In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, new legislation allowing the signing of Wills in England and Wales to be witnessed by video conferencing has come into effect.
The legislation recognises that:
There has been a significant increase in demand for wills during the COVID-19 pandemic, but for people shielding or self-isolating it is extremely challenging to follow the normal legalities of making a will – namely it being witnessed by two people.
In response to this the law (the Wills Act 1837) will be amended to state that whilst this legislation is in force, the ‘presence’ of those making and witnessing wills includes a virtual presence, via video-link, as an alternative to physical presence.
The legislation will apply to wills made since 31 January 2020 and will be in force for two years (until 31 January 2022), however this can be shortened or extended if deemed necessary, in line with the approach adopted for other coronavirus legislative measures.
The procedure for video-witnessing?
Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 states that a will is only valid if it is signed in the presence of two independent witnesses and a witness must have a ‘clear line of sight’ of the will-making signing, and vice versa. This still applies in the new legislation, ‘the type of video-conferencing or device used is not crucial, as long as the person making the will and their witnesses each have a clear line of sight of the writing of the signature’. If possible, the whole video-signing and witnessing process should be recorded and the recording retained as this could assist in Court if the will were to be challenged in the future.
With this new legislation, we hope that this brings our clients more confidence to finalise matters, whilst remaining safe and following social distancing guidelines. If you have any queries regarding drawing up your will, we would be delighted to have a consultation with you.
Please contact Haroon Qayum on 0121-233-6903 to arrange an appointment.
Article by Aisha Mir