The demand for wills has understandably increased since the outbreak of the coronavirus, with more people starting to contemplate their end of life plans. Financial consultancy firm deVere Group have revealed that the demand for wills jumped by 76% in the past fortnight alone.
People want to make sure everything is in place so their estate will be handled and passed on correctly to the right people, and a health pandemic such as the coronavirus only adds to the desire to see it done.
However, the social distancing rules currently in place due to COVID-19 make executing wills a definite challenge at this time.
In accordance to current laws (which have been the same since 1837!), the correct execution of a will must involve the following:
- The will must be in writing
- It must be signed by the testator or by some other person in his/her presence and by his/her direction
- It must give the appearance that the testator intended by their signature to give effect to the Will
- The will must have a signature made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time
- It must be witnessed and each witness must attest and sign the Will or acknowledge their signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness).
The effect of COVID-19:
After government advice to avoid social contact, some of these rules are harder to follow. Being in the same room with people, who are all able to clearly observe the signing of documents is now ill advised. There is also likely some travelling to be involved as well, which many people will not be comfortable with.
In these circumstances, it will be difficult to meet the requirement for a testator to sign a Will in the presence of two witnesses present at the same time and for the testator to then be present when those witnesses attest and sign (or acknowledge) the testator’s signature. Presence includes both physical and mental presence.
What about using video?
This is an obvious alternative, but video conferences or communicating over the phone have not been confirmed by the government as an acceptable option. There is currently no confirmation that e-signatures will be accepted either.
This clearly puts many legal practitioners in an awkward situation, as it may not be possible to comply with the government’s guidance to reduce social contact while also arranging for wills to be validly signed.
Our processes of executing wills:
Until alternate measures, if they are indeed coming, are put in place during the coronavirus crisis there is no choice but to follow the existing legal procedures.
There are three routes you can follow with us to execute your will:
- At our office – We are very happy to be your witnesses and assist you executing the will. We do not charge for the service.
We will be vigilant in keeping a minimum of 2m distance, as recommended by the government. So long as we are able to clearly see the documents being signed, it is no problem.
- At your home or other place you prefer but in our presence – If you prefer or require, our caseworkers will travel to your home to assist you in the execution of your will. In this case, we will have to charge you our reasonable fees for travelling to and from your home.
Again, the 2m distance will be kept and business will be conducted swiftly to avoid unnecessary contact.
- Execution in our absence – If you choose to execute your will in our absence, you need to pay attention to the following points:
You need to have two witnesses who are:
- over 18 years old (but not very old so that some senses are impaired)
- in good health
- not blind
- easy to trace and have full home addresses
- not your beneficiaries/potential beneficiaries or their spouses/civil partners or other person who are closely related to them
- you should only sign the will in the presence of both witnesses;
- they should also sign it in your presence simultaneously and with the same pen; and
- none of your beneficiaries/potential beneficiaries in your will or their spouse/civil partners/same sex partners shall be present when executing.
After execution, please send us your will immediately and we will check whether it has been properly executed.
Should you have further query on the execution of your will, please do let us know immediately.
We are very experienced in drafting wills, should you need one. Our team is operating as usual and are ready to take on new instructions.
Our pricing is extremely competitive in this area, with a fully drafted simple will costing only £180 and simple mirror wills at £210.
Have questions? Contact us!
We have a dedicated team of legal specialists ready to advise and guide you through any will based questions you might have.
Call on 020 7928 0276, or email into email@example.com.