In September 2020, the government will be making temporary changes to the law to allow the witnessing of Wills using video conferencing software (such as Zoom, Skype, and Facetime) in England and Wales. The changes are intended to make the witnessing of Wills easier in situations where it would be unsafe or impractical for it to take place in the usual way because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The two or more witnesses required for a Will signing would usually need to be ‘in the presence of’ the person signing the Will. Although two or more witnesses will still be required as an important safeguarding measure, the changes seek to temporarily expand the meaning of ‘presence’ to include watching the signing over a live video call.
Guidance has been released by the government on how to carry out a Will signing using video technology. This guidance suggests that witnessing Wills in this way might not be as simple in practice as it sounds in theory. It is likely that the Will would need to be sent in the post to each of the witnesses, and multiple video calls could be required, all of which should be recorded if possible.
The changes to the law will be backdated to 31 January 2020 and will apply until 31 January 2022, although this could be shortened or extended if necessary. This means that Wills witnessed using video technology during this period should be valid, provided that they comply with all other existing aspects of the law relating to the creation and execution of Wills.
The government does advise that Wills should still be witnessed in person in the usual way if it is possible to do so safely. It is already acceptable for witnesses to watch the signing through a window or an open door, as long as they have a clear line of sight to the person signing the Will. Indeed, many lawyers have been visiting the homes of their clients to act as witnesses in this way and in other ways that comply with the guidance on social distancing.
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Date of this article: 01.09.20