UPDATED 1 May 2020
The law never stops - but sometimes it needs to do things a little differently. That’s why law firms like ours are working remotely through the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s also why the New Zealand legal fraternity has adapted the way it administers wills, enduring powers of attorney and oaths, declarations and affidavits. Our team is still able to provide all these services via electronic means during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Government has now introduced some temporary law changes to make these new ways of doing things certain.
Wills During COVID-19
The Government has modified requirements for signing and witnessing wills while COVID-19 physical distancing requirements in place. These changes mean wills may be signed and witnessed remotely via audio-visual links.
- Witnesses and will-makers (or a person they've directed to sign on their behalf) can now sign separate copies of the same document, rather than a single physical document - meaning they don't need to be in the same place.
- All parties signing copies of the will via audio-visual link must make it clear on their copy that they have signed it this way due to the COVID-19 epidemic notice being in place.
- All parties must promptly send photographs or scans of their copies to the will-holder. These separate documents will be treated as a single will document.
Wills signed in this way will still be valid once the COVID-19 epidemic notice is lifted.
Having a will is important. It gives you your say over what happens with your property, and how your loved ones should be looked after. Get in touch with us to get a will sorted.
Enduring Powers of Attorney During COVID-19
The Government has enabled similar changes to ensure that an enduring power of attorney can be created when the signatories are in different places. That means:
- signatories can now sign separate copies of the same document, rather than a single physical document - meaning they don't need to be in the same place
- the full set of these signed documents (which may include photographs or scans) are treated as a complete instrument creating the enduring powers of attorney
- audio-visual links may be used instead of requiring signatories and witnesses to be in the same physical location.
These documents won't need to be re-signed as one document after COVID-19 physical distancing requirements end. The separate documents will still be treated as a single valid instrument.
Affidavits, Declarations and Oaths during COVID-19
Updated May 1 2020
Initially, the New Zealand Law Society sought an opinion from Auckland barrister Paul Collins about how to administer affidavits, declarations and oaths during COVID-19.
Modified requirements for these during COVID-19 have now been confirmed by the Government.
Similar to wills and enduring powers of attorney, when taking an affidavit, declaration or oath, we:
- do not need to be in your physical presence
- do not need to sign the same physical document.
We can take these via an audio-visual or audio link, which includes the phone. We just need to ensure that:
- it's actually you signing the document
- you've read the document, understand it and believe it to be true
- any attached exhibits are the ones referred to in the document.
We can help you carry all this out in the right way. Get in touch with us about affidavits, declarations and oaths.
Electronic Signing and Witnessing
Fortunately, electronic transactions and the use of electronic signatures is already provided for by the Contracts and Commercial Law Act 2017. (This only covers contracts, and not the above declarations or powers of attorney, wills, codicils and other testamentary documents.)
There are some requirements around consent. In some circumstances the person receiving the document needs to consent to receiving an electronic signature. In other circumstances the signatory needs to consent to receiving the witness’ electronic signature.
We’re experienced at carrying this service out for all kinds of situations, so we can easily steer you in the right direction. Get in touch with us about electronic signing and witnessing.
Signing Property Documents During COVID-19
When buying or selling property, we’d typically have to witness you in person signing certain documents. There are also requirements around confirming your identity.
Those requirements have been adapted to the current circumstances by Land Information New Zealand. We can complete property transactions remotely so long as we take reasonable steps to confirm your identity and are satisfied you are who you say you are.
We’d also need to get your signature using a particular kind of electronic signing system. We can advise you about how to do that.
Of course, before doing all this we’d also make sure you knew all the potential implications of completing a property transaction during the COVID-19 lockdown, or the levels immediately after. The best thing to do is get in touch and talk to us about it.
Contact us with your COVID-19 legal needs