For anyone who lives in NSW who has been putting off getting their Will and Enduring Powers of Attorney and Enduring Guardian sorted—we have some good news!
The NSW Government has introduced a new temporary regulation under the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW), which allows certain legal documents to be witnessed virtually, helping to reduce face-to-face contact during the Covid-19 crisis.
For a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) or Enduring Guardian (EG) to be valid, the document must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. Making things even more difficult under current circumstances, for the EPOA or EG to be valid, one of those witnesses needs to a legally authorised person, such as a lawyer.
Under the new regulation, the person signing the document can be witnessed over video conference, whether it’s on Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp or any other program. The witnesses can then sign a scanned version of the document or a counterpart of the document with a statement endorsing that the document was witnessed in accordance with the new regulations. This new regulation also covers the signing of affidavits and statutory declarations, but it does not permit digital signatures, and the signatures of each party must still be made by pen on paper.
For those across the border, the ACT Government is currently considering options around this, however at this stage, witnessing a document virtually is considered to be an informally signed document.
You should still seek legal advice in regards to signing any legal document with virtual witnessing.
At Meyer Vandenberg, we are offering phone and virtual meetings to discuss your estate plan and provide tailored advice to your circumstances in order to prepare your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney, as more than ever we recognise how important these documents are for all Australians to get in place. We are also equipped to witness your documents once they are finalised via virtual meetings, meaning that you can get this task ticked off your to-do list without ever leaving home.