Wills Act: Video Witnessing Amendment

Formalities of making a Will

The requirements for ensuring that a Will is validly executed (signed) are contained in Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. It states that a Will must be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. The two witnesses must then also sign the Will in the presence of the testator.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic the signing of Wills adhering to the formalities were proving difficult, especially for those self-isolating or shielding. These difficulties were recognised and changes to the Wills Act 1837 were introduced.

Changes to the Wills Act 1987

The Act now provides for the ‘presence’ of those making and witnessing Wills to include a virtual presence, via video-link, as an alternative to physical presence. The amendment still requires that the Testator and witnesses have an unobstructed line of sight, and witnessing must be done in real time. Therefore witnesses cannot sign the Will having seen a pre-recorded video of the Testator signing it.

Changes to the Wills Act 1837 will apply to Wills made from 31 January 2020 and will run until 31 January 2022 (unless extended) except in limited circumstances.

Our views

The amendment did not arise until September 2020 (albeit backdated to 31 January 2020) and by this time Leonard Gray’s Private Client team had already come up with other ways Wills could be signed in the height of the pandemic.

Witnessing took place through windows, an open door of a house or in adjacent rooms, ensuring that a clear line of sight was maintained whilst keeping socially distanced. Staff attended clients wearing face masks and gloves, using hand sanitiser and taking their own pens.

Despite the amendment we continue to advise clients that witnessing via video link should only be carried out if witnessing in the conventional method is impossible. For those that have had their Wills witnessed via video link we recommend that these be re-signed and witnessed once it is safe to do so in the conventional methods, to help minimise any validity claims in the future.

At Leonard Gray LLP we are now seeing clients at the office by appointment only, where absolutely necessary, and have implemented the following guidelines to ensure our office remains Covid secure:

  • We have a gazebo in our Courtyard so that meetings can take place outside
  • Installed partition screens in all meeting rooms and reception areas
  • Social distancing is being observed throughout the office
  • Clients are required to wear face coverings
  • Hand sanitiser provided throughout the building
  • Limiting numbers in the office, this includes both staff and clients
  • Asking that clients do not touch objects or surfaces unless necessary
  • Regular cleaning of the office, including chairs, tables and door handles after each meeting and at regular intervals.

Should you be concerned about the validity of your Will, how it should be signed or wish to discuss any changes to it please contact a member of our team on 01245 504904.

Jenna is an Associate Solicitor in our Private Client team. She acts for clients on matters including making Wills, preparation and registration of Lasting Powers of Attorney, Deputyship applications with the Court of Protection and Probate work.