Witnessing Wills By Video Made Legal During The Coronavirus Pandemic
The change has been confirmed last week in a bid to help alleviate the difficulties people have faced in completing their Wills during the coronavirus pandemic.
In England and Wales, it is now legal for your Will to be witnessed by video as opposed to in person. During the coronavirus pandemic, lots of people have been thinking more about organising their affairs and putting their Wills in place or updating their old out of date ones.
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The government guidance on social distancing and shielding however, has made it difficult for some people to finalise their Wills in accordance with the law. The previous law required for your Will to be witnessed “in the presence” of two independent witnesses. Now your witnesses can be present via video link instead of in person to be legally effective.
The Law Society have confirmed that the new law will amend the Wills Act 1837 to stipulate that where Wills must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses, their presence “can be either physical or virtual”. The changes will be laid down by statutory instrument in September of this year and will be backdated to 31 January 2020, the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK. The changes will be in force until 31 January 2022 or later if deemed necessary.
This is likely to really help a lot of people with making their new Will whilst still keeping themselves safe whilst social distancing. Those who are shielding or extremely vulnerable will also be helped by this as they will not have to risk having people in their house to witness their Will anymore.
Although these changes are to be made legal, we are still encouraged to have the Will witnessed in person where possible and for this new method to be used as a last resort.
Nevertheless, this is likely to be a welcome change and – give people peace of mind to know that they have an up to date legal Will at a time when they are perhaps most needed.