Remote witnessing of Wills - A virtual hand in a new era.

Article | Bavani Naidu | 31st July 2020

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Current unprecedented times have brought to the fore the importance of financial planning and family security. Estate planning has always been a ‘should do or good to have’ exercise but the reality of mortality over the past few months has certainly highlighted the necessity of having a will and lasting powers of attorney in place.

It has also caused legislators to re-consider a 200-year-old law which currently requires that the will makers signature is witnessed by two independent adults who must be present at the same time.

Recent times have seen a surge in the use of video communication which has become one of the primary means of taking instructions regarding estate planning. A recent welcome change to legislation now temporarily permits remote witnessing via video which has come as a reprieve for many of our clients who have been unable to leave their homes or secure two witnesses in person.

The rules will be applied retrospectively from 31 January 2020, remaining in place until 31 January 2022 unless the Ministry of Justice decides otherwise.

It is important to mention there are potential issues that could arise from this new form of witnessing such as aggrieved beneficiaries who could challenge undue influence, capacity and issues relating to fraud. This is of most concern with elderly clients who may be suffering early signs of dementia or where their capacity is questionable.

However, we welcome this new change and the ability to assist our clients and offer them a solution.

How to witness a will remotely

There are certain ‘rules’ that would need to be abided by for the will to be remotely witnessed.

  • The entire process must be video recorded
  • The testator must hold his will up to the camera so that the witnesses can view his will
  • The testator must confirm verbally that he has read his will and understands the content of his will
  • The testator then signs and dates his will in the presence of the remote witnesses
  • The signed will must be sent to the independent witnesses
  • The witnesses must video record their signing in the presence of the testator
  • They must hold the will up to the camera so that the testator can see his signature
  • They must physically point out to the testator where they will be signing as witnesses
  • They must witness the will and then reveal their signatures to the testator
  • Once this is done the signed will must be to the solicitor or testator as soon as possible.

PEM can guide you through the process and assist in remotely witnessing your will if needs be.

For more information please contact Bavani Naidu (bnaidu@pemlegal.co.uk)

About the author

Bavani Naidu

Bavani is a Director at PEM Legal Services Limited. She is a multi-jurisdictional solicitor of over 20 years of experience Read more …

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