Wills can continue to be witnessed via Zoom in England and Wales until 2024

·3-min read
Wills can continue to be witnessed via video-link services such as Zoom in England and Wales until 2024, extending measures brought in during the coronavirus pandemic (Tim Goode/PA) (PA Archive)
Wills can continue to be witnessed via video-link services such as Zoom in England and Wales until 2024, extending measures brought in during the coronavirus pandemic (Tim Goode/PA) (PA Archive)

Wills can continue to be witnessed via video-link services such as Zoom in England and Wales until 2024, extending measures brought in during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move will help those who are forced to isolate either with Covid-19 or due to another vulnerability to make sure their final wishes are legally recognised.

The extension will last until January 31 2024, while the Law Commission considers potential reforms to the law around wills, including whether to make the changes permanent.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the changes are a common-sense measure that will give vulnerable people peace of mind (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the changes are a common-sense measure that will give vulnerable people peace of mind (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Around one in seven (14%) legal professionals who had been involved in making a will since the initial changes in 2020 had used software such as Zoom or FaceTime for witnessing wills, according to Law Society research.

Previously, witnesses had to be physically present.

To protect people against undue influence and fraud, 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.

Wills still need to be signed by two witnesses who are not beneficiaries and electronic signatures will not be permitted.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary 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 Law Society continues to take the view that the most effective reform of the law would be to give judges powers to recognise the deceased’s intentions even where their will may not have been witnessed, in line with the Wills Act

I Stephanie Boyce, Law Society of England and Wales

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, the Government said.

Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate in case law, provided they have clear sight of the person signing it.

Law Society of England and Wales president I Stephanie Boyce said: “Solicitors have bent over backwards to ensure their clients have been able to make valid wills despite the restrictions during the pandemic.

“Those who have used video witnessing have told the Law Society it has been a useful option to have: to help vulnerable people set their affairs in order when making a will in the physical presence of witnesses is not possible.

“The Law Society continues to take the view that the most effective reform of the law would be to give judges powers to recognise the deceased’s intentions even where their will may not have been witnessed, in line with the Wills Act.

“We look forward to the forthcoming Law Commission report on wills reform, which we hope will expand on this and other issues to improve will=making in England and Wales.”

While we agree that video technology should remain a last resort, it is vital that anyone who is required to isolate can arrange their will and has peace of mind that it is legally valid

Emily Deane, Step

Emily Deane, technical counsel and head of government relations at professional body Step, said: “We welcome this announcement because it gives clarity to everyone involved in the process of witnessing wills.

“While we agree that video technology should remain a last resort, it is vital that anyone who is required to isolate can arrange their will and has peace of mind that it is legally valid.”

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