We welcome new law on video witnessing of Wills

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Virtual witnessing of Wills could be a major step forward for legacy giving providing safeguards are met. 

Remember A Charity has welcomed the Ministry of Justice’s announcement that Wills witnessed by video will be legally accepted in what could be a ‘major step forward’ for legacy giving. The new law applies to Wills made from 31 January 2020 – the first recognised case of Covid-19 in the UK – and is expected to remain in place until January 2022.

The announcement reflects the increase in the number of people seeking to make Wills during the Covid 19 pandemic and the challenges for those who are shielding or self-isolating to follow the normal legalities of making a Will – namely it being witnessed by two people.

Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, says, “Modernisation of UK Will-making is long overdue and, although the changes announced today are temporary measures, this could be a major step forward for legacy giving, making it easier for people to set out their final wishes.

"Ultimately, the more people that write a Will, the greater the potential for including a charitable donation. Even a small increase in the proportion of people leaving a gift in their Will could generate millions for good causes each year.”

“But, as is so often the case, the devil is in the detail. The Will-making environment needs to have rigour, with sufficient safeguards in place to protect the public, particularly those who may be vulnerable.

"Video is a great option when witnesses can’t be physically present, but it does needs to be treated cautiously, with care and consideration. And the role of legal and financial advisers will be critical in helping the public finalise their wishes legally, minimising the likelihood of dispute.”

Since the pandemic took hold in the UK in mid-March, demand for Will-writing and charitable bequests has risen considerably, with Remember A Charity receiving twice as much traffic to the ‘Making a Will’ section of its website.

Rob adds, “The pandemic has helped people see the importance of getting their affairs in order and encouraged us all to reflect on those things we truly care about. This includes the charities that so many of us rely upon and the causes we are passionate about in our lifetimes.”