Wills witness remotely now legal

Wills witnessed by video link will soon be legally recognised

Mature man writing his will

Wills witnessed by video link will soon be legally recognised, allowing those having to shield or self-isolate to record their wishes without witnesses being physically present.

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Previously, two witnesses had to be present to watch the person signing the will, but for many people this has proved extremely difficult during the coronavirus pandemic. The measures are due to become legislation by September, but any will witnessed by video link software such as Zoom or FaceTime since 31 January this year, the date of the first confirmed coronavirus in the UK, will be deemed legal.

Growing demand for wills

Recent months have seen families are becoming more open about their finances, with the coronavirus crisis highlighting the need to discuss wills and inheritance.

A study by Handelsbanken Wealth Management at the height of the pandemic found that it has already prompted a third (33%) of people in the UK into either drafting a new will or amending their existing one. In mid-March, just before the country went into lockdown, The Law Society reported a 30% increase in the number of people wanting to draw up wills in order to ensure their affairs are in order.

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said: “We are pleased that more people are taking the incredibly important step to plan for the future by making a will. We know that the pandemic has made this process more difficult, which is why we are changing law to ensure that that wills witnessed via video technology are legally recognised.”

However, some believe the changes have come too late. Shona Lowe, Private Client & Corporate Director at 1825, the financial planning arm of Standard Life, said: “Any move to make the witnessing of legal documents more flexible, particularly when it comes to Wills, is welcome but, in truth, we needed this change four months ago.

“Today, the barriers faced by people trying to find suitable witnesses have been alleviated to an extent by the easing of social distancing rules and relaxation of lockdown restrictions. The new legislation will, however, help people who are still shielding, in ill health or who do not have close family or friends and need documentation to be put in place quickly.”

The importance of writing a will

Recording your wishes in a will is extremely important, as if you die without one, intestacy apply, and your estate may not go to who you want it to. For example, if you’ve lived with a partner for many years, but are unmarried and you die without a will in place, they won’t legally be entitled to any of your possessions.
A spokesman for the Money Advice Service said: “Writing a will is especially important if you have children or other family who depend on you financially, or if you want to leave something to people outside your immediate family.”

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