Video witnessed wills to be made legal during pandemic.
A growing number of people have sought to make or amend wills during the coronavirus pandemic. Current legislation requires wills to be signed “in the presence of” at least two witnesses. The law provides that this presence must be “physical”. However, the regulations on self-isolation and shielding during the Coronavirus pandemic have made the creation and face-to face witnessing of wills challenging. Whilst many people have turned to online platforms, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, to do business, it has proven increasingly difficult to deal with the physical requirement for witnessing the signing of wills.
The government recently announced new legislation for England and Wales to combat this issue. The change in law, which will amend the Wills Act 1837, will be effected in September 2020 and backdated to 31st January, which was the date of the first confirmed Coronavirus case. It will remain in place until at least 31st January 2022.
Providing the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to hear and see at all times, wills can be witnessed in virtual meetings over online platforms. The change in legislation provides a safe solution for those isolating or shielding through the pandemic and allows wills to continue to be drawn up efficiently. As with the current law, two witnesses will still be required to safeguard and protect people against fraud or undue influence. In addition, a clear line of sight of the writing of the signature is required. It is also important to note that witnessing a pre-recorded video will not be permitted, the video call must be in real-time. If possible, the video call should be recorded and retained.
Whilst this legislation will be in place, the government is still encouraging people to arrange face to face witnessing of wills in a safe environment, and the video witnessed will should only be used as an absolute last resort. We have been and continue to be able to comply with the current requirement for physical presence of witnesses in a number of ways which adhere to the social distancing rules, such as witnessing through an open door or window of a house, or witnessing outdoors from a short distance e.g. garden or outside an office.
Our team of solicitors working in Wills, Probate and Trusts use their extensive experience to work with you plan for yours and your families' futures. Our specialist lawyers include members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE). Got a question? Contact the team on 01642 636500.