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Witnessing Will signatures via video temporarily legalised

New rules making it legal for Wills to be witnessed remotely, via video link, will come into force in September in England and Wales.

The change to the law, which will be backdated to 31 January 2020, is designed to make it easier for people to record their final wishes whilst rules on social distancing and shielding remain in place.

However, it remains a ‘last resort’ option and people who are able to have their Wills physically witnessed are being urged still to do so.

Caution

Wards Solicitors’ highly regarded Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity Team agrees that whenever possible, and when safe to do so, it is better to have your Will witnessed physically rather than remotely.

Click here to see the question and answer advice we gave on this recently.

Indeed, since lockdown was announced in March, many Wills have already been witnessed through a window and are considered legitimate in case law as long as the person signing it can be clearly seen.

We can arrange to visit you at home in your garden to have your Will witnessed and there is also some limited availability for face-to-face meetings in our 11 offices. All appointments must be booked in advance.

What do the new rules mean?

The change to the legislation to include the video-witnessing of Wills will be made in September and backdated to 31 January.

This means that any Will witnessed remotely from that date onwards  – via Zoom, Skype or Facetime, for example – will be legally acceptable as long as the sound and picture quality are good enough to see and hear what is happening at the time.

The measure will remain in place until January 2022, or as long as necessary.

Are there any other changes to the rules on witnessing a Will?

No. Two witnesses, who are not beneficiaries, are still required. You can’t be a witness if you stand to gain from the Will, for example if you are a close family member or married to a close family member.

Can I avoid video-witnessing but ensure my Will is legally valid?

Yes – we are currently suggesting that clients contact two suitable witnesses, for example, friends or neighbours, and arrange a meeting in their street, driveway or garden.

Each party should use their own pens, wear gloves and ensure they stand two metres apart.

The Will should be placed on a flat surface, such as a table or car bonnet, then each person should step forward separately to sign the Will before retreating.

The Will must be signed by the person making it and the two witnesses in each other’s physical presence.

What else do I need to do to make sure my Will is legally valid?

To make a Will you must:

  • Be aged 18 or over;
  • Make it of your own free will;
  • Be of sound mind;
  • Make it in writing;
  • Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are over 18;
  • Have it signed by your two witnesses in your presence.

Whether you are having your Will witnessed in person or remotely, you must have a clear view of the person and of the act of signing.

The Will-maker, or the person authorised to sign on their behalf, must sign the same document.

A correctly drawn Will is an inexpensive way of avoiding difficulties for your relatives and friends in the future in the event of your death. It puts you in control of the final destination of your estate.

Get in touch

For help and advice about making or reviewing your Will, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.

You can find your most local Wards office here.

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    February 2021: Covid-19 arrangements

    Wards Solicitors remains open for business during the national lockdown and we are taking on new cases.  We are available for video call and telephone meetings but cannot currently offer face to face meetings with clients except in some specific emergency situations and at court hearings.

    How to get in touch:

    • Please email or telephone your usual lawyer or team, or
    • Please telephone the branch most convenient to you between 9am and 5:30pm, Mondays to Fridays.
    • Alternatively, email info@wards.uk.com at any time and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

    A list of our 12 branches is available here. Our telephones lines are operating as normal behind closed doors.

    Important Warning: Cyber-crime is very common including email interception. We will never tell you of changes to our bank details by email.  Please be aware that we accept no responsibility if you transfer money to a bank account which is not ours. If you receive an email giving our bank account details, please telephone us immediately without replying to the email or sending money.