Covid-19 has brought many challenges and one is dealing with Wills. As people are more cautious about meeting others and with guidelines in place, writing a Will or reviewing a Will becomes a challenge. During lockdown, witnessing a Will was not permitted through the use of video conferencing. However, this has changed and temporary legislation now makes it possible.
Under normal circumstances, a Will is not valid unless the Will is in writing, is signed by the Will maker in the presence of two witnesses while the two witnesses also sign the Will in the Will maker’s presence. The new legislation will not change any of this, although it has changed the meaning of ‘presence’ as witnesses are now permitted to carry out their role by video-link.
What Has Really Changed?
This new legislation comes into force in September 2020, allowing Wills to be remotely witnessed using video conferencing in England and Wales. This will remain in place until 2022.
The witnessing has to be recorded and retained should the Will be challenged in court.
It’s worth understanding that the witnessing of the signature has to be done in a way that the person writing the Will and the two witnesses can clearly see the writing of the signature. It’s not permitted to witness pre-recorded videos either and electronic signatures are not permitted as they come with an increased risk of fraud.
The guidance from the government comes with a five-stage process of signing and witnessing the Will via video-link. Essentially, once the individual making the Will has signed it, the Will-maker must then post the Will to their witnesses so they can sign it. This should be sent to the witnesses within one day of it being signed. The two witnesses must then sign the Will during a video-link with the person making the Will also being involved in the link. If the witnesses are not together, then they will need to watch each other sign via a three-way video link with the Will-maker also being present.
This new legislation makes the current law modern and ready for the digital world although there are problems and risks to consider. The Will could get misplaced in the post and the person making the Will could pass away during the process. There are concerns around the mental capacity of the person making the Will and there is a risk of abuse of a vulnerable adult. The video recording might also consist of poor-quality imagery which means that it might not be usable in court, causing uncertainty over whether they Will was actually signed and witnessed.
Now is the time to make sure that your Will is ready using the help of a professional service. This will ensure that the process is carried out efficiently, effectively and in accordance with the government guidelines.