Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 stipulates that a Will is not valid unless it is signed by the Testator (the person preparing the Will) in the presence of two witnesses who are present at the same time and who also sign and witness the Will.
However, on 28 September 2020, an additional sub-section was added to Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837, to extend the meaning of the word “presence” to also include presence by way of videocall or other visual transmission. The change to the way Wills can be witnessed is backdate to all Wills made on or after 31 January 2020 (which was the date that the UK had the first confirmed case of COVID 19) and will continue to apply to Wills made on or before 21 January 2022.
Once the Will is approved and has been sent to the Testator, a videocall will need to be arranged between the testator and the two people they wish to use as witnesses. The witnesses cannot be named in the Will, related to the Testator or under the age of 18. The Testator then signs their Will whilst the two witnesses are on the videocall, ensuring that both witnesses have a direct line of sight to see the Testator sign. The same two witnesses must be used throughout the signing process.
The Testator then sends the Will to Witness One. A second videocall is required with the Testator and the same two witnesses. Witness One will then sign the Will in the presence of both the Testator and Witness Two, again ensuring that all parties have a direct line of sight and can see Witness One sign.
Witness One then sends the Will to Witness Two. All three parties have a final videocall, whereby they watch Witness Two sign the Will, once again ensuring that all parties have a direct line of sight and can see Witness Two sign.
Only once the Testator and both witnesses have signed the Will is it deemed valid.
During the initial lockdown, our Private Client team saw an influx in clients wanting to prepare Wills. When we were operating under the restrictions, it could be difficult to facilitate the Will signing, due to the COVID19 Welsh Government Guidance social distancing and shielding measures in place. Witnessing via video link, provided a welcomed solution to this problem.
Significant consideration would need to be given as to who would be the most appropriate witnesses if the Will is to be signed via video link, for example, would a friend who lives in another part of the country be appropriate, or would it be better to use people locally, perhaps even the solicitor who has prepared your Will?