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Remote witnessing of Wills Legislation laid before Parliament

Following our blog in July regarding the video-witnessing of Wills, the Statutory Instrument the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 was laid before Parliament last week.

The Wills Act 1837 requires that a Will must be executed by a testator in the presence of two witnesses, who must be present at the same time. The 2017 Law Commission’s consultation paper indicated that witnesses should be ‘physically present’ at the time the Will is signed.

The temporary amendment allows for a testator to sign their Will while both witnesses watch via a live video link such as Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. The Will would then need to be signed by each witness in the presence of the testator either in person or via video link. Although the witnessing of the Will can be done virtually, electronic signatures are not permitted. The Will must still be signed by all parties in ’wet ink’.

With Covid-19 cases on the rise and restrictions on social contact are once again being implemented it is hoped that the temporary amendments will help to alleviate some of the difficulties that people have faced when making Wills during the pandemic.

The new law will be made retrospective to cover Wills made on or after 31 January 2020 and remain in place until 31 January 2022. It remains to be seen if the Government will consider any reforms to the law on making Wills in the future.

The Ministry of Justice has advised that the use of video technology should be used as a last resort and encourages people to continue to arrange the physical witnessing of Wills where it is safe to do so.

If you would like advice on making a Will or to review an existing Will, please contact a member of our Wills team.

 

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Annie Beaumont

Solicitor
ABeaumont@LawBlacks.com
0113 227 9269
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Annie Beaumont Blacks Solicitors LLP