Individuals and businesses across the country have had to dramatically change the way they do business as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and solicitors and Will Writers are no different.
For any Will to be considered legal, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. Additionally, the witnesses cannot be listed as beneficiaries from any estate outlined in the Will. This is crucial in ensuring that people are safeguarded and protected against undue influence and potential fraud.
In the last few months it has also become apparent that it is important to safeguard peoples’ health and welfare with regard to Covid-19. As a result, the Government announced a law change, allowing Wills to be witnessed remotely. This legislation, introduced in July 2020, has been backdated to 31st January 2020. In a simultaneous move, The Office of The Public Guardian launched a digital service for Lasting Power of Attorneys.
How does remote witnessing of Wills and LPAs work?
The latest legislation outlines that Wills can be witnesses using online video apps like Zoom, Facetime, or WhatsApp. There are a number of stipulations connected to using this method of communication for witnessing purposes:
- The quality of sound and video must be sufficient for all parties to see and hear what is happening.
- The making of the Will needs to be recorded and the audio and visual files saved.
- There must be a clear line of sight for the signature, so there has to be video of the witness signing their name.
- Witnesses are still required to not be listed as beneficiaries in the Will.
The new law is designed as a last resort for people who are self-isolating or shielding and the Government has been firm in maintaining that, where possible, people should still try to physically witness Wills. As an example, you can witness a Will through a window so long as there is a clear line of sight of the person signing it.