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When signing a contract or a consent form, does the person signing as a witness have to:

  1. See that the signatory (primary person signing) has filled in any/all blank values
  2. Confirm that the signatory understands what they are agreeing to
  3. Understand themselves what the signatory is agreeing to

Or is it as simple as the witness only needing to confirm that the signatory has signed, and nothing else?

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A signature witness is attesting to the fact that X signed a document. A witness signature has absolutely no value in establishing that the parties understand anything, and nobody would care whether the witness understands or even saw anything. There should be some text blurb above the witness signature that says what the witness is attesting to, for example that they saw the person sign the document, or that they personally know the person, or perhaps that they do not know the person.

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The document may, but probably doesn't say what it is you are witnessing. For example, a person witnessing a statutory declaration in NSW attests:

  • their qualification to be a witness (JP, solicitor etc.)
  • that they actually saw the declarant sign it
  • that they asked the declarant if they believed their declaration was true
  • that they have known the declarant for more than 12 months OR the declarant provided a photo ID and either their face matched the photo or they had a valid reason for not showing their face.

If it doesn't say then what you are witnessing is that the signature was made by a person whom you could identify if necessary (e.g. if the person denied the signature).

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