Virtual Will witnessing to be made legal during Coronavirus pandemic

Virtual Will witnessing to be made legal during Coronavirus pandemic

During these uncertain and worrying times, many people are considering sorting out their affairs in order to protect their loved ones.

However, with the current social distancing rules in place, individuals have had to get creative in finding a way to witness a Will, including through a window or over a garden fence.

This has understandably caused issues for those self-isolating or shielding and as a result the Government has now confirmed that new legislation is set to be introduced in September, which will mean that witnessing Wills can be done via a video link.

What does the current law require?

In England and Wales, the law on Will writing is strict in order to ensure the validity of the document. The rules require the document to be signed in front of two independent witnesses in person, who must also sign the document in the testator’s presence.

How will the new measures work?

The new measure will come into force in September and will be backdated to 31 January 2020, meaning that any Wills which have already been witnessed virtually during the pandemic, will be considered legal. This temporary rule change will be in place until 31 January 2022 or “as long as deemed necessary”.

When witnessing a Will virtually via video link, the witness must see the Will being signed in real time (not a pre-recorded video). Any video-conferencing platform can be used (Zoom, Facetime etc.) as long as there is sufficient video and sound quality, and importantly, the witness can see the testator writing their signature on the Will (vice versa when the witness is signing). If possible, the witnessing process should be recorded and a copy of the recording kept in case the Will is challenged. This will help a court determine whether the Will was made in a legally valid way, and also detect any indications of undue influence or fraud.

The Government has stated that witnessing a Will virtually should be a last resort, and physical witnessing should still be used where it is safe to do so. Electronic signatures are still not accepted.

How Blaser Mills Law can help

One of our Wills, Trusts and Probate solicitors can provide you with an up-to-date, tax efficient Will. Our team will take the time to understand your needs and offer a service that ensures your Will comprehensively reflects your wishes. Our lawyers are working round the clock to ensure that we can deal with enquiries swiftly and so that your health, wealth and wishes are protected.

If you would like any further information on the contents of this article or on Wills, Trust and Probate in general, then please contact the Wills, Trusts and Probate team on 01494 781 362 or email Carol Dalziel at privateclient@blasermills.co.uk