Wills witnessed over Zoom and Skype are to be legalised, as the government ushers in a major overhaul of probate legislation in the wake of Covid-19. New rules will allow testators’ signatures to be witnessed using video conferencing software, such as Zoom, Facetime and Skype. Once a will has been signed by the testator it can be posted to witnesses, who sign it themselves during live action web conferences.
The Wills Act of 1837 currently requires two witnesses to be in the physical presence of the testator, in order to protect people against undue influence and fraud.
The reforms will be backdated to 31 January 2020 – the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK – meaning any will witnessed by video technology from that date onwards will be legally accepted, providing the quality of the sound and video was sufficient to see and hear what was happening at the time.
However, the government has said the use of video technology should remain a last resort.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Justice, the statutory instrument will remain in place until 31 January 2022, or as long as deemed necessary, after which wills must return to being made with witnesses who are physically present. However, the Law Commission has been asked to devise a more permanent solution.
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