When making a will, it must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses (who must also sign the document) in order to be legally valid in the UK, but that law has become far more difficult to adhere to as a result of the social distancing restrictions currently in place due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Some rule amendments are currently being considered to make it easier for people to write wills, but as things stand, the rules currently remain the same as they did before the lockdown.
Despite it being more inconvenient, it is still possible to sign your will while staying safe during these unprecedented times
In this article, we provide advice on how you can write a valid will during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The testator (the person who has written the will) must sign the will in order for it to be valid, along with two other independent witnesses who must be present at the time of signing.
There are certain rules around who can witness a will, and they remain the same now as they did before the Coronavirus crisis. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is looking for ways to relax these rules, but it’s proving difficult as they also need to protect the vulnerable from fraud.
The witnesses of a will can only be people who are NOT:
Choosing an independent witness is important for two main reasons:
Firstly, if a witness is a beneficiary of the will, they will lose their right to inherit any assets when the time comes to distribute the estate.
Secondly, there are some cases where it is claimed that a witness has influenced the testator’s decisions; this is less likely to happen if the witness has no reason to do so and is entirely independent.
Accessing and actioning the above has been made very difficult due to the impact of COVID-19, however, there are ways that you can safely progress your will which we have included below.
By writing a will with Wills.Services, you can do the whole process online, meaning that you don’t need to attend any meetings and there won’t be any lengthy delays.
You still need to have two witnesses present, but making a will online is the easiest and most efficient way to do so while adhering to social distancing rules.
To make a will, you simply enter your information using our online form, which will then be reviewed by our team. Once it has been processed, we will then send you the will to be signed by you and two other witnesses. When you’ve had it signed, you then send it back to us to be registered.
But how can you get it signed by two independent witnesses during the Coronavirus lockdown?
The most common will witnesses are neighbours, colleagues or family friends, but it’s unlikely that you live with these people and social distancing rules mean that you probably won’t be seeing them in the coming months.
You should start by trying to work out whether anyone living in your household is eligible to act as a witness for your will, such as a housemate or a carer.
If no one that you live with meets the criteria, you should consider getting in touch with a neighbour or friend to explain the situation.
You can ask them to sign while maintaining a two-metre distance between you, which can be done by meeting in an outdoor space where each witness and the testator can approach the will separately to sign. Bear in mind that you and the witnesses must be in clear sight of each other in order for the will to be valid.
While it may be slightly more difficult to get it done, it is entirely possible to sign a will during the Coronavirus lockdown.
If no one in your household is eligible, don’t be afraid to reach out to neighbours or close friends who meet the criteria and ask them if they would be willing to meet in a way that adheres to social distancing rules.
It’s crucial that you don’t delay the process of writing your will, as it is one of the most important documents that you’ll ever create, and doing so protects your entire estate and your loved ones when you’re no longer around.
Start writing your will online today or if you need further advice or help with writing your will, be sure to get in touch with us by completing our short contact form.
Article reviewed 5th March 2021