SPECIAL RULES FOR SIGNING WILLS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC – DO I STILL NEED 2 INDEPENDENT WITNESSES?
The short answer is yes for normal circumstances, the Succession Act 1981(Qld) still requires a will for Queenslanders to be signed by the will maker or testator and witnessed by and in the presence of 2 independent witnesses over the age of 18.
However because of the pandemic and the social distancing requirements of our federal and state governments and the fact that people may urgently need a will when they must legally isolate themselves, there are now special rules to allow signing with only 1 witness or no witness in these exceptional circumstances only.
In a procedure approved through our Queensland Law Society and the professional indemnity insurer we can prepare your will and send a copy to you with a letter of instructions and checklist electronically. You must print a copy of the Will one sided, carefully read and approve the terms of the will and if possible contact us through video conferencing, through facetime, zoom or skype or if not possible phone us so we can observe or be aware you are signing your will informally.
If possible video yourself with your mobile phone or have someone video you signing the bottom of every page and on the final page where indicated as testator, fill in the date and write the words in bold below in the witness details section on the final page:-
“I have signed this Will with the intention that it is to take effect immediately as my last Will and Testament. I understand and intend this document will operate to dispose of my property on my death although my signature has not been witnessed by two (2) independent witnesses. I do not require any changes to this document.”
Say in the video a brief explanation of attempts to arrange for and reasons why you were unable to locate 2 independent witnesses, confirm you don’t wish any changes and intend the document you signed to operate immediately as your Will.
If possible, scan, take a clear photo of each page and email a copy of the signed document and video to us. Then call us to let us know you have informally signed your will and where the original is located in a safe place if you cannot send it to us by registered post for safe custody. Staple or secure the pages in order and do not mark, clip or attach anything to the will.
This is an emergency measure and once the danger is passed all wills should be re-signed before 2 independent witnesses and we at McLaughlins Lawyers will be here to arrange this for you.
If a re-signing is not possible then executors need to apply to the court for a declaration that the will you signed is a valid will. We at McLaughlins Lawyers have experience in applications to the court and have successfully handled many deceased estates with complex and challenging issues.
WARNING! Do not attempt to undertake this process without consulting one of our team to ensure you are taking the best path to make sure your Will is valid.
McLaughlins Lawyers are with you and your family especially now in difficult times, helping with emergency measures. We have been preparing succession plans for Queenslanders and helping with deceased estates for over 60 years. Email [email protected] or Call Teresa Kearney or Dianne Ball on 07 5591 5099 for help.
McLaughlins Lawyers, your experienced Gold Coast lawyers, we stand beside you and help out with practical advice and safe ways to look after you and your loved ones.
Author: Teresa Kearney
Director: Ian Kennedy
Date: 26 March 2020