How to make a Will using Video Conferencing
July 30th, 2020 by Nightingale Law Ltd
Covid-19 forces temporary legislation for Video Witnessing of Wills
Witnessing of Wills by video is to be made legal in England and Wales. The temporary legislation makes it easier and safer for people to record their final wishes during the coronavirus pandemic. Existing law requires a Will to be made “in the presence of” at least two witnesses but stipulations on isolating and shielding during lockdown have led some people to turn to video platforms such as WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype instead.
This change in law will be effected in September 2020 and backdated to 31 January 2020, date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK. It will remain in place until at least 31 January 2022.
Emily Deane, Technical Counsel at The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) said: “We are delighted that the government has responded to the industry’s calls to allow Will witnessing over video conference. By removing the need for any physical witnesses, Wills can continue to be drawn up efficiently, effectively and safely by those isolating.
“STEP also welcomes the move to apply this retrospectively. It will provide reassurance to anyone who has had no choice but to execute a Will in this manner prior to this legislation being enacted. We hope the policy will continue to evolve and enable more people to execute a Will at this difficult time.”
Sue Ioannou, Chiar of The Institute of Professional Willwriters said “We had been corresponding with MoJ between April and June regarding this matter and pushing for the government to relax the regulations… It will allow more testamentary freedom for clients and ensure that they are able to create effective Wills whilst in isolation or quarantine that will be recognised in law if witnessed via video conferencing.”
Simon Davis, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “The Law Society is glad to see that guidance has been issued to minimise fraud and abuse. We look forward to working with government to ensure the reform is robust and successful.”
The justice secretary and lord chancellor, Robert Buckland MP, said: “Our measures will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded during this challenging time, while continuing to protect the elderly and vulnerable.”
The government stressed that the use of video technology should remain a last resort. People must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where safe. Case law exists highlighting that wills witnessed through windows are legitimate as long as they have clear sight of the person signing. Wills witnessed by video will be deemed legal, providing the quality of sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening. Wills still need to be signed by two witnesses who are not its beneficiaries. Electronic signatures will not be permitted.
Nightingale Law Ltd follows stringent rules when taking instructions either in person or via video technology. Su McDonald, Practice Principal said “These new temporary measures for the signing of Wills using video technology mean that unless the rules are strictly adhered to a Will could be invalid. There are stages that need to be followed in strict order for a Will to be valid using this method. Certain steps need to be taken if there are any technical difficulties, for instance if the video link is lost during the Will signing process…”
- See Government guidance on how to make a Will using video conferencing.
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