If you are making a Will, you may be wondering how you will get it signed and witnessed given the Corona Virus restrictions in place. This article explains what the law is and some options on how to sign a Will at a social distance.
What are the legal requirements?
The testator (person making the Will) must sign the Will in the presence of two witnesses.
The witnesses must not be beneficiaries of the Will and must not be the spouse / civil partner of a beneficiary either. If a beneficiary or the spouse / civil partner of a beneficiary signs the Will, then this will invalidate the gift that has been made to them.
Who makes a good witness?
Normally, I recommend that the professional who has written the Will and one other independent person such as a friend, neighbour or colleague will act as witness. This would ordinarily happen at your home or at an office, however, the current social contact restrictions do not easily allow for this.
The two witnesses should be over eighteen and capable of seeing you sign. Your chosen witnesses do not need to have any special qualifications or know you for a minimum length of time. The witnesses can be married or related to each other but ideally not related to you or any of your beneficiaries so that independence is maintained.
Your witnesses will need to see you sign your Will but do not need to know the contents. They will sign and add their full name and address details. The reason for this is that if your Will is challenged then the witness may be called upon to confirm that the Will was signed in his /her presence and, for example, you were not being forced to sign.
How do I sign at a social distance?
Due to the concerns about groups of people mixing (from different households), clients who want to have Wills in place without delay are naturally becoming creative in the way that they achieve this.
Please note that this does not mean that signing Wills electronically or witnessing via live video are valid methods.
It’s very important that you sign your Will in the line of sight of your two witnesses and that you remain in each other presence whilst the document is completed.
Some of the ideas below have come from clients and professionals sharing their recent experiences and would be in keeping with the legal requirements
• One client set up a table two metres from his front door and signed the Will in front of his neighbours who were stood two metres away and watched him sign. Everyone used their own pens and social distance was maintained. The client told me that he even wore a pair of marigold gloves to handle the document to be extra cautious!
• Arranging for two neighbours (who are from the same household) to watch you sign through a window and then find a means of passing the document out to them safely for them to sign and return to you (e.g. through the letterbox)
• For those of you who are in keyworker roles and have colleagues available to assist you then please do so safely and avoid sharing pens.
I recommend you send a copy of your signed Will back to the professional who prepared it to check it has been completed correctly.
Even with the current restrictions in place, it is still entirely possible to make a valid Will. Many people are now making use of Zoom and phone consultation services to receive the professional advice they need so that they have the right protection in place for their families.
If you would like more information on the benefits of making a Will, then please book your free consultation by visiting www.trentwillsestates.co.uk or call 0115 8461446
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.