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Signing and witnessing of land transfer deeds and wills

Electronic signatures can be used when signing many legal documents, and it is common to do so for commercial transactions, but written signatures and physical witnessing of the signatures are required for the signing of land transfer deeds, which have to be registered with the Land Registry, and for wills.

Can I sign a TR1 digitally?

No, for the signing of Land transfer deeds (TR1) or wills, a written signature is still required. The signing has to be done in the presence of a witness (two witnesses for a will) who attests the signature by then also signing the document.

The Land Registry will currently only accept land transfer deeds that have been physically signed and witnessed, under the provisions of Section 1 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989.

Can a signature be witnessed by someone via a video call?

The law as it stands is that a witness must be present and see the document signed in the case of a deed or a will until the law is changed. The Law Commission, which last year produced a detailed report on the use of electronic signatures and legal documents, and called for reform, has said: "Our view is that the requirement under the current law that a deed must be signed 'in the presence of a witness' requires the physical presence of that witness."

How can I sign a will remotely?

The law still requires that you physically sign the will and there must be two witnesses. However, it is perfectly possible for this to be done while everyone involved maintains social distancing of at least 2 metres. As long as the witnesses either see you sign the will, or you acknowledge the signature on the will to them as yours, then you can move away from the document, or someone can take it, either to a different part of the room or, where the witnesses see you sign through a window, for example, to where they are to sign. Our lawyers will do all they can to help you sign your will as required by law.