Under the COVID 19 situation the government is allowing witnessing of a Will via
a live video link; but it is not to be the norm and is tricky to get right.
Video Witnessing of a Will
The law in England & Wales requires a Will to be signed in the presence of 2 witnesses.
Due to COVID 19 the government is easing the rules temporarily to allow the witnesses
to be “present” via a live video link . However this is not intended to be the norm;
typically Wills should be witnessed by witnesses in the physical presence of the
client but there is no problem with social distancing being in place. Hence, typically
someone who is shielding at home should be able to sign a will with witnesses looking
through a window or open doorway, or perhaps with everyone involved keeping their
distance outside in a garden . Video witnessing is intended only for situations where
such physical presence really is not possible, such as in a hospital or similar,
and is expected to be allowed only until 31st January 2022 (subject to change).
The link must be a live 2-way link, not just viewing a recording. The link will need
to be in place both when the client signs and also when the witnesses sign. In practical
terms an ill client is likely to need someone physically present to set up the link
etc, which hospital staff are unlikely to have the time to do. Once signed, the Will
then needs transporting to the remote witnesses, for them to sign whilst the client
watches via a live video link. The Will is only valid once all witness signatures
are completed, so if a client dies before the witnesses sign then the Will is not
effective at all.
There are additional detailed recommendations for exactly the procedure to follow,
including signing/witnessing the Will again later on once normal physical presence
of witnesses is possible. InHouse Wills expects only very few Wills to be signed
with video witnesses, but at least the possibility exists if there is no other means
of doing it. Of course the best thing is always to make a Will before there is a
prospect of it being needed, so that it is made without pressure, without any concerns
that illness might be clouding your judgement and without any need for additional
complications surrounding video witnessing.