The legislation introduced during lockdown to allow video-witnessed Wills has been extended until 2024.
Because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic it was quickly recognised that the Wills Act 1837 which stipulates Wills had to be signed in person by at least two witnesses was no longer practical. The amendments made to the Act mean a witness’ presence can now be physical or virtual using platforms like Zoom, Skype or Teams.
However, although the witnessing can be done over video, the signatures have to be real, electronic signatures are not permitted.
As the world is still a little uncertain and some people are still uncomfortable travelling into towns and offices (and we’d assume because video-witnessed Wills have been a success), the ability to witness Wills over video will now be extended until January 2024.
In his accompanying statement the Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab MP, said:
“This is a common-sense measure that will give vulnerable people peace of mind that their wills are recognised if they are forced to have them witnessed via video due to isolation.”
According to research undertaken by The Law Society, 14% of legal professionals involved in Will writing have used video platforms to witness Wills.
Stephanie Boyce, The Law Society’s President, said:
“Solicitors have bent over backwards to ensure their clients have been able to make valid wills despite the restrictions during the pandemic. Those who have used video witnessing have told the Law Society it has been a useful option to have – to help vulnerable people set their affairs in order when making a will in the presence of witnesses is not possible.”
As a result of this support from solicitors The Law Commission is now considering additional reforms to make this temporary measure permanent. It must be noted, however, that this is despite the Ministry of Justice saying they feel video technology should remain a last resort and would prefer people to arrange physical witnessing as long as it’s safe to do so.
If this blog has raised any questions you would like to ask our experienced Will writing team or if you’d like us to draft or review your Will or help you plan for the future, please email [email protected] or call Deniece on 0208 866 1820.