In my previous article ‘COVID-19: Ways of witnessing wills in lockdown’ I explained the new ways of witnessing wills that we, at Spratt Endicott, had adopted as we worked around COVID-19 restrictions. There has now been a new development which means that wills can be witnessed via video link, providing the video and sound is of good enough quality to allow the witnesses to see and hear what is happening at the time. The witnesses must still meet the usual requirements of being over 18, not being named in the will etc.
This new legislation is coming into force in September 2020 but will be backdated to 31 January 2020 so fear not if you have already had your will video witnessed between these dates!
This update will be welcome news for the particularly vulnerable, those self-isolating or those who are unable to attend the office for various reasons. Legal practitioners will also welcome this news as they can now witness wills for all of their clients, if required and technology permitting.
There are concerns that video link witnessing could lead to a rise in wills made by coercion or undue influence and it should be noted this way of witnessing is only to be used as a last resort. It is likely that many legal practitioners will still prefer to physically witness the will where possible (even if it is through a window!).
This is echoed by the government who have said that physically witnessing wills should continue wherever it is safe to do so. The Ministry of Justice have also said that the time scales for allowing video link witnessing can be extended or shortened depending on the current situation. This means it is important to make sure that this is still a valid way of having your will witnessed when the time comes.
Video link witnessing is a temporary measure to ensure that no one is dying without being able to record their last wishes during the COVID-19 pandemic and, at the moment, will end on the 31 January 2022.
Victoria Upton is a Private Client Solicitor at Spratt Endicott Solicitors, to contact Victoria regarding anything discussed in this article please email email@example.com.
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation. The information is accurate at date of publication, 25th of June 2020 .