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Wills Can Now Be Witnessed on Video Calls, But Beware the Pitfalls

on Wednesday, 23 December 2020.

This autumn, the Government amended the Wills Act 1837 in response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Wills* made from 31 January 2020 onwards, that are witnessed by video link, will be legal if they comply with all legal requirements. This is a temporary amendment; applying to Wills made up until 31 January 2022. 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Whilst this provides greater flexibility to those who may be shielding at home, executing your Will is still easy to get wrong and it is essential to remember some crucial basics to ensure you do it correctly. 

Some recent problems we have seen are:

  • Inconsistent dates shown on the coversheet and the signing page of the Will. There are usually two places to date your Will when signing it and if these dates are inconsistent, it may result in confusion later on about when the Will was actually executed.
  • Faint signatures. Make sure the pens you and your witnesses use work well, ideally having black or blue ink.You should sign in one stroke with one pen.
  • Non-independent witnesses. Your two witnesses should be completely independent from you. This means they should not be family members, or relatives with a different surname. Your witnesses must not be a beneficiary of your Will and must be 18 or older.
  • Incomplete details for witnesses. Witnesses should ensure that they have signed and printed their full name (not just an initial and a surname), and added their full postal address and occupation.

What About the Video Link Part?

Be aware of the following:

  • You cannot use pre-recorded video for this process. Live video is required of both signing and witnessing.
  • There can only be one Will document. There will be an inevitable delay in its completion, whilst it is delivered to both your witnesses for them to sign (again by live video link).
  • Your Will is not valid until everyone has signed, resulting in an incomplete Will during the lag time. The Government's guidance states that the witnesses should ideally sign within 24 hours. The longer the process takes, the greater the risk of encountering difficulties.
  • Electronic signatures are not permitted.

Should I Make My Will by Video Link?

It could be more difficult to prove the validity of your Will after your death, if the witnessing, or the way it has been executed has not been done correctly - the risk of which can rise without appropriate professional advice. Homemade Wills made by video link are more at risk potentially to challenges being brought by opportunistic beneficiaries.

Our advice is to only use this newly permitted method of signing and witnessing your Will as a last resort and after having received detailed professional advice on how to comply with the new procedure. Wherever possible, it is preferable to witness your Will either in the presence of a qualified practitioner with the appropriate social distancing in place or with them overseeing the process by video link on a separate screen. 

Coronavirus Legal Advice

For specialist legal advice on making your Will please contact Leila Goodarzi in our Private Client team on 07909 682 364, or complete the form below. 

*Excludes Wills already admitted to Probate.

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