It’s something you probably do routinely when preparing or signing documents, but if you do it in 2020 you could leave yourself open to fraud down the track.
It’s something you probably do routinely when preparing or signing documents, but if you do it in 2020 you could leave yourself open to fraud down the track.

This everyday act could leave you exposed in 2020

QUEENSLAND'S legal fraternity is being urged to write the year "2020" in full when dating documents, to prevent fraud, with wills being most vulnerable to manipulation.

Issues with 2020 being truncated to just two digits, as in 01/01/20, may allow another two digits be added to post or predate a document, said Queensland Law Society's immediate past president Bill Potts.

He said the window of opportunity was very small, but lawyers and, in particular, trust account authorities needed to be diligent and ensure that 2020 was written out in full.

"The potential hot spots include wills, legal and financial documents, where the date is only displayed, and also it's very important any trust account authorities do likewise because they may be vulnerable to this fraud," Mr Potts said.

He said QLS was issuing a memo to its members advising them of the risks of truncating 2020, especially when exiting any document.

"The law society is encouraging its members to write the full date to prevent potential fraud," he said.

"The best advice is for people to read the document carefully and only sign the document if it is correct and this includes the full date.

"Better to be safe than sorry is the mantra."

Besides wills and trust accounts being vulnerable, so too are legal documents relating to power of attorney.

Professor Ross Martin, who is a Griffith Law School lecturer and former chair of the CCC, said there appeared to be very few, if any, instances where it would be useful to backdate a document for a criminal case.

"I can imagine someone backdating a will so it wrongly appears to predate another and thus be invalid," he said.

"Highly formal documents like wills have witnesses who would know the correct date.

"So it's hypothetically possible, but limited in a practical scope."

The issue of writing 2020 in full appeared to have first been raised by a US police department when it posted a warning on its Facebook page last week.

Maine's East Millinocket police department told its followers that it was sound advice to write the year in full to prevent "trouble down the road".


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