Under English Law, a Will is valid if, amongst other criteria: –
- It is writing; and
- Signed by the Testator (the person making the Will); and
- Signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, who must themselves sign in the presence of the Testator
So, how is that achieved during a period of self-isolation and social distancing?
Well, as Solicitors we can still take a client’s instructions for the preparation of a Will, using a combination of letters/emails, video calling and telephone conferences, but the tricky part is having the final document executed in the presence of the witnesses.
Clearly, if you are self-isolating because you are vulnerable, and cannot risk any contact with others, it will only be possible if you are living with people that are not also the people that you wish to benefit in your Will (your Beneficiaries); because beneficiaries cannot act as your witnesses.
If you cannot validly execute a Will and you do not already have a Will in place, were you to die, your estate would pass under the Intestacy Rules, which provide a predetermined list of beneficiaries who will inherit.
For those social distancing, and not in self-isolation, it may still be possible to execute a Will, if, whilst observing the social distancing guidelines, you can safely arrange for friends or neighbours to act as your witnesses.
The witnesses must still be independent, but provided the Testator signs the Will in their physical presence and they sign in the Testator’s physical presence, witnessing at a distance of 2 meters, for example, or through the window may be a potential solution.
This is not, however, ideal, and every case must be considered in light of all the circumstances, particularly those at the time of execution of the Will, and there is no guarantee that such arrangements will stand up to legal scrutiny in the future.
We’re here to help, as best we can in these challenging circumstances.