COVID-19 and virtual will signing

With public health at the front of everyone’s minds it is no surprise that more and more people have been updating their wills, or in many cases drawing up a will for the first time. It has long been the case that a will must be signed by the testator (the person who is making the will) and two independent witnesses, all present together, under laws which have been in place since 1837.

With the vulnerable shielding earlier in the year and ongoing isolation requirements, the government brought in a new law backdated to 31st January 2020. This permits virtual witnessing of wills by video link permitting witnesses to be present virtually rather than physically. The quality of the sound and video must be good enough to form a proper record of the event.

The new law will remain in place until at least January 2022 but it is important to note that virtual witnessing must be used as a last resort. Physical witnessing, including for example through a window if the parties cannot be in the same room, is still preferred.

Current figures suggest that 55% of adults in this country have not made a will. When a person dies without leaving a valid will, the beneficiaries of the estate are decided by the intestacy rules. These provisions recognise only blood relatives meaning that unmarried couples and step families will inherit nothing from the deceased.

The current situation is a stark reminder that nobody can be sure what the future holds so it is vital to take steps while you are in good health to protect yourself and your family.

Bretherton Law have been helping the people of Hertfordshire to manage their affairs for over 50 year, and we have built an enviable reputation for our professional service and honest advice. Our expert team can guide you through the probate process, as well as helping you to draw up a Will and Lasting Powers of Attorney, or act on your behalf in relation to Court of Protection or Trust matters.  Contact us on 01727 869293 or use the contact form below.