Monday, September 14, 2020
Since the Wills Act of 1837, making a will has required the physical presence of at least two witnesses, at least in England and Wales.
However, the Ministry of Justice now allows video technology to be used to witness the signing of wills. The concession has been backdated to January 31, 2020, which will cover all wills that were witnessed by video and will remain current until January 2022.
The Ministry of Justice has stated that they prefer that this method is only used as a last resort. For example, when the testator cannot meet people outside of their household.
The pandemic has pushed many people to change their priorities, which has in turn pushed people to make wills. Will-writing organizations and law firms have seen a vast increase in the amount of wills.
Farewill, which is the UK's largest will-writing organization saw a "three-fold" increase between May and July compared to the same period last year.
Lorraine Robinson, head of legal at farewill, stated that she is on board with the new technological advances, but that people should be "vigilant" due to the newness and uncertainty of the new law.
Many attorneys are urging those to only use this modern approach in the "most dire emergencies."
See Lindsay Cook, Video wills: Leaving a legacy moves into 21st century, Financial Times (U.K.), September 3, 2020.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.