This summer, the Government announced that it would revise its Wills legislation in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and from 28 September 2020 the necessary legislation to temporarily permit Wills to be witnessed by video conference...
... or other visual link will come into effect. Importantly, the legislation will have retrospective effect, so Wills witnessed by video link and made from 31 January 2020 will be legal.
or other visual link will come into effect. Importantly, the legislation will have retrospective effect, so Wills witnessed by video link and made from 31 January 2020 will be legal.
How Can My Will Be Witnessed Legally by Video Link?
This change is not without its challenges as the risk of not witnessing a Will correctly is to make an invalid Will. Be aware of the following:
- You cannot use pre-recorded video for this process. Live video is required of both signing and witnessing.
- There can only be one Will document. There will be an inevitable delay in its completion, whilst it is delivered to both your witnesses for them to sign (again by live video link).
- Your Will is not valid until everyone has signed, resulting in an incomplete Will during this lag time. This could present difficulties if, for example, you change your mind or lose capacity between signing the Will yourself and your witnesses signing. The Government's guidance states that the witnesses should ideally sign within 24 hours. The longer the process takes, the greater the risk of encountering difficulties.
- There is a risk of loss or damage when posting the Will.
- The whole process should be recorded if possible. There will be a minimum of two separate video recordings - one for you to sign the Will and the second for your two witnesses to sign, if they are together in the same room when they do so. If they are in separate places, a third recording will be required.
- Electronic signatures are not permitted.
Will This Change Be Permanent?
This is a temporary amendment to the Wills Act 1837 and will apply to Wills made up until 31 January 2022. Any Will (which has not already been admitted to probate), made in this way since 31 January 2020 will be valid if compliant with the legislation.
Is It Better to Make My Will by Video Link?
It is likely to be more difficult to prove the validity of a Will if the witnessing has not been done correctly and the detailed list above indicates the many ways in which witnessing could go wrong, potentially also leading to an increase in challenges to Wills made by video link by opportunistic beneficiaries.
Our advice is to only use this newly permitted method of signing and witnessing your Will as a last resort and after having received detailed professional advice on how to comply with the new procedure. Wherever possible it is preferable to witness your will either in the presence of a qualified practitioner with the appropriate social distancing in place or with them overseeing the process by video link on a separate screen.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.