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The Law Society has issued additional guidance for professionals about how to deal with video-witnessed wills.
To briefly recap: as a result of the pandemic, the government has put in place temporary measures that allow two people to witness a will using live video-witnessing. Called the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 SI 2020/952, this was laid before parliament in September.
However, the Law Society stresses that people who are able to make wills in the conventional way should continue to do so. This is partly because obtaining probate or administering an estate where a will was video-witnessed, or is said to have been video-witnessed, will potentially be more complicated.
The Order applies to wills made on or after 31 January 2020 and on or before 31 January 2022. It introduces the ability to execute wills through a live-action video-link, although the Law Society recommends it should only be used as a last resort; for example where a testator is in isolation in hospital and medical staff are unable or unwilling to act as witnesses, or where circumstances support a solicitor acting as a witness but attendance in person is not possible.
Legal professionals should also consider the urgency of the testator’s situation and if there is sufficient time to pass the original document between the testator and witnesses, as is required under the Order. In cases of imminent need (for example, a deathbed will) video-witnessing may not be a viable option and care should be exercised as to what is in the client’s best interests.
Lawyers should also ensure they have adequate indemnity insurance, in addition to processes and procedures to protect themselves and their firm from the risk inherent in the video-witnessing process. While it’s not a requirement for video-witnessing to be recorded, the Law Society recommends this as best practice.
The full Law Society guidance is available here
Fraser and Fraser remains fully operational and is here to deal with any probate or missing beneficiary queries you may have during this exceptional time. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with business development manager Nick Howitt. We are able to offer all our services remotely and we have secure video conferencing facilities.