I was slightly disappointed to see that the government is "reviewing the case" - usually a euphemism for taking about 2-3 years to decide - for reform of the need for witnessing of wills in the current circumstances. Given that Scotland already allows wills to be witnessed by videoconferencing, would it not be easy - as a temporary measure - to import Scottish law and procedure into English law during the current lockdown? Or are elderly English testators somehow more vulnerable to video-conferencing than their Scottish equivalents?
(I might add that it is unclear that witnessing by video-conference doesn't already work in England - the Law Commission report on the subject indicated that the law is currently unclear and that video-conferencing <u>may</u> already be acceptable.)
The government should act on this issue now with a temporary relaxation - as the danger of elderly individuals finding it difficult to change their Wills is surely the greater risk at the moment.
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'. 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.