The UK Government has extended video-witnessed wills for another 2 years in England and Wales.
But it is by no means a simplification or relaxation of the legislation and it is recommended to take legal advice before proceeding.
In July 2020, in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, legislation was passed to make wills that have been witnessed via video platforms such as Zoom or Teams legally valid. This was to accommodate people who were self-isolating or in a period of lockdown.
Originally the legislation was in force until 31st January 2022, but it has now been extended until 31 January 2024.
It is very important to remember, however, that procedures for the testator (who is making the will) and two witnesses to sign the will must be strictly adhered to. The government has provided detailed guidance and advice on the correct methods to use to avoid the will being declared invalid or any beneficiary declared ineligible to receive any assets.
The legislation is a temporary amendment of the Wills Act 1837 and no other requirements of the Act are affected. Most importantly, the stipulation that wills must be signed by the testator (or their representative in certain circumstances) and the witnesses in hard copy remains in force. This requires each witness to sign the original will, being the same one previously signed by the testator and to ensure that it can be clearly seen on screen that they are signing the original document.
Keep a Record
It is advisable to record the signings, with clear audio and visual, and to retain a copy of each recording so that if the will is ever challenged, it can be proven that it was witnessed and signed in all respects according to legislation. Failure to do so admits risk that the will could be declared invalid.
The Law Society of England advises that anyone considering making a will in this way should seek qualified legal advice from a solicitor regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
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