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As solicitors we have had to come up with various different ways and means to ensure that our clients can obtain a valid Will in the challenging and often changing COVID-19 environment. We have witnessed Wills through windows, on car bonnets and even on wheelie bins, but in some cases this might no longer be necessary.
The government has now announced that Wills can be validly witnessed using video link technology such as Zoom and Facetime, which should make the process easier for many.
It is important to note that the vast majority of the usual rules still apply when it comes to the execution of Wills, however, the temporary relaxation of some rules, with regard to witnessing, mean that some people, who might otherwise have to wait an indeterminate period of time before making a Will, can do so from the safety of their own home.
The new measures are set to come into force in September, but they will have retrospective effect, which will mean that Wills witnessed via video link from 31st January 2020 will be deemed valid.
This retrospective effect will not occur, however, in circumstances where a person has died having made such a Will and an application has already been submitted for a grant of representation.
As mentioned, the new measures are temporary and are set to be in place until 31st January 2022, however, this is subject to review and the period in which video witnessing is permissible may be shortened or extended depending on how the COVD-19 pandemic develops.
Once the temporary measures come to an end the previous, more strict, rules regarding the witnessing of Wills will resume.
Before you embark on executing a will using video link, you should make the appropriate preparations because it is not necessarily as simple as it may sound and it is crucial that you are aware of the rules that remain in place.
The testator will firstly need access to the appropriate technology. The witnesses will still be required to sign the document which will realistically involve a minimum of two good quality video conferences which are uninterrupted and ideally recorded. In order for all witnesses to sign, the document will need to get from A to B and possibly C.
A Will is not valid until the testator and all witnesses have signed and so the above process ought to be done as swiftly as possible. Where a testator dies during the period between having signed their Will and both witnesses signing, then the document will be invalid.
The best means of executing a Will remains in person, but in the current circumstances this temporary relaxation of some of the rules is most welcome and will no doubt see testamentary wishes carried out which might otherwise not have been.
Guidance is available here, however, when preparing such an important document as your Will it is always prudent to seek legal advice and at Ramsdens we are available to assist you and well adapted to the ever-changing circumstances.