The government announced this week that the legislation introduced during the pandemic which enabled wills to be witnessed using Zoom and Skype, will be extended until January 2024.
Lord chancellor Dominic Raab MP stated that the extension was a ‘common sense measure’ that would provide vulnerable people reassurance that their wills are recognised if they are needed to have them witnessed over video due to isolation.
The Wills Act 1837 was amended in last year’s legislation to specify that wills should be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses, with their presence being physical or virtual. The two witnesses must not be beneficiaries, and electronic signatures are not allowed.
The MoJ’s announcement details Law Society research which revealed that approximately 14% of legal professionals have made wills using the software including Zoom or FaceTime since the provisional measure was established.
Society president I. Stephanie Boyce reported: ‘Solicitors have bent over backwards to ensure their clients have been able to make valid wills despite the restrictions during the pandemic. Those who have used video witnessing have told the Law Society it has been a useful option to have – to help vulnerable people set their affairs in order when making a will in the presence of witnesses is not possible.
‘The Law Society continues to take the view that the most effective reform of the law would be to give judges powers to recognise the deceased’s intentions even where their will may not have been witnessed, in line with the Wills Act.’
At present, the Law Commission is considering possible reforms to the law regarding wills, including whether to make the temporary use of video links a permanent measure.
However, the MoJ stated this week that video technology should be considered a last resort and people should endeavour to continue to arrange physical witnessing where it is possible and safe to do so.