The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many of us to think about our own mortality and whether our personal affairs are in order. One aspect of this is whether we have made a Will, and if so, is it still up to date? Solicitors across the UK are reporting a doubling in demand and many NHS managers have suggested to their key worker team members to make sure they have a Will.
The problem of witnesses
An obvious problem is the requirement that’s been in place since 1837 that a Will signing must be witnessed by two independent adults. The law is clear that a Will is invalid unless this takes place, and close family members cannot be considered independent unless they forfeit any entitlement under the Will. With the current self-isolation rules in place, this makes it more difficult than ever to execute a Will properly, especially for the elderly and medically vulnerable.
Faced with the current challenges, we at Backhouse Solicitors are adapting our normal processes so we can still help you if you need a Will.
Taking your Will instructions
During normal times we would prefer to meet you face to face. Now this is not possible our team can take Will instructions through video meetings using Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Whatsapp, Facetime or our own telecoms system. This means that you can stay safe in the comfort of your own home and we don’t need to visit for a long period. If you don’t have any of these options available to you then we can take instructions via the telephone.
Reviewing your draft Will
Once a draft Will is prepared, where possible we will email to you for approval. We understand that not all our clients have email, and if this is the case (and while the postal service is still available) we can send you a printed copy in the post.
Signing your Will
Last but not least is the challenge of signing your Will. The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and the Law Society have both asked the Ministry of Justice to relax the legal requirements during the current crisis, but at the moment your Will must still be signed in the presence of two adult independent witnesses who must sign in the presence of each other and of you signing the Will.
If you are able, we will explain how you can execute your Will with the help of your neighbours. An example would be if you have a garden where you and your neighbours could respect social distancing rules over a fence by standing two metres apart, each using your own pens and wearing gloves for the signing process.
If this isn’t possible then in exceptional circumstances two of the Backhouse Solicitors team may be able to visit you at your home to witness the signing of your Will. If we can maintain appropriate social distancing to keep everyone safe then this will be an option.
The last resort – leaving your Will unsigned
If it is genuinely impossible to sign your Will safely in the presence of witnesses, a last resort is for our team to prepare a Will for you that you sign on your own without witnesses. While this would not be regarded as a legally valid Will, in the event of your death your family would be able to enter into a Deed of Variation to vary your intestacy (where you die without a valid Will). Your invalid Will could then be treated as a “Letter of Wishes”.
Whilst this is far from the ideal option and would only work with the agreement of your family, you can at least express your wishes to your family this way.
If you have any questions, or would like to book an appointment to make your Will, then contact our expert team of private client solicitors today for help.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team
Tel: 01245 893400
Visit: 17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website