Making Wills Online
Debra Burton comments on the increase in Will disputes being brought following the pandemic and shift into remote witnessing of Wills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the pandemic, Will validity challenges on the basis that Wills have not been properly witnessed are increasing.
The rules on how to make a Will, and the formal requirements regarding how they should be validly witnessed, are generally complicated. Lockdown in the pandemic then made the problem worse as it could prove very difficult to find one witness, never mind two.
There are a number of myths around the signing of Wills, particularly online Wills, including that Wills can be signed electronically or only one witness is now needed.
Neither of these are correct – a person making a Will (known as the testator (male) or testatrix (female)) must sign the Will with a “wet ink” signature and two witnesses are required to witness the signing of the Will.
Beneficiaries are now focussing more on how the Will was witnessed and testing the evidence of the witnesses, where previously they may not have done so.
Challenging a Will based on lack of proper witnessing can be easier (and therefore cheaper) claim to bring after the testator/testatrix has died, as opposed to a claim based on lack of testamentary capacity, for example.
There is no need for expert evidence or judicial discretion if the witness evidence is clear. Either the Will was witnessed properly and is valid or it is not.
If you have concerns about a Will that looks like it has potentially not been correctly executed, please get in contact with our team who would be happy to advise and assist you further.
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Debra is a specialist contentious trust and probate solicitor who advises on all areas of contentious trust and probate matters, representing private individuals, trusts and charities.