Remote witnessing of Wills
The Government is to legalise the remote witnessing of wills which will make it easier for people to record their final wishes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Saul Caplan, a director of local law firm BTMK Solicitors said, “These measures will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded during this challenging time, while continuing to protect the elderly and vulnerable.”
Currently, the law states that a will must be made in the physical presence of’ at least two witnesses. However while isolating or shielding some people have understandably turned to video link software as a solution – for example via platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime.
Ministers have acted to reassure the public that wills witnessed in such a way will be deemed legal, as long as the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening at the time.
These changes will be made via new legislation in September, which amends the law to include video-witnessing.
Crucially, the move maintains the vital safeguard of requiring two witnesses – protecting people against undue influence and fraud.
The measures will be backdated to 31 January 2020 – the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK – meaning that any will witnessed by video technology from that date onwards will be legally accepted. The change will remain in place until 31 January 2022, or as long as deemed necessary, after which wills must return to being made with witnesses who are physically present.
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. Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate in case law as long as they have clear sight of the person signing it.
Saul Caplan comments “The government’s decision to allow wills to be witnessed remotely for the next two years will help alleviate the difficulties that some members of the public have encountered when making wills during the pandemic”.
If you would like assistance in relation to probate or the writing of a will, call Saul Caplan at BTMK Solicitors on 01702 238516 for further information.