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This week has seen more discussion on the subject of video-witnessed wills and the issues they might raise with legal professionals.
John Stevenson, Conservative MP for Carlisle and managing partner of law firm Bendles began by suggesting video-witnessed wills were unnecessary and potentially problematic for solicitors.
Speaking to the Law Society Gazette,Mr Stevenson said wills witnessed via the internet could “open up the opportunity for undue influence”. He added: “I suspect there will be very few legal practices willing to embrace witnessing wills in this way… My practice wouldn’t touch it. I just think it opens up too many risks as a practitioner.”
He also said he was “infuriated” by the government’s decision to introduce a statutory instrument legalising video-witnessed wills, which involved no parliamentary debate.
“If they were going to change it, it should [have been] done by primarily legislation; with a proper consultation; and with a proper debate in parliament.”
However, Ian Bond, head of wills and estates at Thursfields and a member of the Law Society’s Wills & Equity Committee, said he disagreed with Mr Stevenson.
“Like ‘death bed’ wills, solicitors don’t have to do them,” he posted on Twitter, “Each firm should have its own policy and mitigate risk for themselves.”
The new rules have been backdated to 31 January 2020 and allow testators’ signatures to be witnessed via video conferencing software. Legal professionals expect more people will look to virtual will making as a solution; as lockdown, restrictions and social distancing limit opportunities for face-to-face contact.
Under the Wills Act 1837 two witnesses were previously required to be in the physical presence of the testator to protect against coercion and fraud.
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.