The Government is introducing legislation to allow people to use video-conferencing technology for the witnessing of wills being made.
The legislation recognises that:
- An increasing number of people have sought to make wills during the Covid 19 pandemic, but for people shielding or self-isolating it is extremely challenging to follow the normal legalities of making a will – namely it being witnessed by two people.
- In response to this the law (the Wills Act 1837) will be amended to state that whilst this legislation is in force, the ‘presence’ of those making and witnessing wills includes a virtual presence, via video-link, as an alternative to physical presence.
The legislation will apply to wills made since 31 January 2020, the date of the first registered Covid-19 case in England and Wales, except:
- cases where a Grant of Probate has already been issued in respect of the deceased person
- the application is already in the process of being administered
The legislation will apply to wills made up to two years from when the legislation comes into force (so until 31 January 2022), however this can be shortened or extended if deemed necessary, in line with the approach adopted for other Coronavirus legislative measures. The advice remains that where people can make wills in the conventional way they should continue to do so.
The legislation applies to codilics (documents that formally modify or amend an original will). Codilics must satisfy the same signing and witenssing rules that are involved in the making of a will.
The guidance reflects both requirements and suggested best practice:
- where ‘must’ is used it reflects a legal requirement
- where ‘should’ is used it relates to (non-mandatory) best practice