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Witnessing Wills while social distancing in NSW

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The coronavirus crisis has led to an increase in the number of people making Wills, but strict signing requirements mean New South Wales residents need new ways to get their Wills witnessed.

In Australia, a valid Will must be signed by the Will maker in the presence of two witnesses, but social distancing rules in NSW do not permit social gatherings of more than two people.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, which has seen a 38 per cent in Wills inquiries this year compared to last year, is advising people in NSW of their options for signing and witnessing wills during the lockdown.

A further challenge for NSW residents is that a beneficiary of a Will cannot be a witness, which means a Will maker cannot use their spouse or an adult child as a witness.

Andrew Simpson, head of the firm’s Wills and Estates practice, said while social distancing rules are in place, witnessing options for NSW Will makers 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 adults in your household, such as housemates or family members, provided they are not beneficiaries in the Will

Mr Simpson said the NSW Government could also assist Will makers by allowing a more flexible approach to the witnessing of Wills during the pandemic lockdown.

“The rigour around the signing of Wills reflects the importance of a Will, but it may be that we need to introduce some short-term solutions during the health crisis,” he said.

“A move to allow more virtual witnessing and a temporary relaxation of the rule that prevents beneficiaries from being a witness to a Will are two measures that would help NSW residents produce a valid Will during the pandemic.”

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.”

Source- AAP Medianet

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