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Covid-19 - Wills may now be made by video conference

By Andrew Steele - 21 Apr 2020

The law has long required that wills be signed by the will-maker in the presence of two witnesses. The Covid-19 lockdown and mandatory distancing rules has prevented some wills from being signed this way, especially where people live alone or with only one other adult.

To remedy the situation, the Government enacted temporary legislation under the long-winded title: Epidemic Preparedness (Wills Act 2007- Signing and Witnessing of Wills) Immediate Modification Order 2020. So from 16 April 2020, wills may now be signed and witnessed via video conference.

While the epidemic notice and 'lockdown' is in force, a will-maker may direct another person to:

Sign a copy of the will on their behalf via an audiovisual link from another place; provided:

  • the will states that it is signed in that way; and
  • the person signing promptly sends a photograph or scan of the signed will to a 'holder' of the will photographs or scans of the signed copies of the will.  The 'holding person' being someone identified by the will-maker.

There is still a requirement for two witnesses, but they may:

  • be present via an audiovisual link from 1 or more other places, when the will-maker physically signs the will or 'signs' it by direction to another as set out above; or alternatively
  • be present when the will-maker acknowledges signing the will earlier and that the signature on it is theirs or the person who they directed to sign the will.

Once the witnesses have seen and heard the above, then they may:

Sign a copy of the will via an audiovisual link from another place provided they:

  • make it clear in the will that it is signed in that way; and
  • send a photograph or scan of the signed will to the 'holder' of the photographs or scans of signed copies.

Finally, the witnesses must state in the will the manner in which they attested to the will-maker's signature.

This process provides a straightforward method for getting wills signed and witnessed without any physical contact between those involved. All one needs is a computer or other device that contains a camera to allow for video conferencing.

If you have any queries regarding the application of the new will signing rules, then please contact any of our wills and estates team at Martelli McKegg.


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