wills and probate e-signatures

Wills & Probate: Signing your Will during COVID-19

Signing your Will during the Coronavirus outbreak

In order for your Will to be legally valid there are specific conditions which must be met when your Will is signed.

  • The Will needs to be in writing.
  • The Will needs to be signed by the person making the Will (the testator – you) in the presence of two independent witnesses (who must be present at the same time).
  • The witnesses must each sign the Will in the presence of the testator.

Under current government guidelines for the UK to practice social distancing, it makes the signing of Wills slightly more challenging.

There has been mixed advice amongst law firms with some offering a virtual Will signing and others delivering the complete service in person by observing the strict advice for good hygiene and keeping a distance of 2 meters between themselves, the client and their witnesses.

According to the Law Society – Under the Wills Act 1837, it is not permitted to witness a Will via video messaging as a witness must be physically present. However it is possible to supervise the signing of a Will using electronic means where you are not acting as a witness to the Will.

Gov.uk states for the witnesses of your Will to be legally valid, you must:

  • sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18
  • have it signed by your two witnesses, in your presence

So, if you live with two family members / friends / housemates who are over 18 years of age – they could be your Witnesses, providing they are not also beneficiaries under your Will nor married to a beneficiary.

You may be asked by your Solicitor to provide a video recording the signing of your Will (if possible) to enable them to keep good file notes on how instructions came in and how the Will was signed. Your Solicitor may advise you to re-sign your Will once social distancing requirements are lifted.

It is important to reiterate here that, as at today if you make any changes to your Will during this period of unprecedented events – you must follow the same signing and witnessing process. There are calls for some of the requirements to be relaxed while we are following such stringent social distancing guidelines, but no changes have been enacted in the law yet.

If you require any advice about your personal circumstances you can contact Kathryn directly via email on kathryn.caple@elselaw.co.uk  or call the main office number (all calls are being diverted accordingly) on 01282 526 200.

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