Hammersmith Litigation Solicitor Maya Elci considers issues that can arise as a result of development surrounding remotely witnessing Wills as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Many probate practitioners have faced difficulties in respect of witnessing of their clients’ Wills during lockdown. The legislators have now recognised the difficulty that probate practitioners have faced with the requirements set out in The Wills Act 1837 and the Ministry of Justice has now outlined four stages of to the new process and these are as follow:

  1. All parties must be present on a live video link, this includes the testator and the witnesses. The parties must make sure that they all can see one another, in specific the witnesses must ensure that they can see the testator signing the testamentary document.
  2. Having shown the witnesses the document that they will be signing, the testator signs and date the Will with the Witnesses looking at the document on the live video and the witnesses should verbally confirm that they have seen the testator sign and date the Will.
  3. The Will should be taken or sent to the witnesses as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours. It must be noted that the testamentary document is not regarded as a valid Will until it is signed by the testator and both witnesses.
  4. Upon receipt of the signed testamentary document by the witnesses, a further video conference should take place to enable the witnesses to show the testator the document they have received before they proceed to sign the Will.

The advice remains that where people can make wills in the conventional way they should continue to do so to avoid any uncertainty.

There are concerns that the new development may lead to disputes following death of the testators and it is therefore important to ensure that the probate practitioner record these live meetings to enable them to rely on if such disputes were to arise.

If you have any queries about contentious probate matters, please contact Maya Elci on me@hpwsolicitors.co.uk


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