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How do I make or review my will during Coronavirus lockdown?

I want to write a will, but how do I get it signed?

With us all living in uncertain times because of the Covid-19 pandemic, you may be wondering about getting your affairs in order and perhaps writing or updating your will. But how do you go about this?

In usual circumstances, you would try and meet face-to-face, however, it is possible to speak to your solicitor by telephone or video call to allow them to take your instructions.  This call should take place in a private setting so you can be happy that you are being listened to in confidence.

Once you have informed your solicitor what you want to do, your new will can be sent to you by post or email to look at and decide if you are happy with the content. When it is finalised, you can arrange to sign the document. You can choose to have a telephone or video call to help you to sign the will but often you will be sent clear instructions on how to do this.

For a will to be valid, it must be signed in front of two independent witnesses, who are both physically present. This means that three people must watch the will being signed – the person who is making the will and both witnesses. Each person must be watched by the other two people when they sign the will. Both witnesses must be present at the same time as the will is signed by the person making the will (the Testator) – with everyone watching the other sign the documents. 

With the current social distancing restrictions, this might seem a bit tricky, but here are some of the options: 

  1. Through a window - If the two witnesses can see you signing your will and you are able to see them witnessing it – you do not need to be close to each other and do not even need to be in the same room as the will can be passed through the window from each person who is signing. This might work well if you have neighbours who are living together such as husband and wife who can both be witnesses.
  2. On car windscreens/benches/picnic tables/garden walls.  This is an option when you can all get outside - you can leave the will in a central place (preferably flat surface) and everyone takes their turn to sign the will.
  3. At your direction – there is provision in law for a will to be signed ‘on your behalf’ if you are not able to do so (eg, you were injured). This however needs more people involved so may not be the easiest way to get your wills completed during the current climate.

A will that is not signed properly, even in these strange times, may not be valid and leave people that you want to benefit in the will if it is not signed correctly. So, while it might seem like an unnecessary formality to have three people involved in signing a document, it is as well to get this done in a way that makes sure that your wishes are adhered to – regardless of the unusual circumstances.

Of course, it is also important to remember to take sensible precautions by using your own pen and washing your hands after handling the will  to prevent cross-contamination.

Article written and contributed by Heledd Wyn of Gregg Latchams

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered above, please speak to Gregg Latchams directly

Published on 28th April 2020
(Last updated 4th May 2020)

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