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Video witnessing of Wills is now legal

Video witnessing of Wills is now legal

During lockdown, there was a high demand for our Will writing services, with many clients keen to get their Wills finalised. Obviously, a Will needs to be signed and witnessed in the presence of two independent witnesses who are not its beneficiaries. This presented somewhat of a struggle in lockdown and to a certain extent, even with social distancing there were obvious logistical challenges.

However, this did not dissuade some firms from witnessing Wills remotely using video technology and there was a call for a more modern approach to the execution of Wills, particularly due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Our Private Client team have been incredibly flexible, helpful, and understanding through this difficult time. Whilst we did not need to witness any Wills virtually, as we were worried that such Wills could be challenged at a later date. We did end up in some interesting situations as we witnessed our clients Wills at a safe distance. This included witnessing through ground floor windows, across wheelie bins, in a barn and over low hedges, with clear sight at all times of the person signing. We were relying sometimes on law that dated back to 1781 and 1837!

Backdated to January 2020

There has been a lot of talk recently about whether those Wills that were done virtually would be legal, something that we also considered. But a recent change in the law, which has been backdated to 31 January 2020, declared that any Wills in England and Wales that were remotely and electronically witnessed during the pandemic would be declared valid. There are a few stipulations clearly. One of which is that the quality of the sound and video is sufficient for the parties to see and hear what is happening at the time.

Guidance and recommendations

The amended law will be kept in place until 31 January 2022, or for as long as it is necessary. After the terms ends, Wills must once again be made with witnesses who are physically present. The Ministry of Justice recommends that “testators at a remotely witnessed signing should make a formal statement that 'I, first name, surname, wish to make a Will of my own free will and sign it here before these witnesses, who are witnessing me doing this remotely’. Signatures must be 'wet' (a person must physically sign a piece of paper with a pen) and remote electronic signing will not be allowed. The whole process should be recorded, if possible, and the recording retained.”

Last resort

Neil Raiseborough, Director and Head of Private Client said. “The change of law provides reassurance to anyone who had no choice but to execute a Will in this manner during recent months. By removing the need for any physical witnesses going forwards, Wills can continue to be drawn up efficiently, effectively and safely by those people who are still isolating or worried by the pandemic.”

He added. “We still see remote witnessing of Wills as very much a last resort. We advise clients to arrange physical witnessing of Wills where it is safe to do so. If remote witnessing is the only option, we encourage strict precautions to deter fraud or undue influence. This means that all parties must fully understand what they are witnessing.”

Contact us for support and advice

We have a vast amount of experience in will writing and all other private client matters and thanks to our network of offices covering Leamington, Coventry, Nuneaton and Southam we are very accessible too. For timely and quality advice, please contact Neil Raiseborough, Director and Head of Private Client at Alsters Kelley Solicitors Ltd on 01926 356044 or email neil.raiseborough@alsterskelley.com

 

 


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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

With effect from Monday 15th June

We continue to remain open for business. Following recent updates to the Government guidelines, clients with effect from Monday 15th June will be able to attend our offices.

Please note this will be by appointment only and these must be booked in advance to ensure we are able to maintain social distancing measures.

To make an appointment please call any one of our offices: Leamington Spa 01926 356000, Coventry 02477 710200, Nuneaton 02477 710000 or Southam 01926 359355.

Alternatively, if you prefer then please email enquiries@alsterskelley.com

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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