Remote witnessing of a will – is it here to stay?

14th January 2022 Will Disputes

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed an extension to the temporary provision that allows wills to be witnessed via video to 31 January 2024.

Previously, for a will to be valid the writers signature had to be witnessed in person by two independent people. The pandemic and social restrictions that followed required special measures to be implemented to allow those wanting to prepare wills to do so, particularly those who were isolating or vulnerable. Temporary measures were initially introduced retrospectively to apply from January 2020.

The use of technology is positive and allows those who are vulnerable or unable to attend in person to still document their final wishes. The use of technology in this area, however, does not come without increased risk.

There are concerns that remote witnessing of a will could result in the will being more susceptible to challenge in future. Specifically, it is thought that remote wills carry a heightened risk of undue influence and can make it difficult for a person’s capacity to be assessed. Undoubtedly, when a will is witnessed via video link it is difficult to see who else is in the room, or if anyone is prompting the testator. 

Whilst for some this may be a welcome extension; it is still very much considered to be a last resort by many. If people are able to meet safely, it appears for the time being this remains the preference of both the legal profession and the MOJ. That said, witnessing a will by video link remains an option. This will be invaluable to those who are at the end of life or are particularly vulnerable.

The Law Commission is preparing a report on wills reform, which is expected to address the future use of technology and other matters in relation to will making post 31 January 2024.

We're Social

Claire Brierley is an Associate Solicitor located in Manchester in our Will and Trust Disputes department

View other posts by Claire Brierley

Let us contact you

View our Privacy Policy