Witnessing of Wills

28 July 2020

By Adele Bebbington-Plant, Head of Wills, Trusts & Estates

The Ministry of Justice is introducing legislation to allow video witnessing of wills as an option, if the requirement for two physically present witnesses cannot be met.

The legislation (which has not yet been published) is set to come into force in September and to apply retrospectively for wills signed since 31 January 2020.

It is set to remain in place until January 2022. 

STEP (the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) has been instrumental in lobbying the Ministry of Justice to bring about this change to the antiquated laws currently in place. 

Philip Appleby, Associate Solicitor in our Wills team, recently talked about the difficulties the current laws posed during the global pandemic in his recent article Avoiding Challenges against your Will

The Law Society Gazette reports that some solicitors are sceptical about the temporary rules, there is concern that they could lead to an increase in challenges to wills and may be open to abuse. 

STEP has issued guidance to its members ‘that the new remote method of witnessing should not be a substitute for the conventional method of physical witnesses. The remote method should only be used in an emergency when conventional witnessing is impossible and extreme caution is required when taking this course of action’. 

My view and that of my colleagues is that this is a ‘last resort’ option when all other avenues have been explored, but may prove invaluable in exceptional circumstances. As always, the devil is in the detail and it remains to be seen exactly how the new legislation will operate.

We would recommend that this option is only used by legal professionals and not by anyone making their own will.  A video witnessed will, prepared by a solicitor making careful notes and relevant assessments will have a greater chance of success if ever challenged.e.  

For more information about writing or updating your Will, please contact a member of the Wills, Trusts & Estates team at Cullimore Dutton Solicitors on 01244 356 789 or email info@cullimoredutton.co.uk

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.