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Remote witnessing of wills

The Wills Act first came about in 1837.  Since then, times have changed dramatically, not least of all due to COVID-19.  The original formalities set out in that Act have made it difficult for solicitors preparing wills and for advising people on how to ensure they are executed validly.

Whilst many Will instructions have been taken via telephone or via a virtual meeting, one of the biggest challenges has been complying with the formality for the testator to sign or acknowledge their signature in the presence of two or more witnesses ‘present at the same time’.  The witnesses must also attest and sign.  Having COVID-19 thrown into the mix has made it almost unworkable for Solicitors to comply with the Act, particularly during lockdown.

To assist, the Ministry of Justice, announced temporary rules, which will apply to wills made between 31 January 2020 and 31 January 2022.  These enable the witnesses to ‘witness’ virtually via video link.  This is obviously not ideal, bearing in mind the possible risks involved, such as ‘undue influence’.

We are in the process of reopening our doors (strictly by appointment only) for those who need it and are of course happy to advise and assist clients with the Will signing process to ensure Wills are validly executed.  If you would like to discuss making a Will, or updating one you already have, please get in touch with our private client team who can advise the best way forward.

This article provides only a general summary and is not intended to be comprehensive. Special legal advice should be taken in any individual situation.

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