BREAKING NEWS: Witnessing Wills Via Video Link Is Due To Be Made Legal
Posted on 28th July 2020
BREAKING NEWS: Our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Solicitors welcome the latest announcement from the Ministry of Justice: Wills witnessed by video link during the Coronavirus Pandemic will be legalised.
Many people may be wondering why this change has not been introduced before now. Under the Wills Act 1837, there is already a stringent process that signing a Will must adhere to. Our local solicitors for Wills have discussed this in more detail, here. Changing the way that Wills are signed to allow for video witnessing could open Wills up to dispute, over whether or not they are valid legal documents.
Our Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate Solicitors have previously discussed the potential issues with video-witnessing Will signings in our article, here.
Under the current law, Wills must be signed “in the presence of” at least two witnesses. Unfortunately, due to current circumstances, this can be difficult as some people are currently in isolation or shielding, and many have therefore asked why they cannot simply turn to the use of modern technology video link software, such as Skype or Zoom.
The new rules are due to be introduced in September 2020 and will be backdated to the 31st January 2020 – the date of the first confirmed UK coronavirus case, and is expected to remain in place until 31st January 2022, or as long as is deemed necessary. If the change is not needed for as long as anticipated, the rule may be changed earlier. After this, it is expected that the old rules will come back into play, meaning that a Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who are over the age of 18 and have mental capacity themselves.
Many people will now wonder whether this rule now applies to everyone. Well, our local solicitors for Wills would explain that, according to guidance published by the Ministry of Justice, witnessing Wills via video link should still not be used for everybody. Only where this is absolutely necessary - “a last resort” - should this be used. They have also stressed that physically signing a Will in the presence of two witnesses should be done where it is safe to do so.
So, how do you sign a Will over video link? Well, the witnesses must still be able to see you sign the document. Therefore, if the video is blurry, for example, this would not likely stand as a valid Will. As before, the new rules do not get rid of the requirement for the witnesses to physically sign the document, too, with the Ministry of Justice expressly stating that electronic signatures will not be accepted.
You can read more about the Ministry of Justice’s statement, and comments from the Law Society on todayswillsandprobate.co.uk.
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