Government to announce temporary changes to the Law on Executing valid Wills
The Covid-19 pandemic has put the focus on our own mortality and spurred many people into creating or rewriting their Wills.
Under the Wills Act of 1837 there is a requirement for two witnesses over the age of 18-years to be physically present when Wills are signed. For those isolating, Covid-19 has made executing a valid Will more difficult and in response to calls to update the law, the Government has announced it is making temporary changes to make Wills witnessed via video technology valid.
Julie Kitson, Trusts and Estates specialist at Jarrovian Wealth, says: A statutory instrument allowing Wills to be witnessed remotely in England and Wales will be laid before Parliament in September. The reforms will be backdated to 31 January 2020 so any Will that has been witnessed by video technology from that date onwards will be legally accepted.
The statutory instrument will remain in place until at least 31 January 2022. After that, execution of Wills is expected to return to having witnesses physically present - although the Ministry of Justice has asked the Law Commission to come up with a more permanent solution in the meantime.
Kitson adds: The new rules mean that signatures can be witnessed using technology such as Zoom, Facetime and Skype. Once a Will has been signed it should then be posted to witnesses, who sign it themselves during a further video conference.
Whilst these new measures (and the guidance around the new measures to minimise fraud and abuse) will help alleviate the difficulties of physical witnessing, the Government has said that the use of video technology should remain a last resort. Solicitors have also warned that the new legislation could cause a spike in probate litigation.
Says Kitson: Wherever possible, physical witnessing is preferable, perhaps witnessing the signing of the Will safely through a window or at a safe distance on a doorstep. But where this is not possible, there is now a legal alternative. At Jarrovian Trust and Estate Services, we are set up to facilitate this new avenue of witnessing your Will in addition to our existing Will writing service.
About Jarrovian Wealth
JW was established in 2017. Our team of skilled and experienced financial planners does more than just look after the numbers for clients around pensions, investments and protection – both personal and business. We get to know and understand the deeper motivations and aspirations, so we can challenge people to think bigger. While knowing they are in a safe pair of hands building up a secure financial future. We may be one of the newer players, but we are packed with experience as our clients have been trusting our experts with their financial lives for over 30 years. We don't just focus on individuals we incubate businesses too helping entrepreneurs and those up and running to get ventures off the ground, stay on track and plan the perfect exit strategy, so owners can focus on the day job of running the show. JW's headquarters are in London.
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PAUL SMITH ASSOCIATES
3rd August 2020