Coronavirus : How can I sign my Will whilst I’m social distancing?

The current Coronavirus pandemic has seen Will instructions reportedly increase by as much as 30% in recent weeks. Whilst modern technology allows us to continue working remotely and to draft Wills on behalf of clients, the current social distancing measures has created somewhat of a dilemma : how can I ensure my Will is signed correctly whilst social distancing?  Below we discuss some important points to consider:

How is a Will signed correctly/validly? 

Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 stipulates that the following criteria, listed below, must be met in order for a Will to be deemed valid : 

  1. Your Will must be in writing: 

By “in writing” it is meant in written form. This can be by hand, however we would suggest that your Will is typed up to avoid any ambiguity upon your death. Whilst there has been some debate in recent years as to whether you can make a Will via text or email for the time being these are not currently considered valid methods of making a Will. 

We would always suggest seeking legal advice when making a Will to ensure that the contents of your Will are legally binding to ensure that there is as little difficulty as possible when it comes to administering your estate. 

  1. Your Will must be signed by you: 

In order to execute your Will you must sign it. By signing your Will you are showing your intention to give effect to it. If an individual is unable to sign their own Will (by virtue of any condition which would prevent them from doing so), they can instruct someone to sign their Will on their behalf. However, this must be done in the presence of the Testator/Testatrix. 

Whilst the current social distancing measures has opened up some debate as to whether you can execute your Will electronically the law is still very clear that a Will cannot, unlike other legal documents, be signed electronically. 

  1. Your Will must be signed in the presence of two of more witnesses present at the same time who each attest and sign your Will in your presence too: 

Whilst many may believe that they are able to find witnesses amongst their households during lockdown, your witnesses cannot be a beneficiary within your Will. 

This element of the Will signing process seems to currently be the most problematic and is where the current social distancing guidelines are having a severe impact on the Will signing process. 

How can I sign my Will in light of the social distancing measures? 

Whilst many are trying to find loopholes around the witnessing of their Wills it is important to note that not adhering to proper procedure could result in the invalidity of your Will, meaning that your estate could pass under the intestacy provisions or any previous Will you may have already made.

As the use of video communications has also increased significantly during the lockdown we would not suggest attempting to complete your Will in such a way. Not only would your witnesses be unable to complete their respective counterparts of your Will at the same time, but the law is somewhat ambiguous as to what would happen if you were to sign your Will in such a manner. 

In light of the above, we would first of all suggest that you complete your Will in whatever way you are most comfortable with. It is paramount that the vulnerable stay safe during this most difficult time. 

If you are able to complete the signing of your Will at a safe distance (currently 2 metres under current Government guidelines), be it through a window, porch, over a garden fence or other open space then ensure that you do so safely and are taking appropriate hygiene measures during this process by wearing gloves and washing hands after. 

Should you have any queries in relation to Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney or your property Prince Evans specialises in all aspects of Private Client and Property Law.

Please contact Prince Evans’ Wills, Trusts and Probate Department for a friendly, no obligation, chat on 0208 567 3477 or over email at ben.davies@prince-evans.co.uk

Written by; Chloe Eyles

Apprentice Solicitor

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