The Government has announced that the temporary legislation to allow the remote signing of Wills, is not being extended beyond 31st January 2024, marking a significant move backwards towards traditional legal formalities.
The temporary measures were put in place during the COVID pandemic, to allow people to get their Will in place whilst respecting the limitations imposed by lockdowns. Originally allowed until January 2022 and then further extended until January 2024, the legislation was particularly invaluable for those self- isolating due to health concerns.
Whilst removing the flexibility for some, it does highlight the importance of ensuring the correct witnessing of critical documents. Wills are highly contested documents and security of the signing process needs to be protected particularly for the vulnerable.
A Will is not just a document. It sets out a person’s final wishes and we have a duty of care to protect these wishes once the person has died. For us at Pavilion Row, this also extends to checking any concerns regarding undue influence, potential fraud or lack of capacity so that we can put in place measures to minimise the success if a claim is ever made.
The digitalisation of making a Will, both regarding how we give the instructions and the signing of the document, will continue to be debated and evolve. However, it remains that the process for creating and signing of a Will must be robust so that a person’s wishes can be protected and fulfilled.