How digital technology can help with the witnessing of wills

However morbid and depressing the idea of writing a will may be, it is an essential part of modern life. In the modern capitalist world people acquire a significant amount of personal assets which they want to leave to their families in the most secure fashion. Usually when you get a mortgage or have a child you will be advised to set up or amend your will to make sure it is up to date to take into account new assets or additions to the family.

Can I get a witness?

Did you know that legislation governing the witnessing of a will goes back to 1837? Current UK legislation states that a will must be signed by the estate owner, in the presence of two independent witnesses who are over the age of 18. The will must be made voluntarily by a person of sound mind and these conditions must be met for a will to be valid.

The role of the witness is to confirm that the person making the will is the person who signs it, their signature is not forged, that they have not been forced into signing it and that they are mentally able to understand what it is they are signing.

This process has remained unchanged for almost 200 years; however, it has suddenly come under the spotlight in recent times.

What's changed?

The short answer? COVID-19 (January '20). This strain of the Coronavirus has put a number of everyday processes and laws under the microscope. The deadly virus has made people think about their mortality much more seriously; as a result we have had reports from a number of our legal partners that there has been a huge surge in people wanting to write and amend their last will and testament.

The lockdown and social distancing guidelines have made getting your document witnessed in person almost impossible.

Thankfully, the Law Commission has been in dialogue with the UK Government since 2017 regarding the updating of will legislation and they continue to investigate what changes should be made to modernise the current practice.

Finally in September 2019, they confirmed that "Electronic signatures can be used to execute documents, including where there is a statutory requirement for a signature". However, the idea of using digital methods to witness wills remains a complex issue, particularly in respect of protecting the vulnerable and it requires detailed review. It is therefore unlikely that changes will be made anytime soon, lockdown or not.

VirtualSignature.com

VirtualSignature.com is actively engaging with a number of law firms to develop a solution to this problem. While we wait for changes in the current law, to allow digital witnessing of wills, we believe our VirtualWitness technology can assist.

VirtualSignature helps all parties stay safe and brings a new level of efficiency and security to signing and witnessing legal documents.

The will can be drawn up and a witness is nominated to attest to the electronic signing of the document. The estate owner electronically signs the document and VirtualSignature verifies the true identity of the signer to the witness, sending them a preview of that person's signature and image.

The witness applies their own signature, name, address & occupation to the document; the document is executed online and a certificate of attestation as to the validity of the signing and witnessing process is generated by VirtualSignature for all parties.

Get in Touch

If you would like to find out more about how VirtualSignature.com can help with your digital onboarding or discuss a particular solution that will fit your organisation's requirements, then give our team a call on 0333 335 5176 and we'll be pleased to demonstrate how the platform works.

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