August 3, 2020
On July 25th, ministers acted to reassure the public that the use of video link software to witness Wills/Codicils is to be legally recognised.
Understandably, as many people have been isolating or shielding, video link software has offered a sound alternative under the current statement of law, which details that a will must be made ‘in the presence’ of at least two witnesses.
The Government’s planned law change which allow wills to be witnessed virtually in England and Wales will be backdated to 31st January 2020 and will remain in place until 31st January 2022, or longer if deemed necessary. Wills/codicils must return to being made with witnesses physically present thereafter. Virtual instances of witnessing wills are to maintain the safeguarding measure of requiring two witnesses to protect people against undue influence and fraud.
The new legislation will be passed in September 2020.
It is vital to understand however that the use of video should be considered a last resort and that people must continue to arrange physical witnessing where it is safe to do so. Wills still need to be signed by two witnesses who are not its beneficiaries (or spouses of beneficiaries), and electronic signatures will not be permitted.
The Government’s guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-on-making-wills-using-video-conferencing.
Thomson & Bancks has summarised the recommended process for your benefit below.
The most important aspect in the use of video is that the person making the will and the two witnesses have a clear line of sight of the writing of the signature. As long as this is clear, the platform by which it is performed doesn’t matter. Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Teams; by phone, tablet or computer, any appropriate software and hardware can be utilised.
Thomson & Bancks welcome the Government’s planned law change and the intent to backdate as far back as the first registered Covid-19 case in the UK. This should give the community and those most vulnerable the confidence that wills can continue to be drawn up efficiently, effectively and safely by our dedicated team.
If you want to make or update your Will, please do get in touch.
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