We’re self-isolating, how can we update our wills?
Written by Gabriella Ferraro
In these uncertain times, we have seen a surge in clients looking to prepare or update an existing will – and they are right to do so.
However, the current pandemic means that meeting with two other people may put your, or their, health at risk (and may be against government guidelines).
Whilst legal practitioners, such as the Victorian Law Institute, are raising the problem with legal regulators and state governments in a bid to adapt to logistical problems created by COVID-19, the legal requirements for witnessing a Will have not changed.
In Victoria, the legal requirements for executing a will are strict and are often why DIY Wills fail.
The testator (the person making the Will) must sign the Will in the physical presence of two witnesses, who attest the testator’s signature by signing the Will themselves. An e-signature cannot be used by the testator to sign the Will and it cannot be witnessed via video call or other digital means.
If you find yourself in exceptional circumstances where you must sign your Will, these are the options available to you –
1. Attend our office to execute your Will and have it witnessed. Our office has incorporated appropriate hygiene practices to prevent the spread of infection, including –
90% of staff working from home;
Providing hand santisier and tissues to staff and clients; and
Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, such as door handles and workstations to prevent contamination.
2. Will, with witnesses at home: after receiving formal instructions, we can prepare and send a Will to you for you to make arrangements for suitable witnesses to be present when you sign the Will. Alternatively, our solicitors can attend your home and remain within line of sight, for instance through a window or at a suitable distance, to witness the signing of your Will.
3. Informal Will, with no witnesses: in the above instance but where you cannot find witnesses, you can execute an informal Will. While an informal Will may be satisfactory in some circumstances, if you pass away before you can formally sign your Will, the only way to have your informal Will accepted as your last valid Will is to apply to the Court after your death. The court will then need to determine whether or not the informally signed Will will be your last valid will. These court applications are expensive, and, it is not guaranteed that the court will determine it to be your last valid Will.
In all the circumstances, there are various ways which can be utilised to ensure you execute a valid Will. While COVID-19 may well have changed the world in a completely unprecedented way, this should not stop you thinking about the future, planning and preparing and ensuring all the necessary documents are properly executed.
For more information about preparing or updating your Will, contact our office on (03) 9311 8911.
* The opinions in this article are intended for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for personal professional advice.