Can a will be executed safely during lockdown?

Insights - 03/04/2020

A will is probably one of the most important documents you will ever have prepared and keeping it up to date is essential to ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as planned.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on day-to-day life currently imposed on us all by the UK Government presents practical difficulties for everyone and every aspect of one’s life.

We are finding practical solutions to assist clients, new and existing, in preparing and updating wills. Whilst we are able to have meetings with clients via video calls and we have the remote working capability to prepare a will from our home working space, a critical element in producing a legally valid will is that it is signed in accordance with the legal formalities of the Wills Act 1837.

Essentially, for a will to be validly executed (signed), the person making the will must sign the will in the presence of two independent witnesses who must then also sign the will. Of course, this requirement for three people to all sign the same document in the presence of one another flies in the face of the requirement that we remain at home and maintain a social distance of at least two metres from one another.

There are reports that the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are discussing ways to deformalise the signing of wills. There is already in existence scope for members of the armed forces to draw up a will without the need for compliance with the usual will signing formalities and this may even be an oral declaration of their wishes. The intention being that a will can be made at short notice where a person is about to put their life at risk. Could new legislation be temporarily introduced to extend the making of these ‘privileged wills’ beyond members of the armed forces until the COVID-19 crisis has come to an end?

In the meantime, our teams are finding a range of safe and creative methods by which to ensure our clients’ wills are validly executed whilst adhering to the requirement to maintain socially responsible and safe social distancing.

Our offices are currently temporarily closed but our Private Client team continue to work from their respective homes, and we are providing close to our usual service.

If you have any questions regarding the topic discussed above, please don’t hesitate to contact any of our private client solicitors on 01737 854500 or [email protected].

Disclaimer:

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.