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New law on making Wills

Jul 29, 2020

The government has confirmed that the law will change in response to the difficulties the coronavirus pandemic has presented for people wanting to make a Will.

Social distancing, self-isolating and shielding have meant that some people have not safely been able to satisfy one crucial element of a valid Will: that it is witnessed by two independent people. In normal times, a person would sign their Will and have their witnesses alongside them, poised to add their signatures. COVID-19 has made that difficult or impossible for some (although witnessing through a window, for example, is considered to be valid).

The new law will relax the requirement that witnesses be ‘present’ by allowing Wills to be witnessed via video links like Zoom and FaceTime. It means that a Will witnessed in this way will be fully recognised in law, as long as the other requirements of a valid Will (including that there is no undue influence on the Will-maker) are met.

The new law will also apply where a person wants to update an existing Will, rather than make a new one. In those situations a formal ‘codicil’ must be signed and witnessed in order for any changes to have legal effect. Being able to have a codicil witnessed remotely will be an important change in the law for those whose circumstances have altered since their Will was made.

The legislation will be backdated to apply to Wills made/amended from 31 January 2020, and is expected to remain in force until 31 January 2022, although that might change. And while it will be of significant help to some, the government has been clear that those people who are able to make their Will in the conventional way should do so.

As you would expect, there are some specific requirements for video link witnessing, including that the witnesses must see the Will-maker actually signing the document. But as long as the proper process is followed, this new law stands to be an effective mechanism for people to provide for their loved ones despite the restrictions of the pandemic.

If you are thinking of making a Will, or updating a Will you have already made, contact one of our team at wills@bsandi.co.uk. We will be happy to help you through the process.


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