Coronavirus: Creating a will during lockdown

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the UK, there has been increased demand for wills. The Law Society is urging the government to relax the rules around witnessing signatures, which would make it easier for people to create and sign their wills remotely. However, until this is brought into law, the current regime of a will needing two witnesses still stands. If we at Thrings are unable to witness the signing, we are encouraging our clients to look to their neighbours and the community to help them validly execute (sign) their wills. The witnesses do not need to know the content of the will.

What makes a will valid?

Firstly, your will needs to be written down. Some people handwrite them, but it is advised and more common to see them typed to avoid any confusion.

It is vital that you do not rush writing your will. Your estate can be quite complicated, and there may be implications for your beneficiaries that you had not considered. To help the process run smoothly during the coronavirus lockdown we are using various apps to have video calls with our clients, so it is still possible to provide bespoke wills tailored to your needs.

Secondly, a valid will needs three wet signatures (signed by hand) – one from the testator (the person whose will it is) and two from witnesses. All three people need to be present to prove the legitimacy of the signing process. Witnesses need to be over 18, mentally capable and independent, so they cannot be a spouse, close relative or someone who benefits in any way from the will. That means a witness cannot be a spouse of a beneficiary.

How can you sign a will when you are self-isolating? 

The main obstacle for many people signing their wills in the context of the coronavirus outbreak is finding witnesses and having all three people present to sign the will. It is particularly challenging for vulnerable people who may be self-isolating alone or with their family, who may be beneficiaries and therefore unable to sign.

However, there are ways to sign a will properly while maintaining a safe distance. For example, some Thrings clients have had their wills signed in gardens and witnessed by neighbours looking over the fence. The will is then left on the fence for the witnesses to sign. Some clients have even signed their wills in supermarkets witnessed by supermarket staff.

How to write a will during lockdown

Although we may not be able to meet with you in person during the coronavirus lockdown, our solicitors specialising in wills are continuing with their essential work. If you are thinking of creating a will, here are the steps you should take:

  • Step 1 – Talk to an expert about your wishes for the future. Your will is personal, and our wills lawyers can discuss your plans and objectives in detail. During the coronavirus lockdown, we are often arranging this via a video call.
  • Step 2 – Based on the discussions, your solicitor will write a draft will specific to your individual instructions along with a letter that lays out what the will means for you and your beneficiaries. We can either email or post these documents to you. If you would like to discuss or amend any of the points, you can contact us and we will send you a revised draft.
  • Step 3 – Once you feel confident about the will, we will post it to you so you can sign it with two witnesses present. We always prefer to oversee the signing of the will, but due to social distancing guidelines and the coronavirus lockdown, we advise asking people near to you at home. You could ask a neighbour, people who are delivering shopping to you or other people working in the community to be your witnesses.
  • Step 4 – Post the signed will back to us. We will keep your will safe and you can amend it if you wish.

For advice on your will and how to make sure your assets are passed on how you want them to speak to one of our specialist wills lawyers. We will guide you through the entire process.

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