Making or Updating a Will during COVID-19 Lockdown13-09-2021 | Resource | Marco Manna
A Will is one of the most important legal documents that you will ever make. In the eyes of the law, your Will dictates how you would like your estate to be distributed to loved ones or beneficiaries in the event of your death. As such, there are strict regulations governing how a Will can be made, signed, and witnessed to ensure your Will’s integrity.
One of the concerns that arose during the first wave of the COVID pandemic in 2020 was the fact that people in lockdown were unable to physically meet to sign or witness important legal documents such as a Will.
To counter the restrictions, the NSW Government enacted Regulations in April 2020 that allowed the electronic signing and witnessing of a Will. These Regulations have since been extended and are still in place today, which means that, if your lawyer has the technology available, you are still able to prepare and sign a Will and have it witnessed remotely.
How does it work?
The need to have documents witnessed in the physical presence of a signatory applies to Wills Powers of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship appointments, as well as a range of other documents such as statutory declarations, deeds, agreements and so on.
Given the strict stay-at-home orders we are currently living under, witnessing official documents can now take place via video link which includes platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Whatsapp and Facetime.
To witness a Will, or other estate planning tool, electronically you must adhere to the following requirements:
- The identity of the person making the Will must be verified (this can be done by providing copies of your driver’s licence or passport);
- The document being signed by the person making the Will (the testator) must be identical to the document being signed by a witness if a counterpart document is used;
- The witness must be able to see both the face and the signing hand of the testator while he/she signs the document;
- The witness must sign the document as soon as practicable after witnessing the testator sign the document (this can be a counterpart or a separate identical document)
- The testator must watch the witness, or witnesses, signing the document in real time;
- Any counterpart copies must be stored with the document that has the testator’s signature.
Do you need a new Will, Power of Attorney or Enduring Guardianship Document?
A regular review of your Will is essential to ensure that it accurately reflects your changing circumstances and your wishes. For example, when you marry, divorce or have children, your Will should be updated to reflect any changes you would like to make. Similarly, you may need to make a new Power of Attorney or Enduring Guardianship appointment.
The good news is that the team at Lamrocks can help you with the preparation and signing of these documents remotely – giving you the chance to stay on top of your legal affairs during lockdown.
For more information on how we can prepare and sign your estate planning tools electronically, contact our experienced Wills and Estates team member, Marco Manna, on 02 4731 5688.