The effects of Covid-19 have seen an increase in the number of clients approaching us to draft their wills. Until this year, the way in which wills need to be witnessed had not changed since 1837, but the pandemic has prompted a (retrospective) change to the law.
Wills must be signed by the maker in the presence of two witnesses, who then have to sign the document themselves in the presence of the maker and of each other. With strict measures in place around social distancing, people have had concerns about meeting with their witnesses (who are likely to come from outside their bubble) to sign their will.
Care needs to be taken when choosing your witnesses. If you choose as a witness someone who you want to benefit from your will, you will prevent them from being able to benefit under the will.
The change in the law allows a will maker’s signature to be witnessed using video conferencing facilities such as Skype, Zoom or Facetime. The signed will can then be sent to the witnesses who can sign the document themselves, again in front of the will maker and the other witness, using the same range of video facilities.
Some in the legal profession have welcomed this change as a sign of moving with the times, as simple common sense and, in 2020, as pragmatic. However, others view the move as risky, with a chance of leading to a rise in the number of disputed estates in the future.
It is not risk-free – it may include delays whilst the document is being circulated for signing, for instance; remember, the will won’t be valid until it has been signed by all three parties.
We would advise that you speak with a solicitor when you want to make your will. Our dedicated team are on hand to assist you through this process and our Covid-secure offices are open for face to face meetings but, if you are self-isolating, shielding or simply seeking to restrict your contact with others, we are able to meet you via video conference or via the (relatively old fashioned) telephone.