Making a will via video technology

Jul 29, 2020

As the eagle eyed among you may have spotted in the news, when it comes to making a will, the government has announced that it is legalising the remote witnessing of a will. This will make things much easier for people to record their final wishes during the current pandemic.

Currently, the law states that when making a will, it 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. The government have now acted to reassure the public that wills witnessed in such a way will 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.

This has been announced as a temporary measure – to be in force until 31 January 2022. At present, the details are extremely scant, the legislation will come into effect in September and be backdated to 31 January 2020. This is a response to constant pressure from the media and other sources to try and make the provisions of The Wills Act work in the era of social distancing. We still have to see the full details of the Government’s proposals but the initial reaction from many professionals is one of extreme caution.

The use of video technology when creating a will 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.

The view from most is that creating a will and having it witnessed via video technology should remain a last resort and people are advised to stick to the old-fashioned principles of witnessing a Will, whereby there have to be two independent witnesses who are present when the Will is signed and then sign in the presence of each other and the person making the Will. 

Our will solicitors at Herrington Carmichael have managed to work with this throughout the Covid 19 lockdown including several occasions when we had to deal with seriously ill clients in hospital. That said, there are still bound to be cases when the use of video witnessing will be worthwhile, particularly if there are likely to be problems gathering three people together at the same time. 

As solicitors specialising in wills, we continue to monitor the changes being made to the will writing process, one of our main concerns is storage of any video data and what happens if a format is used which proves incompatible. In the meantime, we will continue to adopt the flexible procedures that we have used for the last four months with a high degree of success.

If you require any information on making a will visit: https://www.herrington-carmichael.com/expertise/wills-trusts-probate/ or if you would like to speak to a member of our Private Client team call +44 (0)1276 686 222.

This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter. 

Wills, Trusts and Probate

One of the most important things anyone can do is to secure the future for the ones they care about. We can’t know what will happen to us but writing a will and getting sensible advice on UK inheritance tax laws and about how best to pass on assets is an essential part of that planning process.

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