- What is a will?
- The remote execution procedure for wills
- Making arrangements for online witnessing
- A special witness is required
- How to execute a will or other testamentary instrument online, using the remote execution procedure
- Which document is the will?
- International wills cannot be executed using this procedure
On this page
Changes to the Wills Act 1997 (External link) enable wills and other testamentary instruments to be witnessed online via audio visual link.
What is a will?
A will is a document that details what you want to happen to your property after you die.
For more information on making a will visit the Wills and Estates section on the Victoria Legal Aid website (External link).
The remote execution procedure for wills
The requirements for online witnessing of a will is outlined in the Wills Act 1997 as the 'remote execution procedure'.
When using the remote execution procedure:
- One or more people participating can be present via audio visual link, provided they are physically situated in Victoria.
- Each witness is still required to fulfil all existing obligations under the Wills Act 1997. Remote witnesses have additional certification requirements.
- A special witness is required for online witnessing of wills and other testamentary documents.
- The remote execution procedure must be completed within the one day.
Making arrangements for online witnessing
When organising to have a document witnessed via an audio visual link, you should consider the following:
- How will you meet online? For example, through Zoom or Skype.
- How will you send documents to one another? This could be through fax, email or some other way of electronically sending documents.
- Do you want to use a scanned copy or an electronic copy of the will? Do you have access to a scanner and printer?
- Is one of your witnesses a ‘special witness’?
A special witness is required
- One witness must be a ‘special witness’ when the remote execution procedure is used to execute a will online.
A special witness must be:
- an Australian legal practitioner, or
- a justice of the peace.
Only one witness is required to act as the special witness (even if there are multiple people who meet the criteria to act as a special witness).
The role of the special witness is to oversee the use of the remote execution procedure. You can learn more about the responsibilities of the special witness below.
How to execute a will or other testamentary instrument online, using the remote execution procedure
The following steps must occur on the same day and within Victoria:
(These steps can be recorded where all parties consent to a recording being made.)
The witnesses see the testator (or substitute signatory) sign the instrument (by audio visual link or in person). If there is a substitute signatory the witnesses must also see and hear the direction of the testator to the substitute signatory.
Any witnesses physically present with the testator (who are not the special witness), must sign the instrument next and do so in accordance with the existing requirements of witnesses under the Wills Act 1997.
A copy of the document is sent by electronic communication to any remote witnesses who must:
- be reasonably satisfied that the document is the same document that the testator (or substitute signatory) signed;
- ensure that there is a statement on the will (this can be written or typed) that the witness witnessed the will by audio visual link in accordance with the remote execution procedure; and
- sign the document (either by electronic signature or with a handwritten signature) in view of the testator via audio visual link.
The special witness must fulfil the requirements of an ordinary witness (above). The special witness must be the final signatory, and must only sign the document after:
- checking the document for compliance with the remote execution procedure, and
- ensuring that there is a statement on the will (this can be written or typed) setting out:
- whether the document was signed and witnessed in accordance with the remote execution procedure,
- that they are a special witness and include their qualification as a special witness, and
- whether to their knowledge, an audio-visual recording was made of the remote execution procedure.
If a will is to be altered, revoked or revived, the same procedures above apply.
Which document is the will?
The document which has been checked and signed by the special witness (who must be the last witness) is the completed will or testamentary instrument.
International wills cannot be executed using this procedure
The changes to the Wills Act 1997 do not allow an international will to be executed under the remote execution procedure.
You can learn more about International Wills on the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department website (External link).