Solicitor Emily Riesco, in our leading Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts team, explains how Wills witnessed by video link will become legal from September.
New temporary laws will be introduced this September meaning that Wills witnessed remotely by video link (for example, via Zoom, Facetime or Skype) will be deemed legal.
To guard against fraud and any undue influence being applied, at present the Wills Act 1837 requires two witnesses to be physically present when the person making a Will (the “testator”) signs the document. The rules around shielding, self-isolating and social distancing have made the practicalities of traditional Will signings tricky for many.
The new measures will be backdated to 31 January 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the UK, and remain in place until 31 January 2022, or as long as deemed necessary. Wills made on or after 31 January 2020 and witnessed via video link with be legally accepted, as long as the quality of the recording is satisfactory.
The Government has said: “The use of video technology should remain a last resort, and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so.”
Under existing law, Wills that have been witnessed through windows (for example, to maintain social distance or to safeguard those who are shielding and clinically vulnerable) are considered legal, providing that the testator signed the document in clear sight.
The change has been welcomed by both The Law Society and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), which solicitors in Blandy & Blandy’s leading Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts team are members of.
Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said: “We are pleased that more people are taking the incredibly important step to plan for the future by making a will.
We know that the pandemic has made this process more difficult, which is why we are changing law to ensure that wills witnessed via video technology are legally recognised.
Our measures will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded during this challenging time, while continuing to protect the elderly and vulnerable.”
In the longer term, the Government has reiterated that it “will be considering wider reforms to the law on making wills and responding to a forthcoming Law Commission report.”
You may also find our blog articles, 'What Proportion of Adults Do Not Have a Will? Our Findings', 'Why is it Important to Make and Update a Will?' and 'Making or Updating Your Will During the Pandemic - How We Can Help' of interest.
If you have any questions or would like to arrange a meeting, please contact our Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts team.
For further information or legal advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.