Jersey has introduced a temporary law to allow the legal witnessing of documents, including wills, during social distancing measures to curtail the spread of covid-19, the Channel Island jurisdiction announced today.
The covid-19 pandemic has posed a particular challenge 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.
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."
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 law, which came into force on 23 April, 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.
Siobhan Riley (pictured), partner and head of Jersey's Trusts and Private Wealth Group, said: "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.