Witnessing a Will remotely has been made an option by the government (read their announcement on video-witnessed wills made on 25 July) by changing the law on the signing of Wills until 31 January 2022.

Traditionally a will must be:

  1. signed by the person making the will
  2. dated on the day of signing; and
  3. witnessed by two independent witnesses who must be in the presence of each other and the person making the will.

During the lockdown, this created numerous problems for legal professionals and their clients. It was not possible to have three independent people come together. Creative thinking was required and since the lockdown I have attended many will signings with a colleague using social distancing in the garden of the client.

After months of lobbying, the Government has now amended the rules so that (until 31 January 2022) a will can be witnessed virtually – that is by video conferencing (the nature of the video conferencing is not important so long as those virtually present can hear each other and see each other and the will itself).

4 stages of witnessing a will remotely

This is broken down into four stages. For example Mr A needs to sign his Will but he cannot leave his home. He needs to arrange for two independent witnesses. Mrs C and Mr D are happy to act as witnesses but cannot leave their own homes.

Stage 1

Mr A arranges a recorded facetime call with Mrs C and Mr D. They are all present on this facetime call at the same time. Mr A holds his will to the camera and Mrs C and Mr D can see that Mr A is holding his Will. Mr A then turns to the page that shows where he, Mrs C and Mr D will need to sign.

Mr A confirms that he intends to sign his will. He then dates and signs the will in the virtual presence of Mrs C and Mr D.

Mrs C and Mr D can clearly see Mr A sign the will and can see his signature on it.

Step 2

Mr A then arranges for the Will to be sent to Mrs C. Mrs C then arranges a recorded Zoom call with Mr A and Mr D. Mr A and Mr D can clearly see that Mrs C has Mr A’s will and then they see her sign it. Mrs C then holds up to the camera Mr A’s will showing her signature beneath that of Mr A.

Stage 3

Mrs C then arranges for the Will to be sent to Mr D who then arranges a recorded Facetime meeting with Mr A and Mrs C. Mr A and Mrs C can clearly see that Mr D has Mr A’s will and they can see him sign it. Mr D then holds up to the camera Mr A’s will showing his signature beneath that of Mr A’s and Mrs C’s.

Stage 4

The Will then needs to be returned to Mr A or indeed the Solicitor who had prepared the document.

Ideally this should all be done within a twenty four hour period or as soon as possible after Mr A has signed his will with the recording of each stage saved and placed with the signed Will.

If Mr A dies before Mrs C and Mr D have signed the will then the will is not valid.

By necessity some wills may have been signed this way before the change to the law and so the government has backdated the change to cover those wills that were signed remotely from the 31 January 2020.

You may be interested in reading our blog on “What you need to know about drafting a Will“. 

If you would like to discuss making a Will please contact Elizabeth Power.

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