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The summer of 2020 saw the introduction of legislation temporarily amending The Wills Act 1837. The effect of this amendment was to enable Wills to be witnessed electronically using video conferencing technology platforms such as Zoom, Teams and FaceTime. The intention behind this move was to make it easier for people to have their Wills validly executed given the significant restrictions and challenges that the COVID 19 pandemic has presented.

Previously, the requirement was that Wills had to be witnessed in the presence of two witnesses who needed to be physically present at the time of signing the document. The amended legislation widens the definition of ‘presence’, and provides for those who may struggle to validly execute a Will in the current circumstances, for example those who are vulnerable, self-isolating, or in hospital. The legislation means that witnesses are now only required to be ‘virtually present’, therefore avoiding the pandemic-related barriers to executing a Will face-to-face.

Initially, the changes were due to remain in place until 31st January 2022, but this week it has been announced that the legislation will remain in force until January 2024. Given the uncertainty that the pandemic continues to bring, the extension will be good news for those who wish to execute a Will but are unsure or worried about whether they can comply with the required formalities whilst COVID restrictions remain in place. The extension gives peace of mind knowing that Wills will still be recognised as valid, even where they are witnessed virtually.

The new legislation and the further extension are a welcome, positive, and pragmatic approach to address the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. However, caution still needs to be exercised. There is still a formal requirement that the Will is physically signed (electronic signatures are not valid). The new rules on virtual witnessing do not change this. Clearly, there may be some delay in the process due to the time taken to collect the physical signatures of the Testator and the witnesses. This process should be completed as soon as possible to prevent something occurring in the meantime that may invalidate the Will (for example, if the Testator were to die prior to the Will being witnessed).

An incorrectly witnessed Will can render it invalid so we would strongly recommend that you seek professional advice before signing such an important document. If you or a loved one are thinking of making a Will, please contact our dedicated Wills and Probate team on 01484 821 500 or email us at