The Coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on all of our lives, not least on the difficulty of signing a legal document where a witness is required to be present.
This raises special difficulties with Wills where the law, which goes back to 1837, has required that a Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses…until now!
For a trial period, the Government has introduced legislation - The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 - to widen the definition of “presence” to include presence by means of “video conference or other visual transmission”. This has been backdated to cover Wills made on or after 31st January 2020 and the provisions will remain in place until 31st January 2022.
This presents a new opportunity for people to sign Wills at home (or in a hospital or care home) without having to be in the physical presence of another. This could be of particular benefit to someone who feels vulnerable, or who would feel anxious in having to meet two people in person just to have their Will signed.
However, while this represents a useful option in some cases, it is not without its problems and we would recommend that this is used with care.
For example, it is easy to see that in some cases, particularly where the visual link has been set up by a third party, there is always scope for some undue pressure to be applied to the person signing their Will and there are guidelines we would recommend when signing Wills in this way. In particular, the witnesses should check that the person signing the Will has read it and also that there is no one else in the room while the person signs.
It will be interesting to see how much interest there is for Wills to be signed in this way and how this legislation will impact legal services as a whole.
Have questions or comments about how this may affect your will or ask how you can benefit from this new legislation?
Speak to our team of tax, wills and probate specialists today:
📞 02380 221344