Making a Will during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Paul Mounce, 4th February, 2021
It is an unfortunate fact that a situation like the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic inevitably leads people to think about their affairs and what would happen to them and their family if the worst were to happen.
One of those things is ensuring that you have a Will, or if you have a Will that it is up to date. Making sure you have this in place will make things easier for your loved ones should anything happen.
The problem lies in the validity of Wills being governed by the Wills Act 1837. This states that for a Will to be valid it must be in writing, signed by the Testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time. The Act of witnessing a Will, including at least three people, (the person drafting the Will and two witnesses) appears to contravene government regulations surrounding lockdown.
However, it should be possible for a Will to be witnessed without breaching the government guidelines. Case law suggests that the important thing is that the witnesses have sight of the person signing the Will.
What’s more witnesses do not need to know the contents of your Will, so perhaps it is something that can be done while waiting in those long supermarket queues! While this may be a step too far, asking colleagues at a workplace or signing in the garden and then asking neighbours in the next garden to act as witnesses would comply with the requirements, without breaching the government guidelines.
While we appreciate the utmost importance of social distancing, we also know how important a Will is and want to help clients be able to get their affairs in order, safely, where possible. We provide a guide to signing your Will and are here to guide clients through the process via video link or call if required
If all else fails, the government has now implemented the “The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order” which allows for Wills to be witnessed by video conference or visual transmission. This can be used as a last resort but there are still concerns over the person drafting the Will being influenced by someone at the home and also being able to assess a person’s capacity.
Furthermore, the same document needs to be signed by all parties, meaning potentially numerous video calls, and possibly posting documents backwards and forward. So far, we have managed to ensure all our clients wills are signed remotely without the need to utilise the new legislation but as the pandemic progresses, should the need arise we will be ready to proceed in this way if required.
We are happy to have a chat with you to see if there is an actual need for you to have a Will, or if you already have a Will, ensure that it is valid and does what you require. If a new Will is required, we will work with you to ensure it is validly prepared, however we can.
Finally, we are offering any client who makes a Will during the Corona Virus pandemic the opportunity to visit us once things get back to normal to review and re-sign their will if required at no cost.
Alternatively please visit our online Will questionnaire to provide your details securely online.