Since 1837 the only way to make a valid Will is to sign in front of two independent witnesses, who are physically present and can see the signing. Consequently, this made creating a Will during the recent Covid19 lockdown difficult. At Clifton Ingram, during lockdown, we witnessed client’s signatures in; cars, car parks and through doorways to mention a few of the more unusual situations. As such we were able to produce over 200 Wills during this period.
On 25 July 2020 the Government announced that it was going to pass new legislation in September to permit Wills made in England and Wales to be witnessed via video link. Crucially this legislation is going to be backdated to coincide with the pandemic and at present is expected to be temporary, lasting until 31 January 2022. It is worth noting that witnesses still need to sign the same document and the new law will not apply where a Grant of Probate has been obtained or applied for.
This is a radical change to how Wills can be witnessed, but is in line with other jurisdictions, such as Scotland. This is an important step in the Government’s coronavirus response as it allows both those who are shielding and those who have the virus to make a valid Will safely. This is particularly important for those in hospital during a pandemic when visitors are not permitted and hospital staff generally will not witness Wills. With the recent change it is possible for someone who has capacity but has been admitted to hospital to legally execute their Will.
There are concerns that being able to witness Wills via video link could lead to a number of disputed Wills. Consequently, the Government advise that video link should be a last resort and that alternative options should be considered first. Furthermore, the Government have published a set of steps that need to be taken to try and ensure that Wills witnessed in this way will comply with the new law.
If you are making a Will, the safest option to ensure that it is executed in accordance with the Law is to have two independent witnesses physically present. It is possible to have your Will witnessed at a distance provided line of sight is not obscured. Finally, it is possible to have your Will witnessed via video link but there are strict procedures to be followed and with the new Law yet to be put into place it is not advisable, especially if there are alternatives.
This article is written as a general guide and believed correct at the date of publication. If you need further or more specific information relating to your situation, please get in touch with us.
I am very satisfied with every aspect of Clifton Ingram and have been using them for the past 15 years
Thanks to both, Alison and Kelly, for all your help throughout the process. The way you dealt with my case was just what I needed in times of stress. I will not hesitate to use you in future for any other matters and I will recommend your firm to anyone that needs it.
As always your service was exemplary. I have the confidence that you deal with matters as if they were your own interests
An excellent service which I have recommended to others