What you need to know about Video-Witnessed Wills

Written by Maya Neama on 7th February 2022

What you need to know about Video-Witnessed Wills.

Changes to the law during the Pandemic

During the pandemic, we have been hit with ever-changing restrictions and some of those restrictions have continued to impact the most vulnerable people. The legal world has attempted to mould and develop or temporarily change some of the legislation around wills in order to suit and take the vulnerable into consideration. 

Legislation regarding Video-Witnessed Wills

One of the most significant changes within the world of wills is the change that allowed witnesses to witness the signing of wills through the use of a video link to ensure that they remain comfortable and feel safe whilst carrying out their role of being a witness. 

This legislation was extended in January of this year to allow vulnerable people, including those having to isolate, across England and Wales to continue to be able to witness a will being signed via video link. This extension will last until the 31st January 2024.

Why is the extension taking place?

The intention to extend this legislation is to guarantee and ensure the safety of those who are vulnerable and to decrease their anxieties during the pandemic as much as possible without taking away from the validity of the will. This extension ensures that there is no barrier between testators and their testamentary freedom when they are dealing with vulnerable witnesses.

Results from a survey that the Law Society conducted in 2021 found that of the 14% of people that drafted wills remotely during the pandemic, 78% were happy with the experience showing that this is a relatively successful change in legislation that should be considered for reform.  

Problems with Video-Witnessed Wills

The 7% of people who weren’t satisfied by a remote wills experience, flagged worries regarding risks of undue influence and the ability to assess the capacity of the client as well as any increased risk of future claims that could be made regarding validity due to the remote nature of the will. 

Therefore, although it is a method and alternative for those who are vulnerable, it is not recommended, and physical presence is more encouraged as the clear sight ensures validity and intention when witnessing the will. 

However, as long as there is a line of sight and the person signing can be seen clearly, witnessing through a window is deemed to be acceptable within the case law.

The future of Video-Witnesses Wills

The success of assisting those who are vulnerable at this time has triggered a consideration for reform by the law commission. They could look into more permanent changes to the legislation and make witnessing via video to become more common. 

There is also potential for wider changes to the legislation for will writing in the future. This could change the lives and experiences of will writing for many people across England and Wales.