What are the new rules for signing wills? When should I use them?
New rules for executing (i.e. signing and witnessing) wills came into force in 2020 to take account for people trying to witness their last will and testament during self isolation.
The new rules allow execution of wills over video conferencing. Previously a will had to be signed in the physical line of sight of two witnesses.
These new rules are intended to be used as a very last resort if physical proximity to the witnesses is not possible. There are a lot of ways to do it wrong. We would not recommend anyone does this except in the most dire emergencies. If you do have to make a will whilst video conferencing please make sure that you take advice from a qualified solicitor whilst you are doing it. You can find list of solicitors here www.solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk.
How to execute a will using video conferencing.
To execute a will using video conferencing please read very carefully below.
- Update the signature clause
You need to have the signature clause of your will updated to reflect the arrangements. This is a service that a solicitor should carry out for you. Do not attempt to update your manually change a will with a traditional signature page.
- Check your video and audio connection
You need to make sure the witnesses can see and hear you. Your witnesses can be together or they can be in separate locations (but both watching you sign and date the will). You can use a two way or three way video conversation.
- Sign and date the will
You should confirm that you’re making the will freely and the will reflects your intentions. Once you do this you can sign and date your will. Your witnesses must see you sign it – i.e. see you put pen to paper. A video frame of your head and shoulders (e.g. from a laptop) without showing the will being physically signed would NOT be sufficient.
- Get the will to the witnesses
You need to get your will to the witnesses for their signatures. This should be done as soon as possible. The whole process should be done within 24 hours. This would probably mean physically taking it to the witnesses or using a courier.
- Witnesses sign the will
Each witness should sign the will with the video conferencing linking the will writer and the two witnesses. Again – make sure that the witnesses and the will maker can see the witness signing the will and entering their name and details.
VERY IMPORTANT – please make sure that record each step above. Save the recording somewhere easily accessible. If for any reason this is not possible please make sure that one or both of the witnesses is a solicitor who makes a written note of the witnessing process.
Fatal errors to avoid
Your will isn’t validly executed if you fail to correctly follow the the above steps. Your will will have no legal effect. Please also make sure that you avoid the following:
- Signing the will outside of the line of sight of the camera e.g. on your desk if you are using a front-mounted laptop with the camera pointing at your face.
- Technological problems meaning the witnesses can’t see or hear you and each other. This could be a faulty camera, microphone or speaker on any of the devices (yours or the witnesses’).
- Internet connectivity problems meaning you or the witnesses see a frozen screen during part or all of the call. This could invalidate the will.
- Losing the will whilst it is going between places.
- Not using the special wording on the signature page to reflect the fact the will was witnessed over video conferencing.
In summary – if you are in a situation where you need to have a will witnessed by video conferencing please take expert legal advice and make sure you are very familiar with the government rules. If you do anything incorrectly your will would not be valid.