Yes, you can make a Will during the coronavirus lockdown
Posted on 14th April 2020 at 17:32
People are asking whether, because of the requirement to have two witnesses, it is possible to create a valid Will during the current coronavirus lockdown.
Currently, your Will must be in writing and be signed and dated by you or by another person ‘in your presence and at your direction’. If someone else signs your Will then it is a good idea to keep record with your Will of why this was necessary.
You will also need two or more witnesses who are present when you sign your Will. Witnesses must be over 18, they must not be partially sighted and must have the mental capacity to understand what they are doing and what it means. The reason two independent witnesses are essential is to prove, if needed, that your Will was properly executed.
The obvious solution during the current lockdown might be to ask people in your house to sign your Will, but they can only do this if they and their spouses are not beneficiaries of your Will. They would lose their inheritance by witnessing your Will.
Temporary measures for Wills during coronavirus
The Law Society is asking the Government to make some simple temporary changes, for example allowing Skype or Facetime recordings of Wills being signed. At the moment it isn’t possible to digitally sign your Will.
Witnessing and social distancing
It is possible to respect the social distancing rules and still make a valid Will, but only ask people to do this if they are free from coronavirus symptoms.
They should remain at least two metres away from you and each other, in a place where they are still able to see you sign your Will.
They can then separately approach and witness your Will using their own pens, without any physical contact. Extra precautions could include wearing gloves and carefully washing their hands afterwards.
You could sign your Will while sitting on a park bench with your witnesses on neighbouring benches. You could then walk away while they each witness your Will and then you can return to the bench to collect it.
Equally, you could stand in your garden, on the doorstep, or ask people to watch you sign your Will through a window before making arrangements to safely pass the document to them to be witnessed and then returned.
Making your wishes clear in your Will
It’s important to make sure that your Will is clear and that you appoint executors to carry out your wishes if you should die. It’s good idea to take professional advice about your Will.
Many Will writers will be happy to discuss your requirements in a telephone conversation, over FaceTime or Skype, for example, and to exchange emails. They can send correspondence electronically and draw up your Will according to your instructions. It can then be sent to you in the post or they can deliver it through your letterbox.
To do this, they will need to be satisfied that you have mental capacity to make a Will and that there isn’t any question of undue influence from anyone hoping to benefit from it. This means that you should be able to explain your wishes clearly by yourself.
If you are in isolation
Ian Bond, chair of the Law Society's wills and equity committee, says that people in isolation might simply make the best record of their wishes they possibly can at this time. A handwritten or holographic Will can be valid as long as it is clear and properly dated and signed.
When the restrictions are lifted you can then make a more formal Will.
I have made arrangements with a number of clients to prepare and have their Wills witnessed in these unusual circumstances.
I will be very happy to discuss your requirements in a telephone conversation, so please get in touch.
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