Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way…
Will-making and Coronavirus: Can wills be remotely witnessed?
by Claire Bullivant
According to reports, solicitors up and down the country have seen a dramatic increase in the number of enquiries about making a will.
“It’s one of those things on people’s to-do lists that they never get round to doing, but the current coronavirus crisis has focused their mind” says Ian Bond, Chair of the Law Society’s Wills and Equity Committee.
But in the current climate of social distancing solicitors are having to find new ways of advising people and modern technology is playing its part. Platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Webex and WhatsApp are helping greatly in facilitating instructions.
But can wills now be remotely witnessed? The answer is presently no. Wills still have to be signed in person but the Law Society is in talks with the government about temporarily relaxing some of those rules.
Currently the formal requirements for making a will are governed by the Wills Act 1837. In fact this was one of the first statutes to which Queen Victoria gave her Royal assent shortly after her accession to the throne.
The requirements clearly state that a will ‘must be in writing, signed by a testator (or someone else at the testator’s direction) in the presence of two independent witnesses, who also sign the will.’
So would this mean you’re breaching coronavirus regulations if you need to get your affairs in order getting your will witnessed and signed? The answer is no.
Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be breaking any Governmental rules because the law also clearly states that if a gathering of more than two people – who are not members of the same household – find it is ‘reasonably necessary… to fulfil a legal obligation’ then that’s permitted.
The real question then is whether people are alarmed by the health risk of such a meeting?
This is something Warwickshire based Dixon Alderton Law are mitigating against as they’ve come up with an ingenious ways to assist. They arrange for the witness to stand on his / her drive way and watch the testator sign through the window. They then pass the will to the witnesses to sign. Simple yet clever right?
The risks can be minimised further by each person using their own separate pens and wearing gloves.
If you don’t have a will in place, it’s definitely worth getting one done as if you die without leaving a will, this is known as ‘dying intestate’ and the law governs who inherits your estate.
Dixon Alderton Law are also offering readers a free initial consultation and a 10% discount for key workers.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like further details or check out their website
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