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 email@example.com.
Written by: Mahum Fatima
 https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/Read More
A recent survey carried out by the Law Society confirmed that a staggering 93% of those who have made a will had not included any digital assets in their will*.
What are digital assets
Digital assets are important and can include everything from your free email and social media accounts through to your cherished family photos and important online bank accounts.
Despite the huge impact that technology has had on our lives in the recent years, few people understand what happens to their digital assets upon their death or why it is important to include them in their will.
I already have a will do I need to make it digital.
Omitting digital assets from a will can leave family members unable to access online accounts or photos. Closure of the deceased’s social media accounts will also be very difficult.
Furthermore, not having a digital will can seriously complicate obtaining the information for probate purposes thus making the whole process more stressful, longer and ultimately more expensive.
What is a digital Will?
Digital will is a will which deals with both your physical and digital assets. A qualified a solicitor will be able to advise you how to best include both types of assets in your will and draft a legally binding document.
MLS’ tip to keep your digital Will up to date:
Keeping a clear record of online passwords ensures that your estate is inherited exactly as you wish, and your loved ones are not faced with any additional stresses during probate.
Does your Will reflect your lifestyle?
Here at My Local Solicitor, we are proud to be ahead of the curve and writing modern digital wills is what we do best. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
*A Populus survey of more than 1,000 members of the public commissioned by the Law Society asked several questions about whether people had made a will. The survey took place in late June 2020.
Over two-thirds of disabled children in the UK are unintentionally being put in financial jeopardy due to an error in their parent’s will. The report indicates that a common mistake can also lead to (more…)Read More
Regardless of your wealth, health, how old you are or whether you own property, making sure your wishes are officially documented and will be carried out correctly after your death is essential for everyone. Failure to do so can cause numerous problems, ranging from your estate entering probate and family disputes, to your affairs being handled or inherited by individuals not of your choosing.(more…)Read More
If you’ve experienced a change in personal circumstances, you might decide you need to make alterations to your will.
When this situation arises, it’s essential that you don’t action these changes by simply amending your original will after it has been successfully signed with witnesses. Any noticeable changes to the legal document will be assumed to have been added later than the date of signing and will not be classed as part of the original valid will.
There are only two ways of making changes to a will – you can either add a codicil to your will, or make a new one entirely.
What is a codicil?
A codicil is an addition to a will that makes one or several alterations to the document while leaving the remainder intact. This may be useful under many different circumstances, from changing a guardian or executor listed, adding beneficiaries or increasing the amount you bequeath to someone.
Codicils must always be signed by the person making the will and witnessed accordingly, although witnesses can be different to those used for the original document.
You can update your will with as many codicils as you require, but they are best employed for simple and straightforward changes.
Drawing up a new will
When a more complex amendment is required, the best policy is to make a brand-new will. It’s advised to begin any new will with a clause affirming that the document revokes any previous wills made along with their codicils. The old will should then be destroyed along with any copies made.Read More