Under the Wills Act 1837, two witnesses were required to be in the physical presence of the testator for a valid will. Due to COVID-19, social distancing, and the constraints on movement, the signing of wills could not be witnessed, in the presence of the testator. The government introduced a statutory instrument which temporarily changed the Wills Act 1837, and allowed the witnessing of wills, to take place using video-conferencing technology. This article explores the requirements and potential problems of witnessing wills over the internet.
What are the Requirements for Witnessing Wills Over the Internet?
The new legislation will apply to wills made since 31 January 2020, unless the grant of probate has already been issued, or an application has already been administered. The testator, and their two witnesses, must each have a clear line of sight, of the writing of the signature. There must be no undue influence. The testator and witnesses must have capacity. A witness cannot be a beneficiary. The testator must see and be seen by the witnesses, and show them the will and permit them to watch them sign the will. They must confirm they have seen and understand the process. The will must be sent to both witnesses. Both witnesses need to see and be seen by the testator, and each other, when they sign. They must acknowledge they have seen it, to each other. Signatures must still be made on paper. The will should contain an attestation clause, stating the method of signature and witnessing, and details of any recording. The will should be returned for safe keeping. The legislation has a time limit of the 31st January 2022. After this deadline, the requirement for physical presence will return.
What are the Potential Problems?
There are concerns that wills witnessed over the internet could result in undue influence. Someone could compel a testator, to make a will in their favour, and easily avoid being seen by a video camera. The online process will take longer than making a traditional will which could increase the cost. The length of time could result in someone dying before the completion of the will. There could be issues with internet connection and if the recording is not of adequate quality, to prove the signing, then the will may not be valid.
It is clear that the new reforms, which are in line with Scotland, Canada and the US, will mitigate practical difficulties, that the public have experienced, when making wills in the COVID-19 era. However, the potential pitfalls of cost, time and undue influence suggest online wills are rather risky. We strongly advise to firstly discuss your case with a solicitor and explore what could be done.
This article is for the information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Contact us today for further information or to request a copy of our handy guide “How to safely witness Wills when you are self-isolating”.
Quality | Integrity | Law
The rise of internet users has dramatically increased over the past decade, with Facebook being the first social media network to hold 1 billion registered accounts in its database. This figure shows how crucial it is to make arrangements for any digital legacies during your lifetime.
A digital legacy is the information that is available concerning an individual after their death. The type of digital legacies may include:
- Gaming accounts
- Social media profiles
- Any other information stored online and all interaction that an individual has with another over the internet is also included.
If a person posts a comment on someone’s Instagram post, this information can be used to form part of a digital legacy and so it is not always straightforward to determine how this piece of information can be used after death. Every company will have its own terms and conditions as to how an account is run and it can be exhausting trying to get a hold of social media sites to inform them of the bereavement. This is why MLS advises clients to make a list of all their digital information, whether it is personal or financial.
Ownership of digital legacies after death
After an individual dies, digital legacies are usually owned by the beneficiary of the will and the online services that store the information. It is a good idea to read up on the end of life policies that each website/provider has in place to ensure that you put all the right procedures in place. For example, Twitter’s policy on this matter includes assisting family members or other authorised individuals with recording a death. They require information such as information about the deceased, a copy of the family member’s ID, and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate in order to close the account. Under no circumstances do they allow anyone access to the deceased individual’s accounts, which means that precious moments may be lost forever if they are not backed up beforehand. There are a number of websites that provide free information and resources on this issue like The Digital Legacy Association and Dying Matters who have Social Media Will templates available to use.
- Free services like LastPass manage all your online accounts and passwords in once place, which could be useful for the executor of the will to look at.
- Check Google’s Inactive Account Manager to control who your information should be passed on to after death.
- Keep a record of accounts that generate income such as YouTube, monetised blogs or PayPal so you can decide who will benefit from these.
- Memorialisation- Some social media sites like Facebook have an option to memorialise a deceased individual where friends and family members can share memories of that person.
For more information on digital legacies and what to include in a will, contact us on 01244 478730 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Mahum Fatima
 https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/Read More
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To protect their disabled son in the future after an accident left him injured, retired couple Kristina and Olaf Rogge set up a trust fund. Now, they have discovered this action could result in them paying £100,000 per year while they’re alive or leave millions payable by their son in death duties.
Once a successful investor, Rogge is now trying to reverse the payments made in trust to benefit his son in a legal dispute taking place at the High Court. He stated he would not have made the payments if he had fully comprehended the complicated rules of inheritance tax
The Hampshire couple’s case comes following a recommendation by an independent government adviser The Office of Tax Simplification that the system required a serious overhaul to make the levy more clearly understood.
Typically gifts made into trust to benefit the disabled are tax exempt. The majority of gifts will also be exempt from inheritance tax if survived for seven years.
The couple bought and developed a manor house in Hampshire to the cost of £15 million with a wing of the house designed for their son’s needs. As the Rogges continued to live in the property, they were judged to benefit and were not applicable for tax relief. Unaware of this, the couple triggered a tax trap which required them to pay £100,000 yearly for the remainder of their lives or leave their son to pay £6m in inheritance tax.
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