Guides & Advice

Can I still make a will during the coronavirus lockdown period?

Can I still make a will during the coronavirus lockdown period?

UPDATED 27 July 2020 - The Government is introducing legislation to allow people to witness wills being made via video-conferencing technology.

It has been estimated that the number of enquiries coming into law firms relating to the preparation of wills has increased by around 30% during this challenging time (the Telegraph). 

It’s clear that people are concerned about the risks posed to them by the coronavirus outbreak and, given their vulnerability or age, they want to get their affairs in order and have one less thing to worry about. 

Read more about how preparing a willcan ensure your assets pass into the right hands. 

Can a will be witnessed by video call? 

Legislation dealing with the correct signing of a will dates back almost 200 years to the Wills Act 1837. For a will to be an effective will, it needs to be signed by the individual, and this signature needs to be witnessed by at least two independent witnesses who are present at the same time – both with each other and the individual signing the will. 

Given the current situation, on Saturday 25 July it was announced that wills witnessed remotely via video link will now become legal (in England and Wales) to make it easier for people to record their final wishes during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The new legislation will apply to wills that have been made since 31 January 2020 and will apply for wills made up to 31 January 2022.  

However it won’t apply where the person has subsequently died and the court application for a Grant of Probate is in the process of being administered or where a Grant of Probate has already been issued. 

Read more about the guidance for making wills by video call on the gov.uk website. 

Despite the temporary relaxation of the rules benefitting those who are most vulnerable and who cannot, or do not want to, meet with others because of the risks involved to them, it should not be relied on as a matter of course by those that are able to sign their wills in the normal way, taking into account the current social distancing measures and guidelines. 

How can I witness a will in person while social distancing? 

While witnessing a will while maintaining social distancing measures will still have its challenges, it isn’t an impossible task and there are ways this can still be done. 

From Saturday 4 July, the two metre rule for social distancing in England was reduced to "one metre plus”, potentially making it easier for those people who want to make a will and protect their personal wealth. 

For example, someone wanting to make a will could request that two neighbours witness their will over the garden fence or on the driveway. The will can be placed by the individual somewhere where both they, and the witnesses, can access it to sign it. All parties should wear gloves and use their own pens and the gloves should be disposed of once the exercise is completed. The witnesses must be able to see the witness sign the will and they too must sign the document in sight of the individual. 

Under current government guidelines, one household can meet with another indoors, provided sensible social distancing measures are in place. This could make things easier to witness a will, as all parties could sit in the same room and relaxed rules may allay some concerns about coming into contact with neighbours. 

Given many individuals are still being cautious and many are still shielding, meeting outside is still the better option. 

Once the will has been signed it is advisable that a copy of the signed will is taken and either scanned to an electronic storage system or sent to your solicitor. If this isn’t possible to do at the minute, a photograph should be taken of each page so that there is a copy of the document should the original be misplaced while in the individual’s possession. 

Can I ask one of my family members to witness signing the will instead? 

Individuals should not be tempted to ask their family or anyone who stands to benefit under the will (or anyone married to someone who stands to benefit) to be a witness. Doing this may inadvertently invalidate any gift to that person you’ve included in your will. Depending on the extent of their entitlement, this may undermine the entire purpose of preparing the will in the first place. 

Can someone else manage my affairs if I’m self-isolating? 

If you already have a lasting power of attorney in place then your attorney(s) may be able to manage your affairs if you need some help, depending on how they are drafted and whether they are registered. 

If you don’t have one in place already then we can help keep things moving by preparing a temporary power of attorney, which is different to a lasting power of attorney in that it is very specific and you can limit it to the particular task that you’d like somebody to do for you. These can also be put in place quite quickly. 

Read more about how you can ensure your affairs remain in order and your assets are protected with powers of attorney. We encourage our clients to consider preparing these at the same time they turn their mind to preparing a will. 

Contact us

No matter where you are on your journey, we can help to support and guide you through the process. If you’d like to discuss putting a will in place, or would like advice or guidance around the process, please contact Matt Parr on 07979 412 698,or fill out our enquiry form, and a member of our family law team will get in touch with you shortly. 

Our free legal helpline also offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, with a team of experts on hand for any queries relating to personal and family matters. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

The uncertainty of what’s to come as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is understandably keeping many people awake at night but, whilst the scope of what our future may look like is still evolving, one aspect that can be controlled is putting measures and provisions in place to plan for the future and protect the wealth of you and your family. Our guide to recovery and resilience highlights the opportunities currently out there for effective wealth planning that will make a real difference.

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