Following a recent BBC article it is now suggested that very soon Wills can be made and witnessed online in England and Wales. But, is it right that the Ministry of Justice will allow Wills to be witnessed remotely?
During lockdown we have had to adapt and change our ‘normal’ way of doing things. Lots of people have turned to video conferencing software as a communication solution, using platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime. The same has been true of the process of witnessing Wills, with many of our colleagues having to be a little more creative in helping to act as witnesses from a distance.
It is the Wills Act 1837 which governs the formal, legal steps needed to ensure that a Will is valid. Generally, this requires two witnesses to watch the Will-maker sign the Will and then to sign the document themselves ‘in the presence’ of the Will-maker.
As the Act is around 183 years old, it is unsurprising that the Victorians did not anticipate how it is now possible to be in someone’s ‘presence’ virtually, through an online portal!
So, is a Will witnessed virtually, valid right now? The answer is not just yet, for those of us in England and Wales. However, the change to the legislation to include video-witnessing of Wills will be made in September.
Two witnesses – who are not beneficiaries – will be still be required, helping to protect people against undue influence and fraud, the government said. Electronic signatures will not be permitted.
The change to the law will be backdated to 31 January, the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK, the government said.
It means any will witnessed remotely from that date onwards will be legally accepted. This measure will remain in place until January 2022. The time period could be shortened or extended if deemed necessary, the Ministry of Justice said.
If you need any help or advice with your current Will, or are looking to put one in place and would like to talk to one of our specialist team, please contact us on 01792 468684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.