Jersey wills and COVID 19 – witnessing wills by audio-visual link temporarily permitted
29 April 2020
Jersey's government has moved quickly to pass temporary, emergency legislation permitting the witnessing of Jersey wills by audio-visual link (such as over Skype/Zoom/WhatsApp).
Jersey's government has moved quickly to pass temporary, emergency legislation to ensure that people can continue to safely make Jersey wills during these unprecedented times. If you have any questions about this update or wish to make a will, please contact the team.
On 22 April 2020, the government of Jersey adopted new legislation in the form of the Covid-19 (Signing of Instruments) (Jersey) Regulations 2020 (the Signing Regulations), altering the manner in which some documents are capable of being executed, witnessed and sworn to facilitate compliance with the social distancing requirements implemented in Jersey in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. These include wills of movable and immovable estate where the person wishing to make the will cannot execute it in the physical presence of one or more independent witnesses. The Signing Regulations came into force on 23 April 2020 and are due to expire on 30 September 2020.
The Signing Regulations are a welcome development to those wanting to make a Jersey will at this time as well as for lawyers assisting with that process. Before the Signing Regulations came into force, it was necessary (subject to limited exceptions) for the Jersey will to be signed or acknowledged by the person making it in the physical presence of two independent witnesses (often the advocate/solicitor who prepared the will and an assistant).
An added complexity for people wishing to make a will covering their Jersey immovable property (broadly speaking, Jersey buildings or land held directly by that person, rather than through a company) was that the will had to be read aloud, in full, to that person by a 'qualified witness' (narrowly defined but including Jersey advocates and solicitors). With almost all lawyers in the island working from home and companies needing special permissions to allow their personnel to meet with others outside of their household for work-related reasons, this presented practical difficulties for people wishing to safely make valid wills.
In response to these practical difficulties and a large spike in the amount of people wishing to review/prepare/update their existing Jersey wills, Jersey has introduced the Signing Regulations which negate the need for a Jersey will to be signed or acknowledged in the physical presence of one or both witnesses. The Signing Regulations introduce a new provision into Jersey's wills and successions law enabling a person to witness the signing of a Jersey will by audio-visual link (such as over Skype/Zoom/WhatsApp).
The will now only needs to be signed by the person making it and the witnesses are required under the regulations to provide to the person making the will (or their lawyer, if lawyers are instructed), in a specified form, a written declaration that they have: witnessed the signing of the will over audio-visual link; positively identified the person making the will; seen the person making the will sign it; satisfied themselves that the document signed by that person is their will and, if the will is a will of immovables, heard the will read aloud in its entirely by the 'qualified witness'.
This welcome development will enable those wishing to prepare a Jersey will to continue to be able to do so, while ensuring the safety of everyone involved.