Today the Queensland Government enacted Regulations changing the way Wills and other significant documents can be executed and witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Regulations apply to:
- Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney (the “Documents”);
- The Documents when they are signed and witnessed between 15 May 2020 and 31 December 2020.
The Regulations address challenges that have arisen witnessing the Documents during COVID-19 where social distancing and isolation practices are imposed.
Pre-COVID-19 Wills & Enduring Powers of Attorney
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Will had to be:
- in writing;
- signed by the person making the Will, or at their direction, (“the Testator “); and
- witnessed by two people physically present at the time it was signed by the Testator or at their direction,
- to be recognised as a valid Will.
An Enduring Power of Attorney (“EPA”) had to be signed by the person making the EPA (“the Principal”) in the presence of a qualified witness such as a lawyer, commissioner for declarations or justice of the peace.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing has made witnessing wills and EPAs significantly more challenging.
Execution of Wills or EPAs between 15 May 2020 and 31 December 2020
With the new COVID-19 Regulations commencing today, it is now possible to validly execute a Will or EPA where the witnesses cannot be physically present with the Testator or Principal if certain criteria can be met, including:
- For a Will, two witnesses are still required and one of the witnesses must be a “special witness”;
- For an EPA, only one witness is required but that witness must be a “special witness”;
- A “special witness” is a: (a) lawyer; (b) notary public; or (c) justice of the peace and commissioner for declarations if employed by a law practice or public trustee. If a justice of the peace or commission for declarations is not employed by a law firm or public trustee, it will also be possible for them to be approved as a “special witness” by the Chief Executive.
- The witnesses and Testator or Principal must be “in the presence” of one another by audio-visual communication, allowing the witnesses to see and hear the execution of the Document in real time;
- The witness or witnesses must satisfy themselves as to the identity of the Testator or Principal;
- There are further requirements if the Testator or Principal directs another person to sign the document on their behalf; and
- A special certificate is required to be given by a special witness who witnesses a Will or EPA by audio-visual link.
How Thynne + Macartney can help you:
Thynne + Macartney offers two convenient ways to create or update your Will, EPA or other estate planning documents during COVID-19 restrictions:
1. Use Settify – our online program to create or update your Will, EPA and Estate Planning Documents
Our online program guides you through the information and considerations to help you in making the decisions you will need to complete your Will, EPA and Estate Plan, as well as gathering information we need to prepare draft documents for you to review.
The information you provide to us is securely held and confidential.
Completing the online questionnaire does not create any obligation to finalise your Will, EPA or Estate Plan with Thynne + Macartney but it helps to significantly reduce the costs you incur in preparing your Estate Plan and related documents.
When we have the information, our lawyers will arrange a time to meet with you via Zoom or telephone to get any outstanding information to finalise your documents for signing, and answer any questions you may have.
Once finalised, we can meet with you by video conference so you can validly execute your Will, EPA or other documents in compliance with the COVID-19 Regulations.
This is the most cost effective way to prepare your Will, EPA and Estate Plan, and you can be secure in the knowledge that your documents have been prepared by three of the best Estate and Succession lawyers in Queensland, significantly reducing the chances of your Will being invalid or open to challenge in the future.
2. Set up an appointment to meet with us
If you would prefer to work with us in person to gather the information needed to prepare or update your Will, EPA or Estate Plan, we are available to meet with you by video conference, telephone or in person complying with all social distancing requirements and government guidelines.