Wills witnessed by video link to be made legal during coronavirus pandemic
The government is to make the remote witnessing of Wills legal amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the reforms backdated to 31 January 2020.
The government has confirmed that Wills witnessed by video link will be retrospectively valid and the change will remain in place until 31 January 2022 or as long as deemed necessary.
This is welcome news though perhaps a little late for those who struggled during lockdown to get their wills witnessed. Still, it is better late than never and is particularly welcome news for those who have been shielding.
The government has published guidance on the gov.uk website and whilst this is helpful, in some circumstances the guidance could be difficult to adhere to, for example:
- The guidance suggests that the witnesses should physically have signed the Will within 24 hours of the testator. However they acknowledge that this may not always be possible especially when the Will has to be posted to the witness.
- The guidance also suggests that the whole process should be videoed, meaning technology is needed to do this, as well as conduct the videocall.
- The testator signing needs to be witnessed by the two witnesses and each of the witnesses signing needs to be witnessed by the testator and the other witness. This could be time consuming and could require three videocalls.
Whilst this is certainly a helpful change to the rules, my view is that it should be considered as a last resort. During lockdown we have all found various ways of signing Wills especially for those who were shielding and where possible actual witnessing as opposed to virtual witnessing would still seem to leave less room for a future legal challenge to a Will.
Here at Trethowans we can help you prepare your Will and when it comes to signing, in addition to the new virtual signing option, can meet with you at our offices, at your home, outside in a place of your choosing, or even witness wills through a window.