Our specialist Wills and Probate team have always taken instructions from clients wishing to make a Will or make amendments to their Will via telephone, video calling and email and during lockdown is no different. However, a key factor in making a valid Will is how the Will is ‘executed’. In other words, how it is signed in front of witnesses.
New rules, implemented due to the pandemic, now allow for Wills to be witnessed via video. Previously, witnessing a Will to ensure it is valid has always included the need for physical presence and a line of sight, so that the Will maker and the two witness can all see each other sign the document. Clearly these requirements pose a problem with lockdown and social distancing.
Whilst this change is welcome to those shielding, and video witnessing is a service we can offer our clients, the video witnessing of Wills should be very much a last resort. The reason for this is that the person making the Will and the witnesses must all sign the same document and therefore when the same document has to be transported between the location of the Will maker and the two witnesses of the Will, this can cause delay and should anything happen to any one of the three people signing the Will during this delay, the Will would not be validly executed. There is also the possibility of a Will maker being influenced by someone behind the scenes (which is much harder to detect remotely) and, the novelty and potential ambiguity of the new rules mean that Wills signed by video are more likely to be challenged by disgruntled family members. Therefore, a Will that has been video witnessed should only be treated as a holding Will, until you are able to physically execute a further Will in person.
For many it is possible to sign their Wills at home with their neighbours witnessing from a safe distance over the garden fence (don’t worry they don’t have to read the Will), having colleagues witness their Wills at work and our team have witnessed countless Wills on ‘doorsteps’ since last March (whilst maintaining a safe distance).
Our team understand that we are in uncertain times and therefore they are happy to chat without obligation to anyone who is unsure of whether they should amend or make a new Will.
We also understand that not everyone is able to attend, or virtually attend, appointments during the usual 9-5 hours and as a result we have continued to offer our clients the flexibility of “out of hours” appointments where required.
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