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Jersey and Scotland authorise video link for witnessing Wills but England sticks to traditional method

Strict rules have been in place surrounding signing and witnessing Wills in England and Wales, since 1837, primarily to protect the vulnerable and to prevent fraudulent Wills.

The legislation in the Wills Act 1837 stipulates that a valid Will must be signed by the person making the Will, and their signature must be witnessed by two independent witnesses, in person, who effectively confirm they have witnessed the signature of the person making the Will.  

However, with the world being thrown into disarray during the Covid-19 pandemic and with the demand for Wills increasing exponentially the traditional strict criteria for signing and executing a  Will has presented some hurdles due to the social distancing measures in place and many people having to self-isolate. 

It has been announced that Jersey and Scotland have made an unprecedented move permitting legal professionals to witness Wills via video link, to try to combat the challenges posed by social distancing and self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The emergency legislation, which is currently in place until the 30th September 2020, unless extended, temporarily allows a relaxing of the formal requirement for two witnesses to be physically present when a will is signed.

Whist this move has generally been well-received there have been concerns raised. Mike Higgins, who is Deputy of the States Assembly, said “whilst the vast majority of people looking after vulnerable people act correctly with great care and humanity, there are always those who will take advantage”.

England and Wales have not adopted any changes relating to the formal requirements for executing a valid Will and the 1837 legislation remains in place.  It is essential that a Will is signed and witnessed accurately, following the legislation. If you have any concerns about how a will should be or has been witnessed, it is important to seek legal advice. 

Barrett and Co are being as accommodating as possible by offering drive-through Will signings in their car park; garden signings and even signings through windows for the most vulnerable.

If you would like to put a Will in place or make changes to your existing Will but are concerned about leaving your home please contact Barrett and Co by telephoning 0118 958 9711 or by emailing [email protected] and a member of our team will be in touch to assist you.

Further Reading:

Coronavirus, your Will and the Drive Through

Remote Hearings During a Pandemic

Can a grant be issued in an estate where a caveat is in place?

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Jane Whitfield can meet with you to discuss your personal circumstances, your options and your next steps. This would normally take place in our office in Reading, Berkshire. During the coronavirus situation, however, all of our meetings are currently being carried out either by telephone or by video link.

If you would like to meet with Jane, please telephone the office so that an appointment can be made for you. If you would like to take up our offer of a one-hour £95 fixed fee meeting, please click for more details.

Jane is a Solicitor specialising in Private Client matters. Jane is a qualified Trusts & Estate Practitioner with STEP (Society of Trusts & Estates Practitioners) and a fully accredited member of Solicitors for the Elderly, as well as being a Dementia Friends Champion. Jane is also President of the Berks, Bucks & Oxfordshire Law Society.

"barrettandco" and "Barrett & Co" are trading names of Barrett & Co Solicitors LLP, a Limited Liability Partnership incorporated in England and Wales under registration number OC356263, with registered office at Salisbury House, 54 Queens Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4AZ. Barrett & Co Solicitors LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority www.sra.org.uk (SRA Number 549694).

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