News | December 7, 2020

Electronic signing

The Covid-19 pandemic is encouraging individuals to make or revise their Will and get their affairs in order. Signing a Will and other deeds and documents by hand when a witness is required is, however, more difficult in light of the restrictions on household mixing, but there are ways in which it can be achieved.

Signing a Will
To be validly executed, a Will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two independent adult witnesses who must be physically present in the same place when the testator signs. To help testators safely execute their Will during the pandemic, the Government has temporarily extended the law to allow the two witnesses to watch the testator sign over video-link. The witnesses must sign the same copy of the Will, again via video-link, meaning it must be taken or posted to the witnesses, and ideally signed by all parties over video link within 24 hours. Signing a Will in such a manner brings with it the opportunity for fraud and undue influence and the increased likelihood of the Will being challenged on the death of the testator. It could also cause an issue from a confidentiality point of view as the Will may be read by the witnesses, which is not conventionally the case when a Will is witnessed in person.

Whilst this flexibility is necessary in current circumstances, we advise that you only execute your Will over video-link as a last resort. In circumstances where it is impossible to sign it with two witnesses physically present, we advise that you seek professional assistance regarding the signing procedure. We can advise you on an appropriate attestation clause for your Will and can act as the remote witnesses. We can also take and safely store a recording of the video witnessing.

Signing other deeds and documents
It is possible to sign many other Private Client documents electronically. This includes trust deeds, trustee minutes, trust accounts and deeds of variation. We are able to facilitate such electronic signing by way of a user friendly platform called DocuSign. We have found that this significantly streamlines the document signing process for clients and helps them to complete their legal transactions despite the current restrictions.