On 7th September 2020 legislation was laid before Parliament to bring into force changes to the age-old Wills Act 1837(‘the Act’) to enable Wills to be witnessed virtually by video conference.
The temporary changes to section 9 of the Act will come into force on 28th September 2020 and will apply retrospectively for Wills signed from 31st January 2020, which was the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the UK. The changes will come to an end on 31st January 2022.
Under current rules Wills must be witnessed by two independent adult witnesses whilst in the presence of the person making the Will. The change in the law removes the requirement for physical presence of the witnesses and replaces this with the option to have Wills witnessed over a video call.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) previously set out guidance on how to ensure that the Wills are signed correctly under the new rules. It is important that this guidance is followed to ensure the correct terminology is used in the signature clause to the Wills and that they are signed and witnessed correctly. In spite of the changes the overriding advice given by the MOJ is that where Wills can be witnessed in the ‘conventional way’, Wills Act amended to allow witnesses virtually, in the physical presence of witnesses, then this should be followed.