The government announced last week that virtual witnessing of wills in England and Wales will continue to be permitted until at least 31 January 2024.
The practice was authorised under legislation introduced in 2021, under an amendment to the Wills Act 1837 (the 1837 Act), made to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The amendment, which was scheduled to expire this month, stated that wills must still be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses, but presence could be physical or ‘virtual’.
The Ministry of Justice stressed that remote witnessing via video technology should always be a last resort, and physical witnessing should be used in preference where it is safe to do so. Virtual witnessing is recognised only if the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening.
Recent research found that 14% of legal professionals who had drafted wills since the amendment was made had used videoconferencing software such as Zoom or FaceTime to witness wills and noted that lawyers using video witnessing have found it ‘a useful option’ to have.
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