The Government is to legalise witnessing of wills via a video link to help make the process easier during the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, the law states that a Wil must be made in the presence of at least two witnesses. This has prompted much debate about whether two people are technically present if they watch someone sign a Will via a Zoom, Facetime or Teams video link.
The new legislation confirms that a Will that is signed with the witnesses watching via video link will be valid if the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening. The changes come into force in September, but it will apply retrospectively so that any Will signed in this way from 31 January 2020 will be valid.
Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate if the witnesses have a clear sight of the person signing it, but the changes will give some peace of mine to the elderly and vulnerable who want to ensure their Will reflects their wishes and may shielding or unable to make arrangements to safely sign a Will in the physical presence of two independent witnesses.
There are still lots of risks of signing Wills remotely. The Will itself still needs to be physically signed by the person and the witnesses; it could get lost or intercepted in the post, or that the person making the Will could die before the witnesses are able to sign the Will. Furthermore, the change in legislation raises a great deal of concern as to whether the witnesses will be able to properly check whether the person signing the Will is under any duress or undue influence to sign a Will that doesn’t reflect their true intentions
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. At Myerson, we have adapted our offices to ensure that we can offer meetings with our clients to safely sign Wills, but we work with each individual client to facilitate the most appropriate arrangements in each case. Below is a video showing you the changes we have made at the office.