Current laws regarding the signing of Wills have been in place since 1837

Section 3 of the Wills Act 1837 sets out that no Will shall be valid unless:

  • it is in writing, and signed by the testator, or by some other person in their presence and by their direction; and
  • it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the Will; and
  • the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and
  • each witness either
    • attests and signs the Will; or
    • acknowledges his signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness), but no form of attestation shall be necessary

Writing your Will in the Coronavirus pandemic

This means that for a Will to be valid three people must all be in the same room at the same time to watch each other sign the Will, which, in the current climate of self-isolation and social distancing makes it very hard to ensure a Will is correctly executed.

A further difficulty is that the witnesses to a Will must not be beneficiaries named in your Will or married to a beneficiary. If they are, the gift to them will fail so it’s likely that those you are self-isolating with will not be able to witness your signature.

Changes to legislation needed to cover Will-writing in a pandemic

The government is now urgently looking at changing the requirements for signing a Will as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, however at the time of writing the rules remain unchanged and electronic signatures are not recognised – meaning that a Will bearing an electronic signature will not be valid.

We are seeing an increase in Will instructions as a result of Covid-19 with people increasingly concerned about ensuring their loved ones are protected. Ian Bond TEP, chair of the Law Society’s Will and equity committee stated to the Daily Telegraph that levels of requests are up 30%.

How can Cunningtons ensure you have a legally valid Will?

Provided we can assure ourselves of your mental capacity and understanding and that there is no undue influence, we will take your instructions for writing your Will electronically, by way of a mixture of email, telephone and electronic face-to-face communications.

Once we have established your instructions we will send you a draft of your Will by email for your approval, before sending you the final version for signing. Consideration will then need to be given as to how the Will can be signed safely; for example, are there neighbours who can witness your signature at a safe distance? We will discuss your individual circumstances at the time.

Lessons from Covid-19

There are a number of ways to ensure you have a valid Will. Whilst Covid-19 has changed our world it should not stop you planning for the future and ensuring you have a legally valid Will, no matter what your age or state of health.

We should all be prepared for the unexpected, and part of that preparation is to have a valid Will throughout your adult life.

For more information please call us on 01376 567280 or email harriet.bownes@cunningtons.co.uk

 

2 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Making a Will”

  1. I think that it’s crucial for the government to find a way to waive the need for wills written in a pandemic, in this case COVID-19, to be signed by witnesses. The waiving of this requirement could just be for wills produced whilst the necessary stringent measures are in place as is the case at the time writing. My wife and I need to both produce wills but, as we are self isolating, are under the current legislation unable to do so. I hope that there will be a satisfactory solution soon so that we can get on with the job and not die intestate.

    1. Hello Rodney,

      We agree, but as there are so many other aspects of legislation required at the moment we cannot expect an answer on this anytime soon.

      That’s why in the meantime we have introduced a system for dealing with Will-writing electronically. Read our post carefully for instructions:

      “Provided we can assure ourselves of your mental capacity and understanding and that there is no undue influence, we will take your instructions for writing your Will electronically, by way of a mixture of email, telephone and electronic face-to-face communications.”

      Please feel free to contact Harriet Bownes (Harriet.Bownes@cunningtons.co.uk) for more information. You can also call 01376 567279.

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