Probate & Covid-19
By Kirsty Brealey
17 November 2020
The impact of COVID-19 led to many changes with respect to the making of applications for Grants of Representation in the Probate Office.
The Probate Office had intended to launch its online platform in April 2020, however due to Covid-19 the launch was delayed until 1 July 2020. The launch in July coincided with the Covid-19 restrictions and stay at home directives in place at the time and due to limited onsite attendance, the Probate Office stopped accepting paper applications and all applications must be submitted through the post or made online in the RedCrest portal from July 2020.
Covid 19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020
Meeting with a client to witness an Affidavit (and other documents) became increasing difficult as the restrictions tightened and the concern for health and safety became paramount. The introduction of Part 5A of the Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 introduced by the Covid 19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 enabled Affidavits to be witnessed via audio visual link, alleviating the need to meet with clients in person. The process to witness documents via audio visual link, in the absence of an electronic signing platform, was quite complicated and proved challenging for many. Where a client was unable to meet the requirements to sign via audio visual link, the legislation provided for unsworn affidavits to be accepted.
Supreme Court Rules
The introduction of stage 4 restrictions meant that many Lawyers who had been considered “permitted workers” were categorised “not permitted”. The inability to access original documents, such as Wills held in deeds storage in Lawyer’s offices then presented further challenges to obtaining a grant of Probate.
In addition to the changes to the Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018, changes were made to the Supreme Court Rules essentially extending the time for filing original wills or other documents and allowing a copy of the will to be exhibited to an affidavit in support whereby the original will could be produced at a later stage, ie when restrictions eased to allow access to offices to retrieve the documents required.
Benefit of RedCrest Probate Platform
We are some 4 months on from the RedCrest Probate platform going live and the benefits are immense-
- We can lodge a Probate related application anytime, anywhere
- We can view and track the process of applications
- The documents required to create the application can be generated within the platform
- Supporting documents and answers to requisitions are made generally the same day
- There is no longer a requirement to file an Affidavit of Publication and Searches
- The grant is viewed online and can be accessed with a unique identifier number (no longer available in hard copy)
- The speed at which an application is made is the greatest benefit –
- Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration with the Will annexed are about 1-2 day
- Letters of Administration – same day. The quickest application having been granted within 7 minutes of being filed!
Where to now?
With the hard work put in by all Victorians in slowing the spread of Covid-19 we welcome the easing of restrictions and with that easing the ability to meet with clients again in person in a Covid-19 safe manner to witness Affidavits, Wills and other documents in person.
If you have any queries about a deceased estate or estate planning, connect with Kirsty Brealey from our Wills, Estates and Probate team.