In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queensland Government has passed new regulations for signing Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Directives.
The new regulations allow for the witnessing of documents via an audio visual link.
Importantly, they presently only apply to documents signed between 15 May 2020 and 31 December 2020.
There are strict requirements associated with the new regulations.
Before now, to validly execute a Will in Queensland, the Will needed to be executed “in the presence of” two witnesses.
The phrase “in the presence of” meant being physically present.
Under the new regulations “in the presence of” can now mean being present by a form of audio visual communication.
If an audio visual link is used, one of the witnesses must be a “Special Witness”.
Broadly, the regulations define a “Special Witness” to include:
- A lawyer;
- An “approved” JP; or
- A JP or Commissioner for Declarations who is employed by the firm who prepared the document.
There are requirements to verify the identity of the person executing the document and the link must be in “real time” with each page of the document to be signed.
The Special Witness has obligations to then provide a certificate as to execution and to retain that certificate.
It is important that you seek legal advice in relation to the precise witnessing procedure.
If errors are made, it can result in a costly application to the court to try to validate any non-compliant steps.