Is it possible to make a Will during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In short, yes. It presents challenges, but most can be overcome. Please read our guidance below.
Our own mortality isn’t something we like to think about too much, but the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many of us to check that our personal affairs are in order. A large part of this is ensuring that we have an up-to-date Will. In fact, many solicitors are seeing a large increase in demand, with double the number of enquiries. Indeed, many NHS managers have recommended to their key workers that they make sure that they have a valid Will.
But how can I get my Will witnessed?
In order to be valid, a Will must be signed in front of two independent adult witnesses. Usually, witnesses are friends, neighbours, work colleagues, or staff from the firm that prepared the Will for you. However, beneficiaries cannot be witnesses. Clearly, the current lock-down makes this difficult, particularly as the two witnesses cannot be close family members unless they forfeit their entitlement under the Will.
As a result of COVID-19, we are adapting our normal processes so we can still help you if you need a Will.
So how will you take my Will instructions?
Will instructions are almost always taken by meeting with you face to face. As this isn’t currently possible, our team can take Will instructions through video meetings using Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp or Facetime. This means that we don’t need to visit, and you can stay safe in the comfort of your own home. If you’re not able to use any of these options, we can take instructions via the telephone.
Can you send my draft Will to me by email?
Yes, we often email draft Wills to clients, as this is the quickest way for you to make sure that the Will accurately reflects your wishes. We do understand, however, that not all clients have or are comfortable with email. If this is the case for you, we can send you a printed copy in the post (whilst the postal service remains available).
OK, that’s all good, but how do I sign my Will?
The Ministry of Justice has been asked by the Law Society and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners to relax the legal requirements for Will signing during this current crisis. However, at the moment, both yourself and your two witnesses must all be present at the same time to witness and sign your Will.
If you’re able, one solution might be to enlist the help of neighbours. For instance, you could use your garden, with you and your neighbours respecting social distancing by keeping two metres apart over a garden fence, each wearing gloves and using your own pens to sign.
If this really isn’t possible for you, then in exceptional circumstances, we would permit two members of the Nicholls Law team to visit you at your home to witness the signing of your Will. Naturally, it would be essential to maintain the appropriate two-metre distance to keep everybody safe.
What if I absolutely cannot sign my Will in front of two witnesses?
Whilst not ideal, the last resort would be to sign your Will without witnesses (still making sure you date it). Your Will would not be regarded as legally valid but could, instead, be used as a “Letter of Wishes”. Extra steps would be needed to ensure that your wishes were followed and, unlike with a legally valid Will, it would only work with the agreement of your family.
How do I contact the Nicholls Law Team?
If you have further questions or would like to book an appointment to make your Will, please do get in touch today, using the details below (all staff are currently working remotely, but will be happy to take your enquiry by email or telephone).