Wills in the time of the coronavirus

“Social distancing” is a new term entering our vocabulary in recent days. As business adjusts to the requirements of staff working from home and meetings are moving to online platforms, how do we manage social distancing and the formal requirements of properly executing a will?

The use of e-signatures has become commonplace in recent years and many contracts in the commercial world are signed and exchanged electronically by email to form a binding contract. Alternatively, the use of e-signature devices has become a popular and effective way to enter into a contract or signify a meeting of the minds.

This begs the question: can wills be witnessed during an online meeting using video conferencing (such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom) or through the use of some other e-signing method?

The answer is a resounding ‘No’. 

In Victoria and other Australian states, the execution of a will must meet strict requirements. A will must be attested (signed) by the will maker in the presence of two witnesses who must also be present with each other and also sign in the presence of each other and the will maker. (See for example, Section 7 of the Wills Act 1997(Vic)). Presence means present in the same room.

While it is the case that some wills can be probated even though the strict formal requirements for execution have not been observed, ‘informal wills’ – as they are known – create additional difficulties and costs for the estate and should be avoided where possible.

We are giving priority to clients (especially seniors) who need to make their wills in these uncertain times and are observing strict hygiene protocols in our office to assist those clients needing to attend to this important task.

If you have any questions or require any advice regarding making a will or other estate planning issue, please contact our office on 03 95923356; by email: office@baysidewills.com.au; or fill in the contact page.

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