South Australia rejects move to allow remote will witnessing – what does this mean for residents?

Published 01 May 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of discussion how individuals can go about creating a valid will. With strict social distancing rules in place and equally stringent guidelines for drafting a valid will, some states have been scrambling to make clear rules on what constitutes valid document witnessing and signing.

Between witnessing signatures through windows and drive-through lawyer services, some governments have even considered allowing electronic signatures and witnessing over video conferencing. However, this could leave the validity of the document in question, and other states have already rejected these novel proposals.

South Australia rejects remote will witnessing

InDaily, an Adelaide Independent News outlet, reported that while other states like NSW have passed amendments to allow for the remote witnessing of wills and other legally binding documents, SA recently rejected a similar proposal.

The Law Society of SA was optimistic that the state government would be supportive of their proposal to allow legal documents to be signed and witnessed over an audio and visual link (like Zoom or FaceTime) during COVID-19 restrictions – especially considering that NSW passed the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020.

The government, however, did not agree that this was a necessary change and rejected the proposal, citing that remote witnessing could be taken advantage of by "unscrupulous individuals." For the time being, residents in SA are still required to sign a will in the physical presence of two witnesses.

Even though this contradicts social distancing rules set in place on a national level, the government is assuring those who were disappointed by their ruling that physical witnessing of legal documents can be accomplished from a distance.

Could wills created during COVID-19 be easier to contest?

During this time, it's incredibly important to understand your state's laws regarding creating a will. While some states have allowed for temporary actions like remote witnessing to be valid, others are still debating the issue or rejected it outright. Before creating your will ensure you understand the law and can comply with it, otherwise your will may be easier to contest in court, and some governments may not acknowledge the will at all if it was not signed and witnessed in person.

If you have more questions about disputing a will during these times, Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation Will Dispute Lawyers are here to help. Contact us today to receive help understanding your rights and filing a claim.

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