How Can A Will Be Executed Remotely?
As the COVID-19 situation continues to impact our lives, it has forced all of us to reconsider how we do things in this new, socially distant, world.
Today, we discuss how you can remotely execute a Will drafted by your lawyers. Remember, you should always seek guidance from your individual lawyers and this blog does not represent legal advice.
Ordinarily, you (the person who is signing the Will) would attend your lawyer’s office and two members of staff would witness the signing of the Will and retain the original while providing you with a copy of the same. Given that this is no longer possible for most of us, we provide the following guidelines for execution:
Firstly, find two independent witnesses both over the age of 18 years to witness execution of the Will — to be independent, they cannot be someone who would receive a benefit from your will either directly (because they are named or are otherwise a member of an identified ‘class’ such as children) or indirectly (they could inherit if someone else named in the Will could not inherit).
If Two Independent Witnesses are Available
1. Everyone should use a dark ink pen or dark biro (a pen that cannot be erased) when signing.
2. You should sign each page of the Will where indicated (using your normal signature) in the presence of the two independent witnesses so they can both see you sign the document. You should let them know you are signing your Will and that you wish for them to witness your signature, but you do not need to let them know what is in your Will.
3. Fill in the date in the appropriate place.
4. Your two witnesses should then sign each page of the Will where indicated (using their normal signatures) and insert their full name, occupation and address on the last page of the Will where indicated.
5. Your lawyers may also invite you to contact them when you are about to sign your Will so they can also observe this process by video or over the telephone.
If Two Independent Witnesses Cannot be found
1. Your lawyers should have advised you of the uncertainties of informal execution. You should refer to their correspondence on this and contact them to ask further questions as necessary.
2. If a Will is executed as outlined below, and the Will is current as at your death, an application must be made to the court in order to ‘validate’ your Will.
3. You should either video conference with our office so our staff may observe you signing the Will or you should video yourself signing the Will (each page where indicated using your normal signature, date the last page where indicated).
4. Write the following underneath 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 independent witnesses. I do not require any changes to this document.”
1. Include in the video (if you video yourself) the following:
- a brief explanation of your attempts to arrange for two witnesses and/or reasons why you were unable to locate two witnesses.
- confirmation that you do not wish to make changes to the document.
- a statement to the effect that you intend that document to operate immediately as your Will.
2. Following execution of the Will take photographs/digital images of each page of the signed Will and send these to your lawyer (together with a copy of the video if you have taken a video yourself with the included explanation discussed above).
3. Take urgent steps to formally execute the Will whenever possible.
Some General Notes
1. Print the Will single sided.
2. If your Will has multiple pages, remember to staple the Will (top left hand corner) and do not remove those staples.
3. Do not attach anything to the Will by use of paperclips, pins or staples.
4. Do not otherwise mark the Will.
5. You should discuss with your lawyer how you wish to safeguard the original Will document. You may instruct your lawyer to retain this document (and arrange delivery of the same) or you may wish to deposit it elsewhere such as a bank safe deposit box. However, you should always inform your lawyer where your original Will can be found.
6. You should inform your executor and beneficiaries where your original Will is so they can access it. If your original will cannot be found after your death, it will likely have no effect.
Should you have any questions or queries relating to your Will or any other matter, please contact the team at Adelaide Legal on 08 8410 9494.