The UK permits a Will to be witnessed via video conference

In the United Kingdom, s 9 of the Wills Act 1837 provides that a will must be in writing and signed in the presence of two witnesses.

Witnesses to the document must not include anyone who is a beneficiary of the will or the will makers spouse or civil partner.

The witnesses must attest and sign the will or acknowledge their signatures in the presence of the will-maker.

Section 1 of the Wills Act 1963 provides a will to be “properly executed” if it was executed in line with the laws

(a) of the place where the will was executed;

(b) where, at the time the will was executed or when the testator died, the testator was domiciled or had his habitual residence; or

(c) in force in a state of which the testator was a national either when the will was executed or at the date of the testator’s death.

Therefore, if the testator is a national of a state that allows witnessing of wills by video or holographic wills, the testator would not need to comply with the formal witnessing requirements under s9 of the Wills Act 1837 for the will to be considered valid under English law.

However if the will-maker doesn’t meet one of these exceptions, a will must be witnessed in accordance with the formal requirements, requiring two present witnesses.

A temporary revision to the Wills Act permitting live video-conferencing removes the requirement for the physical presence between the will-maker and their witnesses until 31 January 2022, although this date could be amended.

The amendment permitting video-conference Wills is to be made in September 2020 providing that any Will (not already admitted to probate) which has been made after January 31 2020, will be valid if it complies with the amendment.

The signatures must be made by hand in pen on the one original document- esignatures are not permitted

The will-maker must execute the document

a. in the presence of two witnesses being in the presence of the will-maker by way of video conference in real-time, not by pre-recorded video; or

b. in the presence of one witness being in the presence of the testator by way of video conference

There will be a minimum of two separate video recordings – one where the Will maker signs the Will and the second for the witnesses if they are in the same room when they do so; otherwise, there will be three video conferences to complete the Will signing procedure.

There can only be one Will document. So, once the will maker has signed their Will with your witnesses watching via video link, there will be a delay whilst it is delivered to both your witnesses for them to sign (again by live video link).

Importantly the document is not a valid Will until everyone has signed. In the intervening period, the Will maker could change their mind or lose capacity between signing the Will and the witnesses signing.

Similarly, there is a risk the document could be lost or damaged if posting it between the will-maker, witnesses and back again.

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