The requirements for making a legally valid will are set out in a statute from 1837. One such requirement, that a will be witnessed “in the presence of” two witnesses, has caused significant practical difficulties during the Covid 19 pandemic. With many clients naturally wanting to make or update wills whilst self-isolating we have had to find inventive practical solutions that satisfy the legal requirements. Jersey has already passed a law to allow the witnessing of wills via Zoom or video link and this week the UK Government has announced that it too will implement this change.
This development is to be welcomed as it will bring outdated legislation in line with modern technology. The change in the law is to be backdated to 31 January 2020 so that anyone who has mistakenly witnessed a will via Zoom or video link will receive retrospective validation whilst the new rule is to remain in place until at least 2021. However the change is also likely to cause problems as scope for undue influence “off camera” and the danger of losing documents is likely to result in a rise of inheritance related disputes. We have to assume that as remote measures such as Zoom are likely to stay, the Government will look at making a permanent change and at the same time putting in place safeguards to prevent undue influence and duress. For more information please feel free to contact Jane Shaw or Fiona Bushell.