Posted: 23rd September 2020

Remote Witnessing of Wills

Here at North Yorkshire Law, we have been supporting our clients throughout the pandemic, offering guidance and support to the Will signing process. We appreciate that it can be very daunting being left to sign such an important document on your own, without the direct guidance of a Solicitor. In addition to this, the social distancing measures have made it even more difficult to arrange for two witnesses to be present when signing your Will.

In response to the global pandemic, the Wills Act 1837 has been amended to state that witnessing of Wills can include a video presence via a video-link rather than a physical presence.

How does it work?

The new video witnessing is one answer to the issues that many people face as we build our new normal. Video witnessing would involve each witness connecting to the Will maker via a video conferencing app, the Will maker would then make a statement to the effect of "'I first name, surname, wish to make a will of my own free will and sign it here before these witnesses, who are witnessing me doing this remotely".

The Will maker must ensure both witnesses can see them and the Will and proceed to sign. The Will maker would then arrange for the witnesses to sign the Will, whether this be via post or hand delivery. Ideally this would be done within 24 hours, although this may not always be possible.

What are the issues with Video Witnessing?

Whilst the new legislation may solve one problem, it perhaps creates several more problems in its place.

It is possible that this process leaves quite a big space for a person to question whether the Will maker had the required capacity to sign the Will. A lack of physical presence makes these questions difficult to answer.

This process will only produce a valid Will if both witnesses have signed it. With the process involving the Will being posted to several people, there may be delays in ensuring that it is valid. Unfortunately, if a person was to pass away before their Will had been signed by both witnesses, it would be invalid.

What are the positives?

Whilst there are flaws to the new process, it allows those who have no other option a way forward with signing their Wills. However, there are currently much more effective methods to allow for signing Wills in a pandemic, and North Yorkshire Law are happy to guide you through these as required.

If you would like to discuss making or updating your Will, please contact our Probate team using the details below:

Scarborough Office

Telephone: 01723 360001

Email: scarborough@northyorkshirelaw.com

Address: 50 Albemarle Crescent, Scarborough, North Yorkshire YO11 1XX

Whitby Office

Telephone: 01947 602131

Email: whitby@northyorkshirelaw.com

Address: 23 Baxtergate, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 1BW

Scarborough

01723 360001

Whitby

01947 602131