Remote witnessing of Wills

The Coronavirus pandemic has thrown up many challenges for all of us and the Legal Profession is no exception.

One particularly tricky issue has been in relation to the signing of Wills.
Since the Wills Act of 1837 it has been a legal requirement for a Will to be valid that it should be signed by two witnesses in the physical presence of the person making the Will (known as the Testator).

The introduction of Social distancing, shielding and other measures designed to control the pandemic has made it difficult for the Solicitors in our Probate Department, in common with Will professionals nationwide, to ensure that the legal requirements are adhered to.

The importance of making sure that a Will is validly executed (signed and witnessed) cannot be too highly stated. An improperly executed Will can lead to serious consequences for the families of testators in terms both of cost and severe anxiety.

Our Probate Lawyers , just like others elsewhere in the country, have over the past few months resorted to inventive ways of getting round the problems presented by the need to protect our clients and themselves. Wills have been witnessed through windows, over the fence, at a distance in gardens and by passing documents between cars parked at least two metres apart. Not surprisingly, the plight of those locked down in care homes has presented even greater challenges.

Against this background, the Government have just announced that Wills are to be allowed to be witnessed remotely for the next two years. This is to meet the demands of the public and the legal profession in the light of the pandemic.

The relaxation has been backdated to January 2020 so Wills made in difficult circumstances over recent months may now become valid when previously there may have been doubt.

The opportunities for abuse are obvious but there are guidelines to minimise fraud and abuse, the details of which we eagerly await.

This is generally good news for those wanting to make Wills in these difficult times and we are pleased that we have been given more scope to ensure that our job is done properly at all times, despite the need to protect all concerned.

If you require additional advice contact our team on 01270 212000 or contact us via email here today to arrange a free, confidential and no obligation appointment to discuss with one of our solicitors any issues which you may have.