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Remote witnessing of Wills legalised up until 2022

On 7 September 2020, a statutory instrument temporarily legalising the making of Wills through video conferencing was laid before parliament.

The amendment of the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020, by the Lord Chancellor, was announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). It will come into force on 28 September 2020.

This order makes a notable amendment to section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. It enables the witnessing of wills via video conferencing or other visual transmissions to be legally accepted, as long as the sound and video quality is suitable.

The device or platform is not important. But, it is crucial that the person creating the Will and their two witnesses “have a clear line of sight of the writing of the signature.”

Gov.uk states that to reflect this, the Will-maker could say: “I first name, surname, wish to make a will of my own free will and sign it here before these witnesses, who are witnessing me doing this remotely.” More Government guidance can be found here.

This statutory instrument will apply to wills made up until 31 January 2022 and will backdate to 31 January 2020. If needs be, this period could be extended or shortened in line with the approach adopted for other coronavirus legislative measures, says the MoJ.

It will not apply to “cases where a Grant of Probate has already been issued in respect of the deceased person”. It will also not apply if “the application is already in the process of being administered”.

A spokesperson for MoJ said: “We know the pandemic has made it more difficult to make a will. That’s why we are changing the law to ensure video-witnessed wills are legally recognised. These changes will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded while maintaining all the existing safeguards against fraud or disputes.”

However, Government guidance states that video-witnessing wills should be a last resort. If it is safe to do so, a physical witnessing should be arranged.

For support and advice on making a will, please get in touch with our expert team today.

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Linsey Graham
I have worked for Mander Hadley for 17 years and specialise in Wills, trusts, tax, probate and the administration of estates.

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