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Electronic Witnessing of Legal Documents Made Permanent by Victorian Government

The Victorian Government has recently passed legislation that sees electronic witnessing and signing of legal documents made permanent.

The Victorian Government has recently passed the Justice Legislation Amendment (System Enhancement and other matters) Bill 2021, which makes several COVID-19 temporary regulations a permanent change. The regulations aimed to reduce the community risk of transmission through the justice system by allowing legal documents to be signed electronically.

Developed in close consultation with the Law Institute of Victoria, the Courts, the Office of the Public Advocate and other key stakeholders, the now-permanent electronic witnessing reforms aim to protect vulnerable Victorians accessing these services through appropriate safeguards.   

What Legal Documents Are Affected?

Under the new law, the following documents can now be signed and witnessed using electronic signing and remote witnessing (provided certain requirements are met), rather than in-person signatures:

  • Wills
  • Powers of attorney
  • Private and bank mortgages
  • Statutory declarations
  • Affidavits
  • Trust deeds 

Putting aside the social distancing imperatives that COVID-19 has caused, we welcome these changes as they'll provide ongoing flexibility to clients when it may not be feasible to attend BlueRock HQ. Where documents previously needed to be signed and witnessed in person, individuals now have the freedom to electronically sign documents on tablets, phones and laptops in the comfort of their own homes.

“With this Bill, we’re making sure the community continues to benefit from those positive changes – particularly for people in regional and rural Victoria who may not normally have access to in-person services,” said Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes.

Is it Time to Finally Create Your Estate Plan? 

Estate planning makes sure that your assets are passed on to the people you care about and want to protect in the future, and that the important decisions regarding your death and assets are made by those people you trust the most.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with electronic witnessing of legal documents now permanent legislation, there’s no better time to create an estate plan to ensure your family and assets are taken care of, should the unthinkable happen. 

Several of the key estate planning documents can now be signed electronically, making it easier than ever to get your affairs in order. 

Here are the 4 key documents you’ll need to work through with your lawyer to complete your estate plan:   

  1. A Will – a document that establishes how you want your estate to be distributed upon your death 
  2. An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) – a document that enables you to appoint a person to make decisions regarding your personal and financial matters 
  3. An Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision-Maker – a document that allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you’re unable to make any decisions for yourself 
  4. An Advanced Care Directive (ACD) – a document that outlines legally binding instructions about any future medical treatment you may wish to receive or refuse 

If you’d like to enquire about working with our estate planning team or you’re keen to discuss your legal needs with our Melbourne lawyers, please get in touch with BlueRock Law.

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