Penny Wright, Partner in our Inheritance Protection team has been featured on The Law Society Gazette. She discusses the Ministry of Justice’s announcement that new laws are being introduced to permit wills to be witnessed remotely. This is due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and is a temporary measure that will allow wills that were witnessed via video call from 31 January 2020 until 31 January 2022 to be legally valid. This time frame may be shortened or extended. Previously, the law required two witnesses to be personally, physically present with the person signing the will.
In the article, she explains that this is not a perfect solution and there remains many potential problems:
You can read the full article here.
All of these problems will inevitably create an increase in disputes after the person has died, and the evidence of remote witnesses might not be as convincing as it would have been in person. It is arguably not necessary to bring in these new laws, because solicitors have been continuing to facilitate the proper witnessing of wills during the lockdown, for their clients. During the lockdown, Penny and other solicitors from our Inheritance Protection team have made many home visits to witness clients signing their wills, from a safe distance with appropriate safety measures.
The new legislation is not yet in force, so we recommend that where possible, wills continue to be witnessed in the conventional way, until the new laws come into effect. It should also be borne in mind that the new laws might have to be amended if practical problems emerge.
It is important to note that if a person has already passed away, without having had their will properly witnessed in the conventional way, and an application for probate has already been made, then the proposed new laws will not apply as stated in the guidance:
The legislation will apply to wills made since 31 January 2020, the date of the first registered Covid-19 case in England and Wales, except:
If you have any concerns over the witnessing of your Will or would like to make a Will and ensure it is valid please contact Penny Wright, Partner in our Inheritance Protection team by calling 01635 508170 or emailing [email protected]