020

Q: Can I witness passport applications?
A: The requirement for witnessing an Australian passport application rests with how long you have known the person. In this context, you would be signing as an adult who has known the person, not as an authorised witness. Where another country’s passport is involved, you would need to check that countries guidelines.

Q: Can I certify copies of electronic or emailed documents?
A: Yes, if you can verify that the documents appear to be from an original electronic source or authority.
An alternative is a person can declare a Statutory Declaration that documents are a true copy of the originals.
[ JP Handbook p. 15, para 6.6]

Q: Can I certify a copy of a document in another language?
A: Yes, as long as you can satisfy yourself that the original document is authentic. 

Q: What’s the maximum number of certified true copies (or other documents) I should be asked to sign?
A: There is no set number, just what is reasonable depending on where you are at the time, e.g. DSS, etc.

Q: How long does a certified copy last for?
A: There is no time limit specified by legislation, however the client will need to check with the issuing authority to see what they have as a requirement on recency.

Q: Is it okay to just have one side (say, the front) of a driver’s licence for a certified true copy?
A: Normally it is required that both sides of the document need to be copied to be a true representation of the full document(s). If the client has copied only one side, then this should be noted on the certified true copy that it is the font or back only.

 

 

Statutory Declarations

Q: Can an underage person make a Statatutory Declaration or Affidavit?
A: Yes, as long as the child satisfies you that they understand the oath or affirmation and the need to tell the truth. [See the  JP Handbook in regards to the legal perspective of age p. 39, para13]. This is especially important for a child under the age of 10 yrs old.

Q: Is there a standard form that should be used for a Statutory Declaration?
A: Yes.  In Victoria the Statutory Declaration form is prescribed and is therefore mandatory to use the standard form as indicated in the legislation and regulations. [JP Handbook p. 5.8, para 22.1.1] 

Q: Is it necessary to have the second page of the Statutory Declaration form attached, if it is not needed, i.e. no help or translator?
A: The Statutory Declaration form can have the second page deleted if not needed, as long as all the necessary information fits on one page. If the second page is included it is good practice to write ‘Not Applicable’ and place your JP initials on the page. It is also good practice in that case to also number the pages 1 of 2, 2 of 2 etc. for more pages.  

 

Affidavits

Q: If you are asked by a client to fill out the Affidavit (or Statutory Declaration) for him or her on the basis they don’t understand things very well, should I do it?
A: No. However you may help a person to understand what they need to do to complete the form, and then note on it the type or level of help provided.

Q: Does a client need to make an Oath or Affirmation?
A: Yes it is a requirement under the legislation.

Q: What should I say if the client asks me to choose either the oath or affirmation for them?
A: You tell the client the choice is theirs and theirs alone and that you can’t choose for them under the legislation.

Q: Is there a standard form for an Affidavit that has to be used?
A: There is a standard form specified that may be used in Regulation 7 of the Oaths and Affirmations Act.
[JP Handbook, p. 60, para 22.1.2.] However, a standard format is used by legal practitioners who are most often contracted to compile an affidavit.

Power of Attorneys (PoA)

Q: Can I witness a PoA from another state/country?
A: Yes, as long as you are satisfied that you are authorised to do so by the conditions in the document.

Q: Is there a PoA Medical still available?
A: No, this has been replaced by the Advanced Care Directive through the relative legislation and regulations. 

Q: How can a client get the proper forms?
A: You can tell the client to google “Take Control forms” or direct him/her to:
https://www.publicadvocate.vic.gov.au/resources/booklets/474-take-control-1?path= 

 

 

 

 

Remote Witnessing

Q: Can documents be witnessed remotely?
A: Yes, a number of document types can be signed remotely by an authorised witness. The main ones that can be done are Statutory Declaration, Affidavits, Powers of Attorney, Mortgages, Will. This is able to be done through the Omnibus Emergency Legislation passed in 2020. It does have a sunset clause that is planned to be finished by April 2021. Certified True Copes cannot be witnessed remotely. 

Q: Where do I go to be able to get someone to witness documents remotely?
A: Any JP or BJ can remotely witness documents, however the simplest way is to book a session online with the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justice by going to: https://www.rvahj.org.au/remote-witnessing/

Q: Is there an extra charge to get documents witnessed remotely?
A: There is no charge as this service is provided as a community service by BJs & JPs.

Advanced Care Directive - Medical Treatment Decision Maker

Q: Can a BJ or JP witness an Advanced Care Directive?
A: No, they are not authorised to do so, it requires a registered medical practitioner to do this. It is helpful to check the OPA website for further information, i.e. https://www.publicadvocate.vic.gov.au/

Q: Can a BJ or JP witness a Medical Treatment Decision Maker document?
A: Yes, they are authorised to do so, as well as a registered medical practitioner too. 

Voluntary Assisted Dying

Q: Where do I find out more about how an Authorised Witness in involved with the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD)  process?
A: The best starting point is at OPA, i.e. https://www.publicadvocate.vic.gov.au/ which has a very detailed explanation of the process and areas of responsibility.  The RVAHJ also has for members a training program that covers the basic things needed to know in relation to the VAD process, i.e. https://training.rvahj.org.au/courses/voluntary-assisted-dying/ 

 

Mortgage Documents

Q: Can JPs or BJs sign mortgage documents in Victoria?
A: An acceptable witness must be over the age of 18 and not a party to the mortgage, and must note their full name and address on the Mortgage…it is not necessary to be an Authorised Witness. An Authorised Witness is not necessary.

Q: Can a JP in Victoria sign a mortgage from interstate?
A: This will be dependant of the relevant legislation for each state, which may vary and should be checked by the client as to who is authorised to do so. Queensland has very specific requirements and specifies that a Victorian JP can be an authorised witness for mortgages and land titles documents. 

Q: Are there any specific requirements for Queensland Land Title Docs and or mortgages?
A: Yes, these have changed with the revised Queensland Lands Title Legislation since August 2019. It is mandatory that the authorised witness record extra information for i) Verification of Identification (VOI) as per the Australian Standard, and ii) Verify the identification of the property named. This information is to be recorded and maintained for 7 years.   

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