Making a Will During Covid-19 Alert Levels 3 & 4

19 April, 2020 | Carolyn Ranson

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, it is natural that many people have turned their minds to estate planning and setting their affairs in order – having an up to date Will is the keystone to good estate planning.  This is not morbid, it eases people’s minds and stress levels.  It creates certainty and control in an uncertain world.

One of the issues concerning lawyers over the lockdown period (Alert Levels 3 & 4) is the ability of people to make valid Wills.  This is because the Wills Act 2007 requires that a Will must be signed by the will maker in the physical presence of two witnesses.  In addition, those witnesses must be over 18 and cannot be anyone who benefits under the Will – this excludes most family members.

Temporary Law Change

The government has responded.  From 17 April 2020, a temporary change to the Wills Act is in force as a result of the Epidemic Preparedness (Wills Act 2007-Signing and Witnessing of Wills) Immediate Modification Order 2020.

This order makes creating a valid Will during lockdown Alert Levels 3 & 4 possible.  The order will be in place until it is revoked or the Prime Minister’s Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 expires.

How your Will can be signed

The order modifies the Wills Act temporarily so that a will maker can now direct someone to sign the Will for them, over an audio-visual communication method, such as messenger, skype or zoom.

This means that, if for example you do not have a printer at home, you can ask your lawyer to sign your Will in front of you (during audio-video call).

The lawyer will prepare the Will so that it is recorded in the Will that it has been signed that way, and will send an electronic copy to you, and anyone else you have authorised to receive it.

How your Will can be Witnessed

It is likely that, even if you have a printer, witnessing (rather than signing) your Will is the problematic part under the old law.

The order addresses that by temporarily allowing your signing of the Will to be witnessed by people not in your physical presence or ‘bubble’, again by audio-visual communications.

There are several ways this can be done:

·       You can audio video call your witnesses and show them you are signing the Will.

·       You can sign your Will then audio video call your witnesses and confirm to them that you have done so.

·       You can also have someone else in your presence sign your Will on your behalf and have it witnessed in the same way.

In all cases, the witnesses must:

·       sign their own copy of the Will in front of you via the audio video link

·       state on their copy of Will (with specific wording which will depend on the particular situation) that it has been witnessed that way

·       electronically send their copy of the Will to a document holder you have chosen (such as your lawyer) – who will hold all copies.

Your lawyer can prepare the Will so that the correct wording is included.

After Lockdown Alert Levels 3 & 4 (Moving to Alert Level 2)

When New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2 you can then choose whether you wish to resign your Will or not.  Either way, the date of the signing of your Will (i.e. while the order applies) will determine whether it is valid. If the correct procedure has been followed, and it has been recorded in the Will, it will be valid.

Smith and Partners is well placed and ready to take your instructions, prepare your Will with the necessary provisions under the order, and assist you with the signing and witnessing process.  To get started on your will today,  contact Suzanne Sumner, Personal Assistant to Carolyn Ranson, by email at suzanne.sumner@smithpartners.co.nz or call 09 837 6840.

 

 

 

Do you want to get started organising your will today?

Contact Suzanne Sumner, Personal Assistant to Carolyn Ranson to find out how to get started.

email Carolyn
+64 9 837 6891

About the author

An experienced employment, estate litigation and elder law lawyer, Carolyn completed her law degree at City University, London in 1996. She was in house legal counsel for a large retirement village operator, before entering private practice at a city law
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