Many legal minds making NZ LAW work

We are an association of independent legal practices, proactively sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of our clients.

Legal documents signed during lockdown

Published: 17th August 2020

Author: Chris Kelly, Greg Kelly Law Ltd

Published in: Trust eSpeaking

Best to sign again after lockdown to avoid later complications
During the COVID lockdown, special rules applied to the signing of some legal documents. Obviously it was, and is, not possible to have your signature witnessed by someone outside your bubble in Levels 3 and 4. So the law allowed signing over audio-visual link (AVL) and other similar arrangements. While these documents will remain valid in the future, it may be wise to have wills and enduring powers of attorney (EPAs) signed out of lockdown to avoid any time-consuming queries later on.

Many legal documents need to be signed in a particular way or before a particular person. For example, some documents such as affidavits must be signed in front of a JP or lawyer. As this was, and is, not possible during lockdown, special rules were put in place to enable people to sign documents such as wills, EPAs, affidavits and so on.

The Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 had anticipated that some special changes might be needed depending on the nature of any emergency that might arise. This meant that while an Epidemic Notice is in force, special regulations can allow documents to be witnessed by AVL(1). The Epidemic Notice came into force on 25 March 2020 and was renewed later so that it will not expire until 24 September 2020. This does not mean that documents signed under the special regulations will not continue to be valid after 24 September 2020. It just means that the special dispensations from strict requirements for witnessing documents will no longer apply after 24 September unless the Notice is renewed again.

Witnessing documents
Normally a will, in order to be valid, must be witnessed by two people neither of whom benefits under the will. The will-maker and both witnesses all need to be together at the same time and see each other sign. During the period while the Epidemic Notice is in force, it is possible for all three people to be in different places and to see each other sign using an AVL . That means each person signs a different copy of the will. But all three copies will together make up one document.

Similarly, EPAs can be signed using an AVL. The witness to an EPA needs to be a lawyer or qualified legal executive(2). The special regulation (3) allows the donor of the EPA to sign in a different place from the lawyer or other person witnessing the EPA. Similarly, each of the attorneys can sign in a different location from the person witnessing the attorney’s signature. Effectively each of these people will be signing a different copy of the EPA but together all of these copies will make up one legal document. Similar rules apply to signing affidavits and affirmations(4) .

Arrangements have also been made for some court hearings to be conducted remotely by AVL during lockdown.

How long will the documents last?
Even after the Epidemic Notice has expired, documents signed using the special arrangements put in place remain valid. From a purely legal point of view, there will be no reason to have to sign any of these documents again.

There may, however, be some difficulty later on in establishing that the document was correctly signed in accordance with the regulations. As time passes, memories fade and at some time in the future it may be difficult to remember exactly what was required for signing a will or an EPA during lockdown.

If someone dies sometime in the future and leaves a will that was signed during lockdown, the High Court may want extra documents filed to prove that the will was signed correctly under the Epidemic Preparedness Order relating to wills.

Similarly, if someone wishes to rely on an EPA some years in the future, it may be tricky having to produce multiple copies of the document each signed by a different person or that person’s witness.

For these reasons, we would recommend that any will or EPA that has been signed during the lockdown periods using the special procedures should be signed again. There is no rush about this, but it would be wise to sign a fresh will and fresh EPA just to avoid any unnecessary complications. Getting probate of a will, for example, can be a very messy and time-consuming business if the will is in any way unusual. The registrar will often require further affidavits to prove the will was properly signed. Preparing these affidavits costs money and if you can avoid those complications by signing a new will in the usual way, this would be a good idea.

(1) Epidemic Preparedness (Wills Act 2007 – Signing and Witnessing of Wills) Immediate Modification Order 2020.
(2) Some staff of trustee corporations are also able to witness EPAs.
(3) Epidemic Preparedness (Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 – Enduring Powers of Attorney) Immediate Modification Order 2020.
(4) Epidemic Preparedness (Oaths and Declarations Act 1957) Immediate Modification Order 2020.

Please contact the author for any questions regarding this article 

Related Articles

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Manawatu - Wanganui
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wairarapa
  • Wellington
  • West Coast

Simpson Western

Simpson Western is a leading law firm in Auckland North, with offices in Takapuna and Silverdale.

The firm has ten partners, supported by a team of specialist lawyers, legal executives and a general manager, together with a team of excellent support staff.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 486 3058

Barden and Co

Barden & Co Barristers & Solicitors have been Waihi's leading law firm for many decades.  Barden & Co has been providing services since the early 1900's, meaning we have a deep history in Waihi and the surrounding areas. 

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 863 7250

Corcoran French

Corcoran French is a firm of Christchurch and North Canterbury lawyers with over 120 years experience in providing legal services to Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region. We have offices in Christchurch City and Kaiapoi. We can also meet you at shared offices at Akaroa.

We welcome new clients and are committed to building strong long-term relationships that are rewarding for our clients.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 379 4660

Purnell Lawyers

There is nothing as inevitable as change. Since opening for business early last century, we at Purnell Lawyers have seen many changes both in name and in the people who have made up the members of our team. We have been privileged to have served the public throughout all of these times. 

We are confident that we will continue to bring top quality legal services to our clients well into the future.

Region: Coromandel

Phone: 07 868 8680

Woodward Chrisp

At Woodward Chrisp we strive to meet the needs of our clients by providing a wide range of high quality legal services within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Woodward Chrisp is the amalgamation of two long established Gisborne legal firms: Woodward Iles & Co and Chrisp and Chrisp. Today’s partners are Ross Revington, Adam Simperingham, Jeff Allen and Ellie FitzGerald.

