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Video Conference Wills & Estate Planning

Date:
By Ross Mason

 

Lawyers are traditionally very slow at adopting technology, and the laws typically evolve over long periods of time. 

Despite electronic signatures being widely adopted in the commercial world, lawyers and the law have been a little slow to catch up.

Today the law took a massive step forward, with the passing of the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020 (NSW). 

Video Conference Witnessing

With the passing of the regulation, we can now witness the following documents using video conferencing:

  • Wills;
  • Powers of Attorney;
  • Enduring Guardianship Appointments;
  • Deeds and Contracts;
  • Affidavits; and 
  • Statutory Declarations.

Necessity breeds innovation ... whilst disappointed that it took a global pandemic for this innovation, Mason Lawyers welcomes this step forward.

Traditionally, witnesses to documents needed to be physically present in the same room, and at the same time, as the document was signed.

Whilst a big step forward logistically in all areas of law, clients wishing to have their estate planning undertaken remotely are the big winners from the legislation!

The Devil is in the Detail

As with all laws, the devil is in the detail.

All normal requirements for the execution of documents remain.  For a Will, this includes that there are two witnesses to the execution of the Will.

For a Will signed using video conferencing, the two witnesses must both:

  1. Observe the Willmaker signing the document in real time, through the video conference.
  2. Confirm the signature was witnessed by signing the Will, or a copy of the Will.
  3. Be reasonably satisfied the Will the witness signs is the same document, or a copy of the document signed by the Willmaker.
  4. Endorse the Will, or the copy of the Will, with a statement specifying the method used to witness the Will and that the Will was witnessed in accordance with the regulation.

Any failure to comply with the strict technical requirements can invalidate the Will.

What about DocuSign?

For those of you familiar with DocuSign and other electronic signing platforms, you will recognise that these platforms will not comply with the new requirements. 

Whilst that was clearly an option for the law makers, clearly it was a step too far ... and for good reason.  This was the subject of some discussion in our office, in anticipation of the new law.  

The risk of someone making a Will using their partner's or parent's DocuSign signature is far too great.  The requirement for video conferencing verification, provides that added layer of protection.

We're Ready to Assist You by Video Conference!

At Mason Lawyers, we are here to guide you through all aspects of estate planning, no matter how complex your affairs are. 

We've been conducting video conferences with clients since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, and are ready to go with the new law. 

The whole process can be managed through video conferencing and emails, and can be completed from start to finish in as little as 24 hours.

To start your estate planning, call us today on (02) 4929 4499 to make a video conference appointment with one of our lawyers.