Virtual witnessing of wills
The past few months of COVID-19 lockdown have seen a huge surge in demand from people wanting to make wills, while also presenting unprecedented challenges in enabling them to do so.
The tragedy of the pandemic and its continually rising death toll has meant that many people have turned their attention to planning for the future and putting provision in place to protect their family for such time as they are no longer able to. The number of wills being made has increased significantly during this period as a result.
However, the process of making a will so that it is legally binding and enforceable is that it must be done ‘in the presence of’ at least two witnesses (Wills Act 1873, s. 9(c)). The social distancing measures which have been in place since March has presented many challenges in being able to achieve this, particularly for those people who were shielding, and modern-day technology and innovation have really come to the fore during this time.
The concept of using Zoom or FaceTime or other such platforms in witnessing wills was barely imaginable at the time Parliament enacted the Wills Act in 1837, yet the efficacy of such technology has now been acknowledged by the Government confirming that video-witnessed wills are now legal.
This is a very welcome development and one which will result in the process of making a will easier for those who cannot leave the house, or continue to wish to shield amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Two witnesses will still be required, which is a vital safeguarding measure, but this can be done via video platform, providing the quality and sound of the video is such that the witnesses can see and hear what is happening.
This landmark change in the law will be made through new legislation in September, although it will be backdated to January 31, 2020, which was the date of the first confirmed Coronavirus case in the UK.
These changes will remain in place until at least January 31, 2022, after which time the process will revert to the traditional means of making a will, which requires the physical presence of witnesses.
Making a will is one of the most important things you can do to protect the future of your family, and ensure your wishes and plans for them will be enacted in your absence. By making use of technology to assist during these current turbulent times, we hope this will enable many more people to carry out their future planning.
Please contact our award-winning team at Sintons for assistance in preparing your will, or updating an existing will. We will talk you through your options and support you fully with the process.