Remote Witnessing for Wills to become Law

19th August 2020

Remote Witnessing for Wills to become Law

The government have announced that they plan to change the law to allow Wills to be witnessed virtually in England and Wills due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/video-witnessed-wills-to-be-made-legal-during-coronavirus-pandemic

As the law currently stands, under the Wills Act 1837, for a Will to be valid it must be signed by the person making the will – the testator – in the physical presence of two witnesses who must then also sign the Will in the testator’s presence.

This has been hard to achieve, if not impossible, during lockdown, due to social distancing regulations.

The reforms announced by the government will mean that Wills witnessed via a video link, such as Zoom or FaceTime, will be considered valid so long as all the other requirements for a valid Will are met. The reform will be backdated to 31 January 2020, to cover any Wills which were witnessed this way since that date. However, the changes are only intended to remain in place for two years.

The Law Society president, Simon Davis, has said that greater clarity is needed on when remote witnessing is appropriate. We take the view that this option should only be used as a last resort, for example if a client has Covid-19 and, therefore, we are unable to arrange for the will to be witnessed in person. Our default position is that wills should be executed as they always have been to avoid any possibility of challenge later on.

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