The numbers of people writing a Will has risen dramatically as a result of the coronavirus. If you do not have a Will and this has been on your to-list then, now might be the time to take that important step. It is easy to panic at the thought of becoming ill during the pandemic, but it is important that you still think carefully and do not rush into giving your instructions.
As solicitors, we have changed the way we work during covid-19. We are no longer offering face to face appointments, but we are taking instructions via video-link either through Skype, Facetime, Zoom or video-calling. We will always carry out the necessary checks to ensure that we have followed all the proper formalities.
We will take instructions from you and document your wishes carefully. At this stage we will answer any questions that you have. A draft copy of your Will will be either emailed or posted to you. Once the draft Will has been approved, we will arrange to post the final copy out to you. We will provide you with detailed guidance on how it should be executed.
Once the Will has been approved who can sign it as a witness?
The rules state that the Will should be witnessed by 2 people. They cannot be anyone who stands to inherit under the Will (beneficiaries) or relatives of those who will benefit. You need to think about who these could be. At present, most clients are asking their neighbours to be witnesses. If you are struggling with whom to ask, we can help.
A key rule in having a Will witnessed is that the person making the Will and the witnesses to it all have to be present at the same time when the person signs it.
Obviously with the current pandemic and social distancing, this can be difficult requirement to fulfil. You cannot ask family members. You cannot sign it via video-link. You cannot e-sign a Will. You will need to find 2 independent people who will watch you sign the Will and then sign after you.
Right now, with everyone being in lockdown, clearly this is difficult isn’t it? The most straightforward option at present is for the witnesses to be present but to be on the other side of the window when the Will is signed. So, the parties are divided by a glass pane which they can see through. The Will is then passed through the window. We would suggest that a contemporaneous note is kept of how the Will was executed.
As a precaution, all parties can wear gloves and masks while they sign. They do not have to use the same pen (but if they do, the pen should be disinfected between use). The parties should remain 2 metres apart in line with social distancing guidelines. Everyone should be clear of what the steps are and how important the document is.
At the time of writing, the The Ministry of Justice is examining ways to relax rules around Will writing in England and Wales. However, at the date of publishing this blog, these have not taken place.
If you wish to have a Will drafted during this time, then contact our Team on 0161 491 8520.