01 Apr 2022

Wills & Probate

The Challenges of Witnessing Wills Online

With the recent changes allowing Wills to be witnessed online using video conferencing platforms, the Private Client sector are seeing an increase in the number of people opting to use this service remotely. Whilst the increased flexibility is viewed as a progressive step, it has raised several challenges that need to be considered in relation to witnessing Wills online. Afonwy Howell-Pryce, an Associate Solicitor in our Wills and Probate team, explains these challenges and provides an insight into the most appropriate solutions.

When this was introduced and is it a permanent change?

The change to allow Wills to be to be witnessed remotely came into effect on 31st of January 2020.  Initially due to be implemented on 28th September 2020, this was fast tracked and backdated to allow vulnerable people to be able to have their Wills witnessed during the pandemic.

Is this intended to be a permanent change? In short, no. Due to the challenges of witnessing Wills online, it has been agreed that these changes will remain in place until 31st of January 2024 for those who are required to self-isolate. After this date, Wills will go back to requiring the testator and the witnesses being physically present together.

What is the process of witnessing a Will online?

Whilst witnessing a Will on a video call, all parties will need to ensure they can see each other and that their actions are clear. The testator should hold up the front page of the Will to the camera to show the witnesses, then turn to the page they will be signing and hold this up to the camera as well. The witnesses must then see the testator write their signature on the Will.  Following this, the Will then be sent to the two witnesses to sign, ideally within 24 hours and they must then hold the document up to the camera and the testator and the other witness must see them on the video call sign their name. If the two witnesses are not together when signing once one witness has signed, it must be taken to the second witness, as soon as possible, to go through the process again.

It’s important that all parties need to be present on each video call. Where possible, there should be a recording of the process.

Will the wording of the Will be changed?

The wording of the Will should be amended to reflect the fact it has been witnessed remotely by video link and that there has been a recording of that process.

Are there any other complications?

While the idea of having your Will online may sound appealing and potentially easier, there are additional challenges that it can bring and these must be considered before choosing this option.

Dealing with execution by video link can create issues with the Will not being signed in the correct place, which could lead to doubts over whether the Will have been properly executed. This can cause many problems and could cause delays in having a validly executed Will.

There is also the factor of time delays. Sending the Will to the witnesses to sign may cause an issue in urgent situations, for example, if a witness is temporarily unavailable to deal with matters, or if they fall ill themselves. As well as this, confidentiality can be a problem. The Will has to be sent by post so that the witness or witnesses can see the full original document. However, the Will may become lost or damaged in the post, or even be significantly delayed due to the current issues with postal services.

We will continue to work closely with our clients to ensure their individual needs are met as these challenging times continue.

Get in touch…

If you would like to talk to one of our friendly, specialist team at Harding Evans in relation to writing or updating your Will, we have years of experience and can talk you through the whole process. Visit our website at www.hardingevans.com, email: hello@hevans.com or call us on 01633 244233 or 029 2267 6818.

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