The Government announced on 25th July that it will change the current law for making a Will (and Codicil) which requires a Testator ( the person making the Will) and two witnesses are present together in person when the Will is signed.
The change will be temporary until 31st January 2022.
The current law requires that a witness has a clear line of sight. This might mean:
- Through a window or open door of a house or a vehicle
- From a corridor or adjacent room into a room with a door open
- Outdoors from a short distance for example in a garden
All the above means of executing a Will will continue to be valid.
In addition, it will now be possible to witness a Will by a video link. However, the witnesses must see the Will being signed in real time. The Testator must be acting with capacity and in the absence of undue influence. If possible, the whole video signing and witnessing process should be recorded and the recording retained but this is not a requirement in law.
The Testator may be alone, and the two witnesses may be either together or they too be alone, but all three persons must be able to see each other at all times in real time.
The recommended process is reasonably lengthy and the above is a precis. The key feature however is that the Will must eventually be signed by both witnesses as well as the Testator. This again must occur by live video link and if possible be recorded.
If this process is to be used then the wording on the Will will have to be changed to reflect what has occurred.
The Law Society has stated that it hopes the changes will alleviate difficulties that some members of the public have encountered when making a Will during the pandemic.
However, there are clearly risks associated with the new procedure. The Will could be lost or intercepted in the post, a Testator could die before the witnessing process had been completed and undue influence may be exerted by people off camera.
The Testator will still need to either post it to the witnesses or for somebody to visit them at home to collect the Will. The advantages of video witnessing are therefore not so clear cut.
We await the full legislation but please call us on 0151 236 8871 for further help with your Will.