The UK governement has confirmed that the video version of a Last Will will remain a valid legal document until 2024. The law applies to people identified as vulnerable, but may well be a precursor to a more digital world of will-making in the near future.
Here’s an extract from the release;
Vulnerable people across England and Wales will continue to be able to have their wills witnessed via video-link up until 2024, under legislation laid out on 11 January 2022 to extend measures brought in during the pandemic. The change will extend until 2024 this ability for those who are forced to isolate either with covid or from another vulnerability. This will reassure all those who need to use this provision that their final wishes are legally-recognised as witnesses previously had to be physically present.
Law Society research has found that around 14 percent of legal professionals who had been involved in making a will since the change in 2020 had used software such as Zoom or FaceTime for witnessing wills.
To protect people against undue influence and fraud, two witnesses are still required and virtual witnessing is only recognised if the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening.
The extension will last until 31 January 2024 while the Law Commission considers potential reforms to the law around wills, including whether to make these changes permanent.
The use of video technology should remain a last resort and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so. Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate in case law provided they have clear sight of the person signing it.
Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said:
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 physical 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.
We look forward to the forthcoming Law Commission report on wills reform which we hope will expand on this and other issues to improve will making in England and Wales.