Yes. As of October 2020, the video link witnessing of Wills is now legal and legally binding in the United Kingdom (following amendments to the Wills Act 1837). Emergency changes made to the law in September 2020 mean that all Wills made on or after 1st January 2020 will now be legally valid if signed and witnessed by two or more third-parties via internet video link software (e.g. Skype, Zoom etc).
Changes do not apply to 2020 wills already in probate or signed.
The amendment aims to help relatives, solicitors, Will writers, and probates overcome the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 virus and social distancing measures. The law will be reviewed again by parliament after 31st January 2022. However, there are some crucial rules and guidelines that must still be kept in mind if you plan to video witness a Will, have a Will video witnessed for you, or set up a remote witnessing.
The aim of Will witnessing is to prevent fraud, and to provide proof of signing alongside legal validation. A proven witnessing is also vital evidence if the legitimacy of the Will is ever questioned in court.
Witnessing performed via video link will need to take these same objectives into account. To count as valid, both witnesses to the Will and the testator must be present in the same video link and follow the same procedures as if they were signing the document together physically.
A video recording of the session must be stored for reference. Each witness must verbally confirm to each other on record that they witnessed the moment of the signing with no disruptions (such as feed cutouts). The full text and a physical copy of the Will must be displayed to each signatory. More than four people can be present online to see the will signed if need be.
The people that need to be present on the video link are:
Once signed by the testator, the Will will need to be physically delivered to the one (or both) of the witnesses to add their signatures and details in front of the testator in another online meeting. The Will writer does not need to sign. The government advises that this should take place within 24 hours of the first online session if possible.
As long as both witnesses see the Will with the testator present, the witnessing can be divided into two separate video conversations. Two sessions come recommended if the witnesses are not part of the same household.
Due to security concerns, digital-only, unprinted wills are not legally binding.
The video witnessing amendment was passed to help people unable to travel during the outbreak due to lockdown, travel restrictions, or sudden illness. The government only recommends the use of video witnessing as a last resort. If there is an opportunity to physically witness the Will still safely available to you, it’s recommended that you use it if possible.
Video-based or otherwise, Cornerstone Wills can facilitate a legally-binding, professionally-administered Will witnessing for you. Get in touch to find out more.
Image source: Pexels