On 7 September 2020, a statutory instrument was laid before Parliament, to permit the video-witnessing of wills during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 confirms that requirements for the presence of witnesses can be satisfied by either physical presence, or by virtual means (video-conferencing).
The legislation will apply to all wills made on or after 31 January 2020, when the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded in the UK, until 31 January 2022.
In line with other measures introduced to deal with the effects of the pandemic, the legislation is expected to be in force for two years. However, the matter will be kept under review and the government intends to bring forward further legislation to extend or shorten this period if necessary.
As this was emergency legislation designed to urgently address problems arising from the pandemic, no formal public consultation was undertaken.
The Law Society has worked closely with the Ministry of Justice on this topic and this engagement is acknowledged in an explanatory memorandum.
We are currently working on guidance to support members in response to this change.
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