During lockdown we have all had to adapt our ‘normal’ way of doing things to deal with the changes. The same has been true of the process of witnessing Wills, with many of our colleagues having to help act as witnesses through windows, in gardens and even in drive-by meetings.
It is the Wills Act 1837 which governs the formal, legal steps needed to ensure that a Will is valid. Generally, this requires two witnesses to watch the Will-maker sign the Will and then to sign the document themselves ‘in the presence’ of the Will-maker.
As the Act is around 183 years old, it is unsurprising that the Victorians did not anticipate how it is now possible to be in someone’s ‘presence’ virtually, through Skype or Zoom.
So, is a Will witnessed over Skype valid? The answer so far has been no, for those of us in England and Wales. Scotland, on the other hand, has dealt with things differently.
But a recent Telegraph article now suggests that all this may be about to change for England and Wales, too. So, is it right that the Ministry of Justice will allow Wills to be witnessed remotely during lockdown? As a firm we are always keeping up to date with the most recent changes in law, and with the recent 'Wills through a window' to help during lockdown, we will be sure to keep updated on the changes to virtual witnessing.