In these uncertain times, more and more people are starting to think about drawing up a Will. But what does that look like when you add a lockdown and social distancing into the mix? If you’re ready to plan your estate, here’re how to safely do so during the COVID-19 outbreak.
There are several steps in the estate planning process that come before executing your Will and associated documents. With that in mind, we’ve developed strategies to achieve an entirely contact-less process that addresses each of these steps – helping you prepare and finalise your estate plan and execute your Will.
- Gathering background information. We’ll initially mail or email you a comprehensive checklist to complete and return, in order to determine your estate planning needs.
- Taking initial instructions. Once we receive the completed checklist we’ll contact you and take your initial instructions – this will be done via telephone or audio visual link (ie Zoom).
- Prepare and finalise the documents. We’ll prepare the draft documents and email them to you for your comments, before finalising the documents. This will all be done via letter or email, and any queries and concerns can be raised via telephone or audio visual link (ie Zoom).
- Execution of documents. Certain estate planning documents have specific witnessing requirements, including your Will, enduring power of attorney and binding death benefit nomination. We now facilitate contact-less meetings to enable execution of these documents based on your circumstances, availability of staff and in accordance with government health directives at the time.
At the time of writing, we’re offering the following services:
(a) An in-house execution service (at our offices) for no longer than 30 minutes, where 1.5 metre minimum distances are maintained and all documents can be witnessed as required by law; and
(b) An in-car service, where you can remain in your vehicle whilst executing the documents for no longer than 30 minutes, where 1.5 metre minimum distances are maintained and all documents can be witnessed as required by law.
In the event that neither of these options are available, following the passing of the Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response—Wills and Enduring Documents) Regulation 2020 (Regulation) you are now able to arrange for execution of your Will and enduring power of attorney by audio visual link provided the documents are witnessed by a special witness (ie a solicitor). The Regulation and this form of witnessing is effective from 15 May 2020 until 31 December 2020 (unless repealed earlier).
The Regulations set out prescribed requirements that must be followed including that a certificate must be signed by the special witness. Please contact us to further discuss the most appropriate means available to you in your circumstances. Please note, the Regulation does not provide for the execution of binding death benefit nominations by audio visual link.
Execution of land titles forms
The Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy has also relaxed its requirements for witnessing requirements during the COVID-19 crisis. Witnessing can now be conducted via audio visual link (ie Zoom) and then the individual can provide the executed document to the witness (ie via mail) for the witness to execute. Visit https://www.dnrme.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/1478544/witnessing-provisions-covid19.pdf for further information.