Since 1837 two people have had to physically witness the signing of a Will. However, because of the social distancing and self-isolation measures introduced to combat the COVID pandemic it has been extremely difficult to satisfy this requirement during the last few months.
In response there is now a strong feeling that The Ministry of Justice could be about to amend the Electronic Communications Act of 2000 so that Wills can be witnessed using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype and Teams. Although the discussions are only rumoured at the moment, it seems likely that if the amendment was to progress it would also include a period of grace so that any Wills witnessed electronically earlier in the year will still be considered legal.
Calls for change have been prompted by the need to find a workable alternative given our movements and our ability to meet in person are currently restricted. There is also a need to act before the spike in contested probate claims many within the legal industry expect the pandemic to trigger, especially as many of these claims will probably hinge on whether or not a Will was legally witnessed.
If the changes are made, their legitimacy will probably be limited to a yet to be agreed period of time and will need to be reviewed when that time limit expires. However, legal experts believe this period of time is likely to give those tasked with modernising the relevant legislation the time they’ll need to complete their task.
We will keep you updated as the position becomes clearer but in the meantime if you have any questions relating to your or a family member’s Will, please email [email protected] or call Deniece on 0208 866 1820.