In response to the changing situation surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, the government is set to introduce new temporary legislation that will enable Wills to be witnessed remotely. With news of a second wave approaching and rumours circulating around another national lockdown, the new legislation will play a critical role in removing hurdles for virtual witness signing of Wills.
The current law, as set out in the Wills 1837 Act, requires ‘wet signatures’ to be made on the physical Will in order for it to be valid in the eyes of the law. That means two witnesses to be physically present to watch the testator signing their Will before signing the Will themselves and adding their details.
The new legislation allows for witnesses to have a ‘virtual’ presence when the Will is being made and signed, via video link, where face to face meetings are not possible.
This year, our team have worked hard to overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic. We teamed up with specialists to create a system that would meet the legal requirements and allow for remote witness signing to take place. The result is our new V-Sign system, designed to facilitate remote witness signing for Wills and any statutory document via a dedicated video platform.
Although the new law will come into force on the 28th September, the legislation will have retrospective effect, and apply to all Wills made since 31st January 2020 and up to two years form when it comes into force.
What does remote witness signing mean in practice?
The Government website provides guidance on how solicitors can carry out remote witnessing on their website. It states that:
- The two witnesses need not be in the same room, and all parties involved can be on a three-way live video conferencing link.
- All parties must be able to see the same document clearly so that the witnesses can see the signing taking place.
- The video conferencing session should be recorded. During the session, the testator will hold up the Will to the camera, allowing the witnesses to see the front page and the page that will be signed. The witnesses will then watch as the testator signs the document.
- The document must be sent to the two witnesses (this step in the process is greatly facilitated and expedited when both witnesses are in the same location.)
- Once the witness receives the Will, a further video conferencing session will take place and be recorded so that the testator can be present as the witnesses sign their names and add their details. If they aren’t in the same location, this process will be repeated for the second witness.
How can I use the new V-Sign service?
Through our new V-Sign system, making a Will and getting it signed is made simple. In accordance with the new legislation, our solicitors will be able to witness sign a wet signature made by the will maker via a video conferencing link.
Just like a face-to-face meeting, our specialist Wills solicitors will take you through the process providing bespoke advice to ensure your Will reflects your wishes and unique circumstances.
Our system has been designed to facilitate the process, so all parties can see the same document on screen during the session. Any modifications can be made live on the document during the session. We’ll record the entire session through the V-Sign system, including both the advice given by the solicitor and the signing process.
Once you’ve signed the Will in the (virtual) presence of the witnesses, a screenshot will be taken that captures you presenting the signature to the camera and the witnesses observing it.
The physical copy will then be sent to the witnesses as per the government guidelines for them to add their own signatures in the same way over another video session. Together, the digital copy, screenshot and video recording of the session will all serve as evidence of validity and proof of compliance with the Wills Act.
To book a V-Sign session, click here. Looking for advice on making a Will? We’re ready to help. Just drop us a message in the footer form or live chat to get in touch.