Wills witnessed over video links to be deemed legal during Covid
The Government says that wills witnessed over video links during the Covid19 pandemic will be considered legal and valid.
The move is designed to make it easier for people to record their final wishes while keeping safe and practising social distancing.
Currently, the law states that a will must be made ‘in the presence of’ at least two witnesses. However, while isolating or shielding some people have understandably turned to video link software as a solution – for example via platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime.
Wills witnessed in such a way will now be deemed legal, as long as the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening at the time.
These changes will be made via new legislation in September.
Crucially, the move maintains the vital safeguard of requiring two witnesses – protecting people against undue influence and fraud.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “We are pleased that more people are taking the incredibly important step to plan for the future by making a will.
“We know that the pandemic has made this process more difficult, which is why we are changing the law to ensure that wills witnessed via video technology are legally recognised.”
The measures will be backdated to 31 January 2020 – the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK – meaning any will witnessed by video technology from that date onwards will be legally accepted.
The change will remain in place until 31 January 2022, or as long as deemed necessary, after which wills must return to being made with witnesses who are physically present.
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 as long as they have clear sight of the person signing it.
Please contact Nicki Denton Masih and Lisa McBrearty if you would like advice about wills and probate.