To create a valid Will under English law we still rely on a piece of 19th Century legislation. Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 provides that no will is valid unless it is signed by the will-maker in the physical presence of two witnesses, who also have to sign the document themselves. Please remember that neither witness can be those who stand to gain from the will, such as close family members, nor be married to any such beneficiary. If someone is self-isolating, the chances are they will be at home with the very people the will may intend to benefit. Therefore, getting a will finalised in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is a challenge, but there are ways to achieve this.
There has been a lot of speculation in the legal press as to whether wills can be signed and witnessed remotely i.e. through Skype or video conferencing. The answer at this present time is ‘no’ given the strict legal requirements. The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are presently discussing relaxing the formal requirements, but, until we receive further guidance or legislative reform we do have to work within the law. We have come up with solutions and adaptations to ensure that we can continue to provide such a vital service throughout these uncertain times, while still practising social distancing and minimising person-to-person contact.
Instructions can be taken over the phone and a draft Will can be sent to you by email or post for approval and amendment. We can offer FaceTime or Zoom virtual meetings if preferred! Once the Will is in final form to complete it, you can ask your neighbours or your friends to meet in your garden, driveway or street. Everyone should use their own pens, wear gloves and ensure they stand two metres apart. The Will should be placed on a flat surface, such as a table or car bonnet, with each person stepping forward separately to sign the Will. Once complete, the Will should be placed into an envelope before gloves are removed. We have always had the policy that clients themselves should keep their original Wills at home, and they simply send us a copy or scan so we have a record on our files.
If you need any help or advice with regard to this issue, the setting up of lasting powers of attorney or you require advice regarding general estate planning, on obtaining probate or administering the estate of a deceased person then I can help Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org