* This blog was written as an introduction to a webinar hosted by our Chris Hall on 14/04/2020, available on-demand here *
There are new guidelines from the president of the Law Society stating that wills can be witnessed by solicitors through the windows of clients’ homes and cars, implying that there is no need to enter the property. In my recent experience, this has meant staying two metres apart across a long table outside the front door, but is there an alternate way?
Recently, in Australia, the Court deemed a will created on an iPad to be valid, but only in extreme circumstances, in this case just before a suicide, where it clearly reflected the deceased’s wishes.
Can an electronic will ever be valid under English Law?
The Wills Act 1837 states that wills must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, both present at the same time. Case law has stated that witnesses can be in different rooms, if the testator and witnesses are capable of being in line of sight of each other. However, the Law Commission did not recommend virtual signing in their final report last year. This decision can be attributed to several factors, namely that because even with the latest video signature software, there is no guarantee that an individual is not under direct external influence from say a carer or relative, or indeed there still remains the possibility that they could be impersonated.
One can argue that even under the current law, wills are signed under influence and signatures forged, but in the current climate it would surely be preferable to have some evidence of the intention of the testator rather than none? Leaving a video diary would undoubtedly be better evidence than not, explaining the reason behind your will, especially if there are witnesses who have signed virtually too. Consequently, 360 Law Group has introduced a virtual signing system “V-Sign” which allows this to happen, so you can leave a clear record of your intention. The software was originally designed for Insolvency Practitioners but can be used for any kind of statutory document. You can read more about the system here.
Chris Hall | Wills & Probate Solicitor