27 April 2020
New Jersey law regulation provides temporary arrangements to enable wills to be witnessed by audio-visual link
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has proven to be very challenging when the face-to-face witnessing of legal documents is necessary.
This is particularly so in respect of the signing of wills. At a time when many individuals may wish to make a will or simply update an existing one, COVID- 19 has made this difficult if not impossible to achieve because of the strict requirements for Jersey wills to be signed and witnessed in the presence of two witnesses. Such face-to-face contact lies at odds with the social distancing measures that we are required to undertake for the foreseeable future. The Covid-19 (Signing of instruments) (Jersey) Law Regulations 2020 ( Regulations), which came into force on 23 April 2020, provide temporary arrangements to enable wills to be witnessed safely by means of an audio-visual link if certain conditions are met. The Regulations require all witnesses to:
- see all the parties by audio- visual link. When signing a will this means that the witnesses and the testator must be able to see one another;
- positively identify the person signing the will;
- see the person signing the will; and
- be satisfied, by whatever means are practical, that the document being signed is in fact the will.
In the case of a Jersey will of immovable property, the Regulations further provide that each witness and the testator must hear, at the same time, the will read aloud to the testator in its entirety before it is signed. Finally, the witnesses must provide a written declaration to the testator (or to the advocate or solicitor who drafted the will) that they have fulfilled the above requirements as soon as is reasonably practicable after the will is signed. At the present time the Regulations are set to remain in force until 30 September 2020 although this timescale may be extended if necessary.