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How do you witness a Will during the coronavirus pandemic?

View profile for Jane Cox
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Under current Will writing legislation, the document must be signed by two witnesses, however with the coronavirus outbreak and the enforced social distancing rules this is proving challenging at a time when more people are looking to get their affairs in order.  Jane Cox, Private Client Partner, explains here how you can still write or update your Will and how we are on hand to assist in protecting yours and your loved one’s future.

Can I write a Will during coronavirus?

While there is a different procedure to follow in our current climate, you are still able to make a Will.  We are not offering face to face appointments in order to adhere to Government guidance and keep our clients and employees safe, however we are all working remotely and are able to take your instructions over the telephone before sending you a draft Will by email or post for your approval. 

How do I get my Will witnessed while self-isolating or social distancing?

In order for a Will to be valid, it must be signed by the individual(s) making the Will in the presence of two witnesses who then also sign the document.  The witnesses must not be beneficiaries in the Will or be married to any beneficiaries, so this is likely to exclude those living in the same household such as family members, making this a difficult step in writing a Will.  It is not impossible however. 

While every situation will be different and we can discuss options with you, we are currently advising people not to come into physical contact with each other and have their Will witnessed through a window, staying a safe distance away, using their own pens, wearing gloves and placing the Will into a sealed envelope immediately.  Everyone should also wash their hands as soon as possible in line with the advice. 

Jane explains, “We have been asked several times whether the option of electronic signatures would be possible, however it is not unfortunately.  Due to the sensitivities of writing a Will and the opportunities for fraud or being influenced, a physical signature is still a requirement.  The Law Society and The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) are currently lobbying the Government to relax the rules regarding witnesses, for example reducing the number of witnesses required to just one, or looking at more flexibility when it comes to video conferencing; however this is unlikely to change in the near future so we will continue to work as we are within the Government guidance in ways our clients are comfortable with.”

Why should I write a Will?

Having a Will is one of the most important legal documents you will have in your lifetime, and during times such as these they are even more crucial.  A Will gives you control over the following decisions:

  • How your estate is to be distributed
  • You can choose who to be your Executor(s), i.e. a person you trust to manage the distribution of your estate
  • Who will be appointed as legal guardians of your children
  • Your funeral arrangements

“Without a Will, you would die intestate meaning that your estate would be distributed according to Government rules and not your own wishes,” concludes Jane.  “During the process of writing your Will, we can also advise you on other important matters at this stage of your life such as minimising the amount of Inheritance Tax that may be payable upon your death by your loved ones, whether a different type of Will may be beneficial depending on your family situation, for example a Life Interest Trust Will, and whether you have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place.”

To discuss updating or creating a Will with a member of the team, you can contact Jane on 01329 222075 or email privateclientenquiry@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.