Undoubtedly the biggest and most welcomed change in 2020 was the video witnessing of Wills made legal.
Earlier this year the Law Society announced that they were in talks with the Ministry of Justice to discuss what emergency measures could be put in place to allow for Wills to be validly executed safely during the pandemic. The reason for this is because it was proving difficult to execute Wills under current provisions which stated that to be validly executed, a testator must sign their Will in the physical presence of 2 witnesses. One such suggestion was to allow for Wills to be witnessed remotely by video link using apps such as Zoom or Skype.
In July 2020 it was formally announced by the Ministry of Justice that Wills witnessed via video i.e. Zoom, Facetime or Skype are to be made legal.
On 28th September 2020, the long-awaited reforms for video witnessing came into force. The Lord Chancellor temporarily amended the Wills Act 1837 to now allow the witnessing of Wills to take place via video i.e. Skype or Zoom.
The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 which allows Wills to be validly witnessed by video link, has a retrospective effect so it will apply to any Wills executed in England and Wales after 31 January 2020, providing the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening all the time.
The amendment to the legislation is expected to remain in place until 31 January 2022 or as long as deemed necessary. Despite this significant development in the industry, the advice is still that video witnessing of Wills should only be used as a last resort.