Virtual witnessing of Wills to benefit Queenslanders

23 April 2020
Leading law firm Maurice Blackburn has welcomed the Queensland Government’s move to allow video conferencing technology for the signing and witnessing of Wills and other important legal documents.

The firm, which has seen a 38 per cent increase in Wills inquiries this year compared to last year, said the Government’s move would ensure Queenslanders could make valid Wills while still maintaining social distancing rules.

“The rigour around the signing of Wills reflects the importance of a Will, but we welcome the Queensland Government’s introduction of some short-term solutions during the health crisis,” said Andrew Simpson, head of the firm’s Wills and Estates practice.

Under the laws passed in Queensland Parliament on Wednesday night, video conferencing technology can be used for signing and witnessing documents including Wills, general and enduring powers of attorney, and advance health directives.

In Australia, a valid Will must be signed by the Will maker in the presence of two witnesses, but social distancing restrictions have made it more difficult for people to get a Will properly witnessed.

Mr Simpson said in addition to the new video conferencing options, witnesses for Will makers in Queensland could also include:

  • Two colleagues, if you are still attending a workplace outside your home
  • Two people you encounter as part of an allowable activity, such as attending a medical appointment
  • Two visitors to your home
  • Two adults in your household, such as housemates and family members (provided they are not beneficiaries of the Will)

Mr Simpson said a properly witnessed and valid Will would avoid the cost and uncertainty of someone trying to prove an invalid Will after your death.

“But always use common sense, and make sure you’re not putting yourself or others at risk of breaking the law or spreading disease.”

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