Legacy giving handed boost through virtual witnessing of wills

Charities say the government’s decision to make it easier for people to make wills, through legalising video witnessing during the Covid-19 pandemic, is a “major step forward” for legacy giving.

The Ministry of Justice has announced that wills witnessed by video will be now be accepted legally. The new law applies to wills made from 31 January this year and expected to remain in place until January 2022.

The announcement comes amid increasing interest from the public in making wills and charitable bequests during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This relaxes a restriction where wills had to be witnessed by two people in person, although this was recently eased to include witnessing through a window.

Legacy giving consortium Remember A Charity has welcomed the video witnessing move as a boost for the charity sector. It says that since mid March traffic to its website’s 'Making a Will' section has doubled.

“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," said Remember A Charity director Rob Cope.

“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, as is so often the case, the devil is in the detail. The will-making environment needs to have rigour, with sufficient safeguards in place to protect the public, particularly those who may be vulnerable. Video is a great option when witnesses can’t be physically present, but it does needs to be treated cautiously, with care and consideration.

“The pandemic has helped people see the importance of getting their affairs in order and encouraged us all to reflect on those things we truly care about. This includes the charities that so many of us rely upon and the causes we are passionate about in our lifetimes.”

In-memory giving is another increasingly popular way charity supporters are looking to help the voluntary sector. Legacy Foresight’s In-Memory Insight research programme announced this month that it is to look into how in-memory supporters have adapted to Covid-19 and identify long-term trends in remembrance and in-memory giving.

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