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Covid-19 & Your Will: Witness signing during social distancing

The current Covid-19 pandemic has had us all recently thinking about our own mortality, and for some the realisation that they never got around to writing their Last Will and Testament, or that the one they wrote 10 years ago is now very much out of date. 

Wanting to make good use of your free time during the lock-down to sort out your legal and financial affairs, is a great use of your time, think of it like spring cleaning for your life planning. But doing some of these tasks now comes with it’s own set of difficulties.

Although our office is physically closed to the public, our staff are still safely and securely working from home. Taking calls and new instructions from clients that want to write or update their Will or Lasting Powers of Attorney. Planning and drafting your Will can still easily be done over the phone, email and post.

The struggle comes into play in executing your Will, which is the part that requires 2 witnesses to see you sign the Will and then countersign the original document, to prove that you yourself actually signed it and that you knew what you were signing. That is an absolute requirement for it to be legally binding.

Listen to our recent comments by Hopkins Solicitors Partner, Rob Siderfin, on Mansfield 103.2 Radio.

 

 

In order for your Will to be legally valid there are specific conditions which must be met when your Will is signed.

  1. The Will needs to be in writing, typed or handwritten.
  2. The Will needs to be signed by the person making the Will (the testator) in the presence of two independent witnesses (who must be present at the same time). But it is not necessary for the witnesses to be aware of the contents of the Will.
  3. The witnesses must each sign the Will in the presence of the testator. Bear in mind your witnesses cannot be a beneficiary of the Will or a close relative of a beneficiary.

Some may think that since electronic signatures have become more common place recently, that they may be suitable, and although they can be legally binding for other types of legal documents, unfortunately they are still not acceptable for Will signings.

Others have suggested we make use of the easy ability to record a video-conference call with all 3 parties on the video-call at the same time… But again, as it sits now, this would not hold up in a court of law (at least not yet).

But the best solution during the lock down is to call on your neighbours for their help, but ensure they are not in the highly vulnerable group so you aren’t putting them personally at risk!

You could ask adjacent neighbours to witness and sign the Will from the safety of their own garden but you do need to ensure the fence or hedge is low enough to see each other sign the Will.

You could stand in your front doorway whilst your witnesses stand on the pavement, obviously at least 2 metres apart from one another.

The important part here, is that you execute this step in as safe a manner as possible to ensure you do not cross contaminate one another when passing the paper or pen to one another. Make sure you all wear masks and gloves. Make sure each of you has your own pen so it does not need to be shared. And make sure once the signing is complete you carefully dispose of your mask, gloves, pen and immediately wash your hands thoroughly.

If you are concerned that your current Will is out of date or that you feel it’s important to have one written for the first time, we are here to help you. Our highly experienced Wills & Estate Planning team can be contacted by phone on 01623468468 or by using the enquiry form below. They will walk you through the process, costs involved and can send you all the documents you need to get started by email or post. 

 

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