Big news this weekend as the government announced a change in the law to allow video witnessing of wills, to make it easier for people to record their final wishes during the pandemic.
Current law requires two witnesses to be present when signing your will, but the reforms will allow that witnessing to take place virtually over platforms such as Zoom and Skype.
The law will be backdated to 31 January 2020, so anyone who had no choice but to make a will in this manner over these past few months can be assured it will be valid, provided the other formalities are met.
Industry body STEP said "We are delighted that the Government has responded to the industry’s calls to allow will witnessing over video conference. By removing the need for any physical witnesses, wills can continue to be drawn up efficiently, effectively and safely by those isolating."
The measures will remain in place until January 2022, but that time could be shortened or lengthened if deemed necessary.
It is important to note that the witnesses still need to physically sign the will - electronic signatures are not sufficient.
Video witnessing should remain a last resort, and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so. We have been advising our clients that witnessing through a window can work and the feedback has been that this is a helpful workaround to social distancing measures. As always, please contact us if you are unsure.
Existing law requires a will to be made “in the presence of” at least two witnesses but stipulations on isolating and shielding during lockdown have led some people to turn to video platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime instead. On Saturday, ministers said wills witnessed in such a way will be deemed legal, providing the quality of sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening at the time.