This story has been amended, please see final paragraph for details.
Wills witnessed by video could be a “major step forward” for legacy giving, but need to be treated with caution, Remember a Charity has said.
The legacy consortium has welcomed the announcement by the Ministry of Justice over the weekend that it plans to change rules around will-making to allow people to witness the signing of a will by video call, rather than being physically present as is currently required.
The new legislation, which will be introduced in September, will be backdated to 31 January 2020, and will remain in place until 31 January 2022 or “as long as necessary”, the MoJ said in a statement.
The change in rules is designed to allow those who are shielding, elderly or otherwise vulnerable to coronavirus to write their wills safely.
The MoJ said there had been an increase in the number of people seeking to make wills, while Remember a Charity reported that traffic to the ‘Make a Will’ section of its website had doubled since lockdown began in March.
Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said in a statement: “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, he warned, video wills needed to be treated “cautiously, with care and consideration”.
Cope said: “The will-making environment needs to have rigour, with sufficient safeguards in place to protect the public, particularly those who may be vulnerable."
He warned that the role of legal and financial advisers would “be critical in helping the public finalise their wishes legally, minimising the likelihood of dispute”.
This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that the legislation will stay in place until January 2022, not January 2021 as previously stated.