Recent changes to the Will signing process and the system for using a Lasting Power of Attorney

Ensuring that your Will is correctly signed and witnessed has always been very important. If this is not done correctly then the document may not be valid. It has always been the case that a Will must be signed and dated by the person making the Will (the testator) in the presence of two witnesses. A witness can be anyone over the age of 18 who is not a beneficiary named in the Will. The two witnesses can be related to each other.

Up until recently it has always been a legal requirement that the document must be signed and witnessed with all three parties present in order for it to be legally valid. This rule has recently changed, however, as it has been difficult to achieve during the current pandemic, whilst maintaining a safe social distance.

It has been announced by the UK government that with immediate effect it is going to legalise the remote witnessing of Wills. The new law has been backdated to 31 January 2020 and will remain in place until January 2022, or as long as is deemed to be necessary.

Under the new guidelines, the type of video-conferencing used is not important, as long as the person making the Will, plus the two witnesses, each have a clear line of sight when the Will is actually signed.

Key points regarding the signing and witnessing of your Will by video link –
The person making the Will has to ensure that the two witnesses can see them, as well as each other, and can also see the act of signing. The signing should take place in real time and if possible, a recording should be made and kept.

The witnesses should confirm that they can see and hear what is happening, and that they understand their role in witnessing the signing of a legal document. Ideally, they should be physically present with each other but if this is not possible, they must be present at the same time by video link.

The document must then be taken to the two witnesses to sign, ideally within 24 hours. A longer period may be unavoidable, for example, if the Will has to be posted. The signing of the Will by the witness should again be by video call, and the Will maker should see the witnesses sign.

If the two witnesses cannot be present together then the above will ideally need to take place twice. Whilst it is not a legal requirement for the two witnesses to see each other sign, it is recommended by the government that this is good practice. For any further advice please contact A R K – we will guide you every step of the way to ensure the process is simple and legally correct.

Changes to the way a Lasting Power of Attorney can be used
A new online tool was released by the Office of the Public Guardian in July – it will help attorneys to contact banks and healthcare providers and will be an easier system than the paper-based one, which can often cause delays. The new system will allow those acting as an attorney to provide a secure code, which when submitted to the online portal, will nearly instantaneously confirm their status as an attorney and the power they hold. This system can only currently be used for LPAs registered by the Office of the Public Guardian after 17th July 2020, but it is due to be extended in the future to apply to LPAs made before that date.

For more information on making and/or registering and using a Lasting Power of Attorney then please contact us at A R K. It is quick and easy to do.

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