With wills being in high demand due to the sudden surge from COVID-19, new laws passed by state governments are set to change the ways a will is made in the legal industry.

In Queensland MPs met for a massive one-day sitting to pass the law, which will allow wills to be signed electronically, and to rule that Parliament could sit virtually.

Under the new laws, which will lapse at the end of the year, wills will be able to be witnessed and signed electronically, rather than in-person.

In NSW, the government will temporarily allow Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and even WhatsApp to be used for virtual witnessing of legal documents while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Amendments to the state’s Electronic Transactions Act by Governor Margaret Beazley on Wednesday will allow videoconferencing technology to be used to ensure witnessing continues.

According to Australian Unity Trustees national manager of estate planning Anna Hacker, this is especially pertinent given the rise in enquiries about wills during early warnings about COVID-19 which led to a 20 per cent spike in queries.

Although this has caused an increased workload as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus, this new virtual challenge has offered new opportunities for lawyers in the wills and estate planning space.

Lucy Dickens had previously told Lawyers Weekly that technology would play a big role with the surge in the number of Australians wanting to create or make changes to their wills.

Queensland’s peak legal body applauded the state government’s passing of laws designed to assist in the managing of legal affairs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queensland Law Society President Luke Murphy said the COVID-19 Emergency Response Bill 2020 was a much needed legal tool to respond to the challenges presented by the global spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, president of the Law Society of NSW, Richard Harvey, welcomed the passing of the NSW emergency regulation, which allows for the witnessing of legal documents to be conducted electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary provisions, which have been added to the Electronic Transactions Regulation 2017, provide altered arrangements for the witnessing of documents. 

“As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, many solicitors contacted the Law Society expressing concern about the difficulties that the restrictions have created for the witnessing of legal documents,” Mr Harvey said. 

“The Law Society immediately raised these concerns with the NSW government, and I would like to thank the Attorney-General for moving so quickly to enact these provisions.