Video Will Signings
The legislation in relation to Wills dates back to the 1800’s and therefore with Covid the normal process of signing Wills urgently had to be reviewed. The law requires a Will to be signed in the presence of two independent adult witnesses who are present at the signing. This has of course proven difficult this year with social distancing, lockdowns and shielding.
On 7 September 2020 the government relaxed the requirement for a testator to sign their Will in the “physical presence” of two independent adult witnesses meaning a Will can executed virtually.
The government has published guidance on the new virtual execution of Wills which includes the following:
- The Will will not be valid until it has been signed by the testator and both witnesses;
- A live video link must be used, it cannot be a pre-recorded video;
- Both the testator and witnesses should confirm that they can see and understand what is happening;
- The witnesses must be able to clearly see, hear and identify the testator and that the document being signed is a Will;
- The witnesses must have clear vision of the testator signing;
- After the testator has signed, the Will should then be given to the two witnesses for them to sign via another live video link with the testator and this should ideally take place within 24 hours of the testator signing the Will;
- The testator must also have clear vision and audio of the witnesses signing the Will;
- Each video link should ideally be recorded and this saved in a secure location;
- Electronic signatures are not allowed, it must be signed in pen; and
- Counterparts are not permitted, the testator and witnesses should all sign the same original Will.
This change in law is to be unusually backdated to 31st January 2020, meaning that any Will virtually witnessed from that date will be a legally valid Will. This relaxation is only intended as a temporary measure and has a provisional end date of 31st January 2022.
The guidance does state that virtual execution of Wills should be an absolute last resort and that the traditional method should be used where it is possible and safe to do so.
There is a risk that as the Will will not be valid until it has been signed by the testator and the witnesses, that if a testator were to die before both witnesses were able to sign the Will, it would not be valid and the testator could die intestate if they do not have an existing Will or with a previous Will that no longer reflects their wishes.
Virtual execution of Wills should be a last resort and only after careful professional advice has been taken. We have found ways to adapt to taking Will instructions and to attend Will signings so we believe in the large majority of cases virtual execution of Wills should not be necessary.
However we are more than happy to discuss your individual requirements and circumstances to ensure that your Wills are prepared and executed in a sensible timeframe and in a Covid-secure method.
Should you wish to discuss your Wills further with us then please get in contact with our Norwich office on 01603 675645 or our Attleborough office on 01953 458162.