Making a will during Coronavirus (COVID 19) lockdown-
Making sure your will is valid
In England and Wales in order to be valid a will must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time and the witnesses also sign the will or acknowledge their signature in the presence of the testator. In practice if you are executing your will with a will solicitor this is all done at the same time. The same requirements apply to amendments to wills and codicils (these are changes or modifications to a will).
The Current Problem
Obviously, the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing measures make this very difficult and there has been much discussion and speculation about whether video conferencing facilities can be used to comply with the provisions of the Wills Act and even if electronic signatures can be used.
At the time of writing this article 11 April 2020 the answer to those questions is no although we understand The Law Society and Ministry of Justice are considering relaxing the formalities.
Ironically very old cases from the early 1900’s and even as old and the late 1700’s provide the possible solution to the problem the coronavirus present for the execution of will.
Essentially provided the testator and 2 or more witnesses are physically present at the same time (video conferencing does not meet this requirement) witnessing wills though windows (even car windows) should be sufficient to comply with the requirements of the Wills Act 1837 provided everyone can see each other at the same time. You could also sign and witness wills in the open air but of course you must always ensure that you comply with the government’s recommended social distancing measures.
It might also be an idea in these uncertain times for the witnesses to prepare a short witness statement setting out the circumstances in which the will was witnessed to demonstrate the requirements have been met.
If you are in any doubt about your proposed method then please ensure you take legal advice from a Will writing solicitor.
Section 9 Wills Act 1837 wording
9 Signing and attestation of wills
No will shall be valid unless—
(a)it is in writing, and signed by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction; and
(b)it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the will; and
(c)the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and
(d)each witness either—
(i)attests and signs the will; or
(ii)acknowledges his signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness), but no form of attestation shall be necessary
Above all the coronavirus should not deter you from making a will and our will solicitors can guide you though the process. To read more about making a will click here.
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