Wills witnessed using video technology such as Zoom and Skype are to be legalised, as the government aims to make it easier for people to have their final wishes met during the pandemic, and start to look ahead to a post-Coronavirus United Kingdom.
The basics of this new policy is as followed:
- Government plans law change to allow wills to be witnessed virtually in England and Wales.
- Reforms will be backdated to 31 January 2020 and will remain in place as long as necessary (meaning any will witnessed by video technology from that date onward will be legally accepted.)
- New laws to reassure public that wills witnessed via video link are legally recognised.
In UK law, before COVID-19 hit, it has been that a will must be made ‘in the presence of’ at least two witnesses. However, while people have been self-isolating and shielding for their own safety, video services such as Zoom have been used. Ministers have now confirmed 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.
The use of video technology, according to the guidance, should be a last resort. People should 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.
With all changes to the law, the change will have its supporters and its critics. For example, there will likely be some concern that using video will lead to a surge in familial disputes, accusations of the video being unclear or people being unable to hear the video properly. There may also be the worry that a person off-camera may be having an influence on proceedings. Generally, this system is more open to abuse than a face-to-face meeting.
What do we think?
While we understand the above concerns, our opinion is that witnessing wills over video is largely a good thing. It is far more convenient, and in the world we are currently living in, far safer than travelling to meet face to face. We believe that if there is an easier way to get something done, and that everyone is happy to proceed in such a way, then why not go for it? Of course, it must be made clear that all parties are able to hear and see what it going on in the video, and if they cannot, then they should simply try again using a different laptop, or phone etc. to conduct the meeting.
*If you are unsure how to do this correctly, you should seek legal advice or simply consult us for more details.
We welcome technology – we have our own app!
As a modern, forward thinking law firm we welcome new technology as long as it makes things simpler and easier for our clients. We want to relieve some of the stress and give people back some of the time it would usually take to travel in to see us, when they could simply get the same service while sitting on their couch!
This is why we have our brand new mobile app. You can launch a new enquiry, scan over documents, follow the progress of your case and much more! We are here for you anytime, anywhere!
If you have an iPhone, follow this link to download our app.
Or, if you use an Android phone, follow this link to download it.
Find the link here if you need some further instructions on how to use our new app!