In these worrying times, many people are thinking about making a will or updating an existing will. The current law around the signing of wills has been in place since 1837 and this provides that a will must be signed by the testator and two independent witnesses to be valid. The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice have been examining the difficulties faced by members of the public regarding the making of wills during the coronavirus epidemic, particularly in view of the government guidance on social distancing. It is recognised that this will be a particular issue for those who are aged 70 and over and individuals with any underlying health conditions who have been advised to self-isolate.
Traditionally, we would take instructions from you in person and then arrange for the testator and the witnesses to be in a room together where the will would be properly signed by all the parties. Although this is no longer possible, the Wills and Probate team here at Baron Grey are still able to assist you. We can take your instructions by a variety of means, including offering client meetings using video conference calls. Once we have taken your instructions, we can send your will to your home with detailed instructions to ensure that the will is signed correctly and is valid.
Clearly, when arranging for your Will to be witnessed, it is important to follow the social distancing advice at all times. In most cases, it will not be possible to have members of your household witness your will as these are likely to be family members and beneficiaries of your will or a close relative of a beneficiary. Depending on how isolated you are required to be, we are able to make arrangements for members of our staff to witness your will. Alternatively, you could ask adjacent neighbours to witness and sign the will from the safety of their own garden. As long as you and each witness can see each other sign the Will, this would form valid execution. Opposite sides of the same room would also be a possibility, but this of course depends on the size of the room and the vulnerability of the individuals involved.
It is important that if you are going to make a will, you ensure it is valid. If you would like support and guidance, please do not hesitate to contact Baron Grey’s Wills and Probate Team, who are continuing to write wills for people during these uncertain times.
By Lara Symons