Article by our Solicitor Althaf Hussain 07.09.2020
A Will has to be witnessed to become a legally valid document. With current restrictions on movement and meetings, arranging for a Will to be witnessed by two individuals can be a more difficult process than normal.
In England and Wales new laws are to be passed, to allow a Will to be witnessed remotely. Helpfully the new legislation will be backdated to 31 January 2020 to cover any Will which has been witnessed remotely during the pandemic and resulting lockdown periods.
A Will must be signed ‘in the presence of’ at least two witnesses, who are together at the same time. This process has become extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, given the guidance on isolating and shielding as a result of the pandemic. In addition, many Solicitors have been working from home and therefore have been unable to offer appointments. As a result of these challenges, some have used online meeting tools to arrange for Wills to be signed, hoping that in these very unusual circumstances the concept of ‘in the presence of’ will be interpreted appropriately by the authorities.
The new rules confirm that signing a Will remotely will be accepted and legal, as long as the sound and video quality allows all parties to see and hear what’s happening clearly and the correct procedures are followed. As a result, ‘in the presence of’ will cover any Will witnessed at a physical meeting or through a virtual link. To avoid later scrutiny from the Probate Courts, those taking part should make a statement to the effect that the witnessing is taking place virtually, and ideally a copy of the recording should be stored to help document the process.
It is expected that the new law will be kept in place until at least 31 January 2022, although this may be reviewed depending on the long term impact of the pandemic.
This is a sensible and a pragmatic step, given the circumstances, and offers a good solution if it’s not possible for a Will to be witnessed in the usual way. It’s important to note that, to avoid any risk of challenge, remote witnessing should be used very much as a last resort, with physical witnessing still the preferred option.
We have referred several clients to Fountain Solicitors for legal advice and our confidence that they would be in good hands has been endorsed by their subsequent feedback.
Their offices were one of the best offices I have seen in a long time. Not only that their charges were reasonable and my case was dealt with efficiently and I got my status.
My case was in shambles. I had no hope. I was recommended to Fountain Solicitors by my friend who was also using Fountain Solicitors at the time. I was told I should appeal and to gather the evidence I required, my appeal was allowed and I was given indefinite stay. I recommend the firm highly.
My Company was accused of employing illegal workers. I was given a fine which I appealed. I had instructed Fountain Solicitors who had represented me and I was found not guilty of employing illegal workers. I am very grateful to Fountain Solicitors, without them my reputation would have been damaged.
I would highly recommend Fountain Solicitors to anyone who requires legal advice. They are fully familiar with their area of law. Their staff are hardworking and committed. My wife's marriage appeal was allowed following a court hearing in Birmingham.
My phone calls were always returned and I was regularly updated on my case. Their advice was easy to follow.
My case was pending with the Home Office for a number of years. My previous solicitor told me that I should sit and wait. I instructed Fountain Soliciitors who proceeded to Judicially Review my case. The Home backed down and agreed to consider my case and granted me indefinite stay.
I was very satisfied with the service, and would recommend all my family and friends. They have helped me in visit visa and student appeal at Walsall Court.