The use of video witnessing wills through lockdown

The Law Society surveyed over 720 will practitioners to better understand the use of video witnessing wills during lockdown and whether this should be extended.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will soon need to consider whether to extend the statutory instrument that currently allows video witnessing until January 2022.

To inform our conversations with the MoJ, we surveyed wills practitioners, asking for:

  • views on the use of video witnessing for wills
  • any experiences of video witnessing during the lockdowns

Most of 722 respondents:

  • have been wills practitioners for 10 or more years
  • work in small firms

Respondents planning to use video witnessing after the pandemic

Using video witnessing

The majority (95%) of wills practitioners had drafted wills throughout the lockdowns, but only a small proportion used video witnessing (14%).

Of those using video witnessing through the pandemic:

  • 58% indicated they would use this approach after the pandemic if it remained an option, 35% reported they would not and 7% did not know
  • 59% reported positive experiences of video witnessing and 21% reported negative experiences 
  • over two-fifths of respondents reported an increase in the overall time taken (44%) and the same proportion an increase of risk of abuse
  • 39% of practitioners indicated that transparency/certainty around the process had decreased as a result of video witnessing

Challenges to video witnessing

Around three-quarters (73%) of all respondents indicated they would not use video witnessing after the pandemic.

The most cited challenges were:

  • risk of undue influence
  • risk of future claims
  • additional time taken
  • difficulties in assessing client capability remotely

Supporting tech for will-writing

When we asked how the pandemic has impacted practitioners' views on the use of technology:

  • 30% said they were more likely to support tech in the will-writing process
  • 24% reported being less likely to support tech
  • 44% said the pandemic did not impact their views

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