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Witnessing Wills remotely


This week, the government announced it will change the law on witnessing Wills in England & Wales. Wills will now be allowed to be witnessed remotely via video link. This will allow people to record their final wishes when they are self-isolating due to the pandemic.

In September, the legislation is expected to be passed and made retrospective to 31 January 2020. The measures will remain in place until January 2022, but the government can end it or extend it at any time.

This means that you can organise a Will immediately in England & Wales following these new guidelines, and it would still be legally recognised. This method could be used as a last resort for people who need a Will but cannot do so because they are isolating or live somewhere inaccessible.

The new method is challenging, and has an increased risk of invalidity or inheritance disputes. It also takes some time, as the original Will has to be signed by each party over several three-way live video conference calls.

The Will must be sent in the post or physically transported after each video conference. Signatures have to be made in hard copy, and electronic signatures are not allowed.

If the Will Maker passes away, after they sign the Will, but before their Witness signs it, the Will would not be valid.

It is also more difficult to check, in a virtual meeting, that the Will maker has not been unduly influenced by anyone, or that the Will has not been made by fraud, or lack of capacity. The government recommends, for this reason that every video conference is recorded and the recording stored.

Because of the above, it would be best for the Will to be signed again, in the traditional manner, once the isolation period is over. It is still possible to make a Will in these present conditions using the traditional method in accordance with current social distancing rules.

For more information on the planned changes and for assistance in making a Will, please do not hesitate to contact Garden House Solicitors on 01992 422128.