Video Witnessing of Wills Update
Vulnerable people across England and Wales will continue to be able to have their wills witnessed via video-link up until 2024, under legislation laid in January 2022 which extends the measures implemented during the pandemic.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) stated that the extension will give vulnerable people “peace of mind” that their wills will be legally-recognised, especially those who are forced to isolate either with covid or from another vulnerability, and will “reassure all those who need to use this provision that their final wishes are legally-recognised as witnesses previously had to be physically present“.
The Law Society previously conducted research into remote will witnessing and found that just 14% of legal professionals used remote will witnessing in lockdown. Around three-quarters (73%) of all respondents said they would not use remote witnessing after the pandemic, citing a heightened risk of undue influence, future claims and an increase in difficulties assessing their client’s capacity to make decisions when conducted remotely.
To protect people against undue influence and fraud during remote processes, two witnesses are still required and virtual witnessing is only recognised if the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said:
“I want people to be able to use technology safely and securely to ensure they can record their final wishes no matter the circumstances. This is a common-sense measure that will give vulnerable people peace of mind that their wills are recognised if they are forced to have them witnessed via video due to isolation.”
The extension will last until 31 January 2024 while the Law Commission considers potential reforms to the law around wills, including whether to make these changes permanent. The Ministry of Justice maintains however, that the use of video technology should remain a last resort and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so. Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate in case law provided they have clear sight of the person signing it.
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This message was added on Thursday 27th January 2022