Whatever the outcome of the upcoming UK general election, here at Videosign we would encourage the next government to commit to updating the law around virtual witnessing of wills.

We have previously made the case that this area of law is overdue for an update.

It’s legal to use our software to sign and witness most documents and contracts these days, but wills remain one of the few areas where this is not permitted. 

What is the legislation?

Current legislation, introduced in the Wills Act 1837, requires wills to be signed with pen and ink and witnessed in person.

A temporary amendment allowing wet signatures to be witnessed online was introduced in England and Wales during the Covid pandemic, but this relaxation of the rules expired at the end of January 2024.

That means that the law once more requires wills to not only be signed in ink but also witnessed in person.

Rules introduced in the 1837 legislation require a witness to have a ‘clear line of sight’ of the will-maker signing. 

During the pandemic, government advice was that scenarios that offer clear line of sight include witnessing through a window or open door of a house or a vehicle, from a corridor or adjacent room into a room with the door open, or outdoors from a short distance, for example in a garden.

While we understand all the very good reasons to ensure that we can have confidence in the signing of witnessing of a will, we think there’s a better way.

What is the solution?

Hosting the signing via video conference, applying secure digital signatures, and recording the entire process can offer more assurance than ever before that a will has been made correctly.

It means that video evidence can be accessed at a later date proving that the will is genuine and that no undue influence was used to force the testator to act against their wishes.

What changes are on the horizon?

The Law Commission has been reviewing the law to look at the potential to introduce new rules (as has already happened in numerous other countries) to permanently allow the remote signing and witnessing of wills.

The benefits of this to the general public are potentially significant – offering new levels of security while also making the will-making process a more accessible part of our busy lives.

As things stand, the Law Commission is due to publish its final report and draft bill in early 2025.

Whichever party is successful in the upcoming UK general election, we would encourage our next government to ensure this legislation is allowed to progress to bring wills into the 21st Century.

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