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Government comments on calls to relax witnessing rules for Wills in England and Wales

The Ministry of Justice has commented on suggestions that it should ease the requirement in the Wills Act 1837 for two independent witnesses to be physically present when a Will is executed in England and Wales.

Parliamentary under-secretary Alex Chalk told the House of Commons this week that ‘the constraints of the COVID-19 situation must be balanced against the important safeguards in the law to protect elderly and vulnerable people in particular against undue influence and fraud’.

Responding to a parliamentary question from Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Chalk pointed to the fact that privileged Wills are a ‘convention restricted to people making Wills when on active military service where the normal formalities cannot be observed, but which do not equate to the current civil circumstances.’

However, while emphasising that having two independent witnesses provides safeguards for testators, Chalk stated that the government is still reviewing the case for reform of England and Wales law on making Wills, given the current circumstances. Other reform measures will be considered, along with longer-term changes to the law along the lines suggested by the Law Commission of England and Wales in its work on Wills, and in its recent report on the electronic execution of documents.

In Scotland, the Requirement of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995 already allows Wills to be witnessed by videoconferencing.

Source:  STEP Journal 23 April 2020

Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited remains open during these unprecedented times with our staff working from home.  We are conducting meetings with our clients via Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom or on the telephone. 

If you would like to discuss your Will please contact Helena Grady  on (0114 2588899).  Helena is a Solicitor and member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) with many years’ experience.

Please note that, although Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited operate from the same premises as Fogwill & Jones Asset Management Limited they are entirely separate businesses.  The only connection is that both are owned by Colin Fogwill. If you are a client of Fogwill & Jones Asset Management Limited you are under no obligation to instruct Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited and you may choose to instruct alternative legal advisers.