Although electronic signatures have taken the place of traditional paper signatures for many common transactions, some legal documents still require a witness signature to be valid. For instance, some forms of contracts or employment agreements may need to be witnessed by an official to verify the signatory’s identity and that they voluntarily signed the document. This is to prevent fraudulent actions such as duress being used to influence the signing of a contract and to make sure it’s enforceable in court if there is ever a dispute.

So who can be an official to witness my signature? The requirement for a signature witness will vary depending on the type of document and the specific legislative requirements. Generally, a witness must be over 18 years of age and able to provide proof of their identity such as a passport, driving licence, proof of age card issued under the Photo Card Act 2005 or other official identification documents. They must also have known the person whose signature they’re witnessing for at least one year, and be of sound mind.

In most cases, a notary public can be used as the official witness for a signature. They are an individual who has passed a government test and is authorized to authenticate legal documents and administer oaths. The notary will typically put their name and official seal on the document after witnessing it, which helps to prove they are a legitimate witness. Other options for signature witnesses include barrister or solicitor, justice of the peace, a police officer, doctor or other professional that’s been vetted by the relevant authority.

It’s important to note that the official to witness my signature must not be a party to the document or benefit from it in any way. In practice, this makes it difficult for family members or cohabiting partners to witness a signature because of perceptions of bias and potential conflict of interest. However, this is not a universal rule and in some situations, they can be used, provided the above criteria are met.

Sometimes signature witnessing is required for online transactions and for documents that can be completed remotely (for example, a fax-to-email signature). In these scenarios, it’s usually possible to use an online notary service or an eSignature provider. They can help to ensure that the signature is authentic and provides the same legal standing as a signed document, irrespective of how it is executed. To find out more about how these services work, you can read this guide on eSignatures and online notaries. Alternatively, you can get started with Signeasy to see how an electronic signature workflow works in detail.