Losing an original document can be quite a stressful event, particularly when you have no backups. A constant question is: "Can I destroy my originals now that I have made a digital copy?" In a world where everything is moving to digital, how should you handle original documents? 

We recently asked Townsends Lawyers about this issue. They told us that generally, a copy of a document is able to be used in court in place of the original. Copies of documents can however have their accuracy questioned if the copies are of poor quality. Remember that you must keep any originals until the proceedings are over.

When moving documents to electronic format, you should consider the following:

  • How am I going to store the documents? Copies should be in a format that will be compatible with future software upgrades.
  • Where should the documents be stored? Copies should be backed up on an external server to prevent any future lossBlack and white or colour? Copies can be in black and white, but if colour is necessary to make sense of part of the document (highlights, mark-ups etc) you will need to scan in colour.
  • How do I ensure the copy is still a true copy? Any changes to the documents after copying should be tracked.

An important point to note is that a copy of an original must be just that – an exact copy. When making electronic copies, make sure the scans are not missing any pages, are easy to read and are an accurate copy of the original before you consider destroying an original. Remember – measure twice, cut once!

So what happens when you need an original Trust Deed but it has been lost or destroyed? Thankfully, all is not lost. Both State and Federal legislation allow for you to rely on copies in electronic format provided that any applicable stamp duty has been paid.

It is important to remember that evidence and document retention requirements differ between states and at a federal level.  We recommend that you keep both a hard and soft copy of originals to ensure that you are best able to address any need for the documents in the future.

Source: Townsends Business & Corporate Lawyers