WILLS that are witnessed over video calls on Zoom and FaceTime are set to be made legal during the coronavirus crisis.
The changes will make it easier for people to record their final wishes, and comes after a huge spike in will writing recently.
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Currently, the law says that a will must be made “in the presence of” at least two witnesses.
These rules have stood for almost 200 years and aim to protect Brits against undue influence or fraud.
But the government has now confirmed new legislation will be introduced in September which means witnesses can be present either physically or virtually.
As a result, wills that are witnessed via video link using platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime will be recognised as legal.
The legislation will apply in England and Wales – Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate legal systems around the validity of wills.
The reforms will be backdated to January 31 2020, the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK, the government said.
It means that any will witnessed by video technology from that date onwards will be legally accepted.
The measures will remain in place until January 2022 – but can be shortened or extended if deemed necessary, according to the government.
After this point, wills would return to being made with witnesses who are physically present.
Ministers said that wills witnessed in such a way will be deemed legal, as long as the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening at the time.
The changes come after social distancing measures during the coronavirus crisis made the current law problematic.
The government said the use of video technology should remain a last resort, and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it’s safe to do so.
Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate, provided there is clear sight of the person signing it.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “We are pleased that more people are taking the incredibly important step to plan for the future by making a will.
“We know that the pandemic has made this process more difficult, which is why we are changing law to ensure that wills witnessed via video technology are legally recognised.
“Our measures will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded during this challenging time, while continuing to protect the elderly and vulnerable.”
Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, added: “The government’s decision to allow wills to be witnessed remotely for the next two years will help alleviate the difficulties that some members of the public have encountered when making wills during the pandemic.
“The Law Society is glad to see that guidance has been issued to minimise fraud and abuse.”
Mr Davis added: “We look forward to working with government to ensure the reform is robust and successful.”
We spoke to one pregnant widow who was left “homeless” when the bank repossessed and sold her family home after husband died without a will.
Here’s how to make a will to provide your children with the best possible security.