An update from our Estate Planning Team

Although NSW remains consistent with a low number of new case numbers, there is still a considerable amount of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and its impact now and in the future. Given the current environment, we felt it important to touch base regarding some of the practical considerations we feel clients may need to consider during this time and moving forward.

1. Electronic Witnessing

Earlier this year the NSW Government introduced a number of emergency measures, via legislation, to assist the community in the COVID19 pandemic. One of these emergency measures was the introduction of an ability to witness execution of documents via video conferencing. You can read our alert in relation to this here.

The electronic witnessing provisions are set to be automatically repealed on 26 September 2020. It is possible however for this to be extended, via regulations, for another six months.

We have found these witnessing provisions of great practical assistance, particularly for clients who live interstate or have been unable to get into the office as they are hard at work, keeping their businesses operating.

We are hopeful that the electronic witnessing provisions will be extended.


2. Powers of Attorney

It is more important now, than ever, that you consider putting in place a power of attorney. This is a document which appoints someone who you trust and have confidence in, to be your attorney and have authority to assist in handling your financial affairs. Powers of attorney can be put in place for individuals and for companies and under the document you can appoint one or more attorney.

Your attorney can help you by going and paying accounts or handling any documents or paperwork to keep your financial affairs running smoothly. Where time sensitive decisions need to be made, and documents signed, your attorney could be immensely valuable to you if you were required to self-isolate or quarantine. Having a power of attorney in place gives you peace of mind that your financial affairs are being looked after.

There are some limitations on the scope of an attorney’s power, for example they cannot act on your behalf as a director of a company (this is where the corporate power of attorney comes into play) or as trustee of a trust. Your personal circumstances need to be considered when making a power of attorney and it may be that other strategies need to be employed as a contingency plan for the event of you being unable to act on your own behalf.

Powers of attorney are a useful tool in this COVID climate however it is essential you understand that a power of attorney can be a very perilous document. You need to trust your attorney completely.

If you have any questions regarding the above or require assistance to commence and/or review your power of attorney arrangements please contact our Estate Planning Team on (02) 4927 2900.