On 7 September 2020, a statutory instrument temporarily legalising the witnessing of Wills through videoconferencing was laid before Parliament and will come into force at the end of the month (28 September 2020).
This change in the law will apply to Wills made up until 31 January 2022 and will backdate to 31 January 2020. If needs be, this period could be extended or shortened in line with the approach adopted for other Coronavirus legislative measures, says the MoJ.
This order makes a notable amendment to section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 as it enables the witnessing of Wills via videoconferencing or other visual transmissions to be legally accepted, as long as the sound and video quality is suitable. For nearly the last 200 years a Will had to be signed physically in the presence of the witnesses.
The device or platform is not important. However, it is crucial that the person creating the Will and their two witnesses “have a clear line of sight of the writing of the signature.”
Gov.uk states that to reflect this, the will-maker could say: “I first name, surname, wish to make a Will of my own free will and sign it here before these witnesses, who are witnessing me doing this remotely.”
There is a strict procedure to be followed and it is important that the attestation clause in the Will is also amended to reflect how it was executed.
A spokesperson for the MoJ stated “We know the pandemic has made it more difficult to make a will. That’s why we are changing the law to ensure video-witnessed Wills are legally recognised. These changes will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded while maintaining all the existing safeguards against fraud or disputes.”
However, Government guidance states that video-witnessing wills should be a last resort. If it is safe to do so, a physical witnessing should be arranged.
Whether a Will is witnessed in person or via video-link there are procedures to be followed. It is always wise to seek expert legal advice from a professional to ensure there are no complications further down the line.
For support and advice on making and witnessing a will, please get in touch with our expert Private Client team today.
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