Witnessing Wills By Video Link, As Explained By Our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster
Posted on 1st May 2020
Further to our Wills Solicitor’s blog about whether Wills can be witnessed electronically, Jersey, a British Crown dependency, is now permitting Wills to be signed via video link.
Who can witness the Wills?
The Wills need to be witnessed by Solicitors or solicitor advocates, and it must be done via audio-video link, not just one or the other.
Apart from the video link aspect, no other laws surrounding the witnessing have been amended, and therefore two witnesses must still be ‘present’ when the Will is signed, and they must not be a beneficiary of the Will or a close relative of the testator or the person who made the Will (i.e. they cannot be a family member of the Wills Solicitors).
Why has the change been introduced?
The idea behind Jersey’s emergency legislation is to help Wills solicitors effectively deal with the execution of Wills, without risking the client’s privacy or breaking any social distancing rules.
The legislation is not a permeant change to the law, only a temporary measure which will be in place until 30 September, at this time.
John Le Fondre, Jersey’s Chief Minister, commented: “There is very much a general appreciation of the important need to still provide people with the legal right to make a new Will or execute important legal documents at this time.”
Will this change apply to the UK?
Currently, the law in the UK can apply differently to different countries.
For example, The Law Society of Scotland has temporarily amended its guidance on witnessing Wills to allow the lawyer to witness it via video link, so long as they are not the executor (you can find out what an executor is in our Wills Solicitor’s blog, here.
The Wills Solicitors must send the final Will to the Testator, usually in the post, and provide them with details of the video conference for signing.
The Testator must show that no one else is present in the room when the document is signed (to prevent any undue influence), as well as showing that the document is currently unsigned (as it must be signed ‘in the presence’ of the witnesses).
The Testator will then sign, at the instruction of the Wills Solicitors, and the original Will should then be returned to the Wills Solicitors, who will witness and date the Will correctly.
In relation to the law in England and Wales, there are currently no imminent changes to the law pending, so Wills cannot be signed via video link. However, according to thegazette.co.uk, the Law Society of England and Wales has been in talks with the Ministry of Justice to discuss ways of relaxing the stringent law set out in the Wills Act 1837.
How should a Will be signed correctly?
Our Wills Solicitors have previously explained how a Will should be correctly signed and witnessed in their blog, here.
Whilst it’s unlikely that the need for two witnesses will be relaxed, to reduce the risk of fraud or undue influence, there could be changes introduced to support audio-video conference calls. As always, our Wills Solicitors will keep you updated to make sure that our Wills are being signed in compliance with the law, whilst being as socially-distant as possible.
How do I make a Will?
If you’re in need of updating your Will, or making one for the first time, contact our team online, here. Our team of Wills Solicitors offer excellent fixed-fees for their Will drafting services, and we’re currently offering 50% off for all NHS, Civil Service and shop workers.
Our team can still help you ensure that your wishes are carried out; contact our team today to get the ball rolling.
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