Region: Gisborne

Phone: 06 869 0900

NZ LAW Limited

NZ LAW Limited is an association of independent legal practices with member firms located throughout New Zealand. There are currently 54 member firms practising in a wide range of legal disciplines ranging from business law, home buying and selling, immigration law and intellectual property to aviation law and viticulture.

The group was established in 1992 when about five law firms met in Auckland to find a way to benefit their clients by replicating the conviviality and the sharing of ideas and expertise that occurs in larger law firms, but still be able to retain client confidentiality and their own independence.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 835 5299

BMC Lawyers

BMC lawyers has built a reputation for providing quality service and delivering real results. Our strength is our broad-ranging legal experience that gives us the ability to match clients with the right mix of legal skills for their particular needs.

Our legal professionals are passionate about what they do and work alongside a talented team of support and administration staff to make a real positive difference to our clients.”

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

Innes Dean Tararua Law

Our history in the Manawatu and Tararua Districts dates back to 1884. With offices in Palmerston North and Pahiatua our firm stands on a long tradition of high standards and sound legal advice.

Our size means that every one of our clients are dealt with on a professional, yet personal basis.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 358 6075

Wain & Naysmith

Based in Blenheim, Wain & Naysmith Lawyers is a full service law firm, and a powerhouse for property, family and business law.

We pride ourselves in providing clear and cost effective legal solutions and practical advice for you, your family and your business.

Region: Marlborough

Phone: 03 520 6103

Knapps Lawyers

As a firm, we promise to look after you and treat you in a manner that we would expect to be treated by a professional services provider; we promise to use every available legal remedy available to us to resolve your issue and to do what you ask us to do in a timely manner.

We will hold in strict confidence all information that we acquire through our work for you and which concerns your business or personal information.  The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose such information or where we must do so by law.

Region: Nelson

Phone: 03 544 7888

Law North Limited

We pride ourselves on being a "general store" for most legal issues but also have several in-house experts in specialised areas including trusts, relationship property, business and property law.  No matter what your issue is - whether you are looking for trusted legal advisers to steer you through life, or you have a one-off problem to sort out - we would be pleased to help.

Law North Ltd provides a broad range of legal services across the Far North district from our base in Kerikeri.   We have operated in the area for over 100 years and have a long-standing history of providing legal services to a diverse client base, including businesses and private clients.   Our directors and their families have been part of the Bay of Islands community for several generations and remain committed to the area and its people.  We often call upon strong local knowledge to resolve issues for clients whilst remaining vigilant about client confidentiality.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 407 7099

Mactodd

MacTodd is a leading South Island law firm with a national reputation for its experience and expertise across a wide range of the law.

Serving the local community and national and offshore clients for over 40 years, MacTodd prides itself on being a fully comprehensive law firm with an innovative approach, meeting the demands and time zones of its diverse clientele.

MacTodd's hallmark is our friendly and professional approach. Our state-of-the-art technology provides an accurate, efficient and cost-effective service.

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 441 0125

Cruickshank Pryde

We are proud to provide a full suite of legal services to the regions of Southland and Central Otago. With our offices, located in Invercargill, Gore and Queenstown, equipped with the latest modern technology, we can service wider New Zealand and international clients with ease. Our areas of expertise include commercial, rural, business, employment, family, criminal, property, resource management and estate planning law.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 214 4069

Welsh McCarthy

Welsh McCarthy practises in Hawera, South Taranaki. Predominant industries in the South Taranaki district are dairy farming, oil and gas. The South Taranaki area also has the largest one-site multi product milk processing facility in the world

We deal with company and commercial transactions, commercial and family law, farm and residential sales and purchases, estate planning and family and charitable trusts. A large part of the firm also deals in the area of family law.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 278 5039

David O'Neill

Region: Waikato

Phone: 07 839 1745

Gawith Burridge

Gawith Burridge traces its history back to 1875 when Charles Gawith first set up his practice. Since then the firm has undergone many changes, including a merger between Gawith & Co and Burridge & Co in 1998 to form our current practice.

Our firm draws on the breadth of expertise available from some of the region’s most senior legal practitioners, as well as the skills of those who have moved here from larger corporate environments.

As a result, we provide clients with a comprehensive range of legal services right here in the Wairarapa. We can provide you with legal assistance whether you are an individual or a company, with everything from setting up a Will to selling your farming business. 

Region: Wairarapa

Phone: 06 370 0000

Gillespie Young Watson

We specialise in Property, Commercial and Trust Law. When it comes to law firm size we are bigger than smaller and smaller than big. By limiting the work we do to our specialist areas, we like to think we bring together the best of big firm skill sets with the personal care, attention and relationships of small firms.

We expect our clients to receive clear, practical and timely advice. We place a premium on accessibility and convenience to our clients. We value and appreciate all of our clients and want to do the best possible job for each of them. When we close a file we want the client to feel they have received exceptional advice, service and value.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 569 3997

No firms in West Coast

All the information published on this website, or in any article herein is true and accurate to the best of the authors' knowledge. Information on this site should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by NZ LAW Limited, or individual NZ LAW member firms for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on information published on this site. Views expressed in any article are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of NZ LAW or their member firms. Information appearing on this site may only be reproduced with prior approval from NZ LAW Limited Head Office, and credit being given to the source. © NZ LAW Limited