Statistics show that people have continued to want to make wills during the Covid 19 pandemic. For some this has not presented problems but for others shielding or self-isolating it has caused huge problems with the practicalities of witnessing wills. As you will know to make a valid will it has to be signed by the person making the will, in the presence of two independent witnesses who must also sign in the presence of each other and the will maker.
In the hope of addressing the problem with witnessing wills for those in isolation the law has been amended to state that whilst Covid 19 legislation is in force the "presence" element of signing a will can include a virtual presence ie video link and well as a physical presence.
This new legislation is to apply to wills made since 31 January 2020, the date of the first registered Covid-19 case in England and Wales, other than when a Grant of Probate has already been issued in respect of the deceased person or the application is already in the process of being administered.
This legislation is not permanent and will apply to wills made from two years from the date the legislation came into force so will expire on 31 January 2022 but as no-one knows what the future holds with Covid 19 the legislation can be shortened or extended if it is deemed necessary. When the temporary legislation comes to an end people will have to make wills in the usual manner.
Under the new legislation a clear line of sight is key to remote signing as it is with existing legislation. The person making the will must have a clear line of sight of the witnesses signing the will to confirm they have witnessed the will-maker’s signature.
The following scenarios would lead count as a will being properly signed during Covid 19
•witnessing through a window or open door of a house or a vehicle
•witnessing from a corridor or adjacent room into a room with the door open
•witnessing outdoors from a short distance, for example in a garden
This applies as well if a video link is used. It doesn't matter what type of video link is used just that the person making the will and their two witnesses each have a clear line of sight of the writing of the signature. The only difference is that wording on the wills needs to be amended by the professional drafter and the witnesses need to sign the same document within twenty fours of the will maker.
Making sure that a will is signed correctly is hugely important and even more so in these unusual times. With people still wanting to sign wills anecdotal evidence is also indicating there has been a rise in wills being challenged and an incorrect signature process can be one of the reasons cited. For such an important document it is important to get the process right to prevent future problems.
So, to be prepared for a potential second wave, why not get your will in place just in case we have any further social distancing restrictions. We are always here to help, remotely or otherwise.