In a historic move, the Government has announced that it is legalising wills which have been witnessed remotely using video conferencing.
‘This will make it easier for people in England and Wales to record their final wishes during the coronavirus pandemic,’ says Dee Benians, private client partner at Hughes Solicitors in Heathfield, East Sussex.
Buts she also warns that ‘particular care must be taken to protect vulnerable people who might be pressurised into making or changing a will. It is best to speak with a solicitor first as there may be other options, such as witnessing a will outdoors’.
A will witnessed through a window is already considered legitimate, just as long as there is clear sight of the person signing it.
The change in law, announced in July 2020, means that anyone wishing to draw up a will can get this vital legal document witnessed using video link software such as Zoom or FaceTime. However, 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.
For a will witnessed via video link to be recognised legally, it will need to fulfil certain criteria regarding the quality of the sound and the video must allow all parties involved to see and hear what is happening at the time.
It is important to remember that the two witnesses must not be beneficiaries and electronic signatures are not permitted.
The measures are being backdated to 31 January 2020, the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK, and will remain in place until 31 January 2022 or as long as deemed necessary. After this date, wills must be made with witnesses who are physically present.
How we can help
If you are thinking about drawing up or updating a will, we can guide you through the whole process and advise on the best option to get your will witnessed legally, even if you are self-isolating or shielding during the coronavirus pandemic.
For a confidential discussion, please contact Dee Benians by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.