Can I Make A Will During COVID-19?
Posted on 15th April 2020
Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.
Ok, the above adage is often used jokingly when discussing what would be the estate of one’s relatives. Wills are however a rather serious, rather non-jovial matter. Currently, under the Wills Act 1837, a law which is almost 200 years old, to become a legal document, a Will must be witnessed by two independent witnesses.
Under current circumstances (if you don’t know what we mean, you must be living under a rock, but just in case - the COVID-19 pandemic!), signing a Will in this way can be difficult.
There are no plans to change the existing law, which leaves people looking at other, somewhat ingenious ways of signing their Will.
How do I have my Will witnessed to make it valid?
Currently, two independent witnesses are required when a Will is being signed. They must have capacity, and they must be over the age of 18. Another prerequisite is that they must be present when the Will is signed by the testator or testatrix (the person making the Will) which, under current circumstances, is proving to be incredibly challenging for many people.
One common solution which our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster are finding to be quite effective is a form of social distancing Will signings, whereby the testator/testatrix will stand over 2m away from the witnesses - for example, in front of their houses or inside their house with the witnesses stood outside - outside their home or in an agreed location. The testator/testatrix will then sign their Will, using their usual signature, and the witnesses will wait until there is a 2m distance between the Will and the testator/testatrix, and they will then step in to sign (as well as printing their full name and address).
Another method used by many people, the BBC has reported, is using a car’s windscreen wipers to hold the Will in place, allowing all parties to take it in turns to sign the final document, without needing to touch the paper in question.
This may see extreme to some people, but unfortunately, it’s the reality of the situation we are in and, as the law stands, the Wills must be witnessed correctly to be valid. Otherwise, a Court could overrule the Will when the time comes.
Will the law around Will signings change due to COVID-19?
At the moment, it’s hard to say! Some sources are reporting that the current laws are under review, whereas just 3 days ago, the BBC was reporting that Ministers are saying that there are no current plans to review the laws. According to the article, a spokesman said that the area of law surrounding Wills was delicate, and there was a definite need to protect the elderly and vulnerable against fraud.
Sadly, this is not the first time there has been a call for the Will signature system to be modernised, with recommendations from the Law Commission in 2017 suggesting that the system needed to be brought into the 21st Century.
Whilst there do not seem to be any imminent changes in the pipeline, our team of Wills solicitors in Lancaster will be keeping their ear to the ground for more information about any changes, to make sure that these can be doled out to our hundreds of Wills clients as soon as they become law.
How long before a person dies does a Will need to be made?
There’s no official timescale; our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster have previously made a new Will (or changed a previous Will) on behalf of a person who was on their deathbed. These types of Wills are frequently referred to as ‘Deathbed’ Wills.
One issue with homemade ‘deathbed’ Wills is that those named in the Will are not permitted to act as witnesses and, therefore, if you live in a household with most of your loved ones, you may struggle to find two people who can act as witnesses.
If the Will needs to be made for someone who is in hospital on their ‘deathbed’, visitors are not currently allowed in the hospitals, due to COVID-19, and potentially tainted documents are not permitted to be brought into hospitals.
As our Wills Solicitors in Lancaster would stress to people, that’s why it’s important to make a Will why you are healthy and have the complete ability to ensure that your wishes are carried out, which can be witnessed correctly. This way, there can’t be any disputes over the signature after you’ve died (even if someone tries to!).
How do I make a Will online during the pandemic?
Well, our expert Wills Solicitors in Lancaster are still working. To help social distancing, despite our team all being key workers, some members of staff are based at home, and others are working from the office, although we are not currently arranging face-to-face appointments.
Instead, you can contact our team via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone on 01524 581 306 (or at your local office: 01772 783 314 (Preston) or 01995 602 129 (Garstang)), or by using our online contact form, here. A member of our team of Wills Solicitors in Lancaster will give you a call back within one working hour, and we can arrange a telephone appointment for you, usually the same or the next working day.
The paperwork can be sent via email or in the post, and we can have your original Will sent out to you for signature, along with full, comprehensive instructions. If you absolutely cannot arrange for signature of the documents yourself, our team may be able to arrange a socially distant Will signing appointment - you just need to let us know you need one, and we can look into this for you.
So, the key point from this current situation is clear: don’t delay making a Will, contact our expert team of Wills Solicitors in Lancaster today to make sure that your wishes are correctly documented!
MG Legal – Your Local Solicitors
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