How video-witnessing Wills can help the vulnerable protect their estates.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to throw up a number of challenges, with many aspects of our lives still currently on hold.

However, some areas of our lives are simply too important to be delayed indefinitely, such as creating or amending a Will.

With social distancing in place and those at risk shielding for months, this important act has become an issue for many – adding to what is already a worrying time.

The positive news is that Government has amended the Wills Act 1837 in England and Wales to allow Wills for the first time to be witnessed via video link where necessary, rather than physically in person, as is standard practice.

Backdated to 31 January 2020 and set to remain in place until 31 January 2022 – or as long as necessary – this welcomed news is allowing the elderly, vulnerable and anybody else currently isolating or not wishing to take undue risks due to Covid-19 to stay in control of their estates and plan for the future in these unprecedented times.

Here are five things to consider when it comes to video-witnessed Wills:

Ensure you remain within the guidelines

Requirements check-list

The amending of the Wills Act 1837 is welcome and will help many. However, it is worth remembering that the process of making a Will legally binding is, quite rightly, a stringent process and these steps by Government are in no way meant to make the process any less robust and standard practice will still apply. The Will must, for example, be witnessed by two people – irrespective of whether it is done via video link or not.

Use a reliable, reputable online platform

Skype and Zoom conferencing

For quality, reliability and security purposes, make sure you choose a reputable online medium such as Zoom to conduct your video-witnessed Will signing. Such platforms are also likely to be familiar to those you ask to witness. Using a universally-known video streaming service also increases the likelihood of sufficient sound and video quality – both important elements of making sure a video-witnessed Will is accepted as legally binding.

Be descriptive

To avoid any doubt or ambiguity, make sure you are explicit in explaining what you are doing. State what you do as you are doing it: ‘I (name) am now signing the document’ etc. Ensure you mention the time and date and confirm the virtual presence of your two witnesses. Being as clear as you can as to the actions you are taking will help avoid any unnecessary questions or challenges down the line.

Save and download

Save and Download

For maximum clarity and the avoidance of any doubt, we would strongly recommend that the video witnessing is recorded so that it remains as unequivocal evidence. Remember to download and save in at least one different format and ensure it is accessible from more than one device. Technology is fast-moving and there is no guarantee that the recording from any given platform will be available in the future.

Seek professional advice

Three animated people in a conference call

The change in guidelines is undoubtedly a positive one which will prove a comfort to many. However, it does not change the crux of the Wills Act 1837, which can be complex and important to get right. To ensure a Will meets the right criteria and all the necessary legal standards – and for complete peace of mind – we would recommend contacting an experienced, respected and trusted financial planner.

Here at Wills & Trusts Wealth Management, we know how important getting your financial affairs in order is for you and your loved ones – especially in such unsettling times.

Get in touch with our friendly, knowledgeable and experienced team today to see how we can help, allowing you to get on with living your life.

Paula O'Reilly

August 24, 2020