Change Backdated To Make Lockdown Wills Eligible
New rules to witnessing wills have brought centuries-old legislation into the digital age, with coronavirus wills signed over video call being deemed valid.
The national lockdown has caused big problems for those looking to draw up a will, as the legislation says two independent adult witnesses must be present for the signing in order for it to be considered legitimate.
However, the Ministry of Justice has now said virtual witnesses are acceptable for wills to be valid – and that those drawn up since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak will also be included.
Experts at national law firm Irwin Mitchell say the move is a welcome one, having been a talking point for years, but that precautions should be made to make sure abuse of the elderly and vulnerable is avoided.
Expert Opinion“Witnessing wills has been in a complete state of flux since lockdown hit, drawing attention to the outdated nature of our current legislation, so any steps towards modernising the system are cause for cautious optimism.
“The Ministry of Justice needs to be careful that any changes to the rule can’t be exploited for abuse; the rule was in place to protect the vulnerable and to avoid fraud, so their interests must be front and centre of any changes.
“Backdating the legislation to take into account wills signed under lockdown also raises questions as to what the standards will be, and whether they need to be witnessed again under the new legislation. We’ll be keen to see the detail on this issue.
“So long as careful care is taken to ensure the witnessing of a will is properly recorded and there are no issues or potential undue influence behind the camera or mobile phone, then it will be a welcome change.” Paula Myers - Partner
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