In response to recommended social distancing, Hungarian lawyers are employing videoconferencing when called upon to witness and countersign legal documents – a legal tech innovation that is aiding the continuation of business and transactions during the COVID-19 crisis and corresponding restrictions.
The innovation is necessary due to the fact that certain documents require formalities when filing with the Court of Registry or the Land Registry, including the countersignature of a Hungarian lawyer for documents related to corporate-changes procedures and real estate sale and purchase agreements.
Pursuant to Act LXXVIII of 2017 on Attorneys-at-Law of Hungary (Attorneys Act), a document may be countersigned if the signing parties have been duly identified. The document must then be signed in the presence of the countersigning lawyer. On the basis of this provision, the physical presence of the lawyer is inevitable and – in normal times – widely practised but is in fact not mandatory.
In order to be able to countersign the documents, the lawyer must first identify the signatory pursuant to the Attorneys Act. Such identification, however, can happen by using a device that transmits and records the image and voice at the same time, such as via videoconferencing software (e.g. Skype for Business, version 16.0.4795.1000 or newer, and Microsoft Teams, version 1.2.00.4664 or newer).
For countersigning to be conducted by this virtual method, during the distance-identification procedure, the client must consent to the identification process, show each page containing the data to be recorded on their IDs (i.e. passport or national identity card, and address card), and read aloud the data to be recorded.
Once the identification process has been duly completed and the content of the documents to be signed have been acknowledged, the client can sign the necessary documents, while being recorded by the camera (using the same videoconferencing method). Each page of the documents must be initialised. After the signing has been recorded, the client should acknowledge (on camera) the appearance of their signature on the document and verify that the signature is their own.
Apart from the actual signing, the client may also acknowledge on camera a signature appearing on the document as their own, using the same videoconference method.
Once the documents are duly signed, the originals should be dispatched to the supervising lawyer. For more information on this method of document countersigning, contact your regular CMS advisor or local CMS experts: Anikó Kircsi and Dora Czegledi.
Article co-authored by Istvan Tamas Rigo.