Since the start of lockdown, solicitors’ offices have been closed and clients are being relied upon to correctly execute their wills at home.
The Wills Act 1837 lays down strict rules, which must be complied with if a will is to be valid as a legally binding expression of wishes.
It is possible to sign your will and observe the social distancing rules. Many resourceful individuals have achieved this by witnessing through open windows, patio doors and over the garden fence.
There are no current plans to relax the rules because of the overriding need to protect the elderly and vulnerable from undue influence and fraud. We must not therefore use video witnessing or electronic signatures and should instead comply with the existing formalities when signing a will:
- Needless to say, it is very important to read through your will carefully before signing to ensure that it is entirely in accordance with your wishes.
- The will must be dated and signed by the person making the will (‘the testator’) in the presence of two witnesses.
- The witnesses must then also sign and should add their full names, full addresses and occupations so that they can be traced should any dispute arise over the validity of the will.
- It is vitally important that the signing and witnessing takes place in the presence of all concerned. In other words, the testator should sign in the presence of the two witnesses and should remain present while each of the witnesses sign.
- It is also vitally important that no one who is a beneficiary, the spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary, blind or under the age of 18 is a witness.
- You should not make any alterations to the will after it has been signed.
- You should not paperclip, staple or attach anything to the will.
Our thoughts are with everyone during this difficult time and we will continue to provide our services to help put minds at ease. If you would like assistance in preparing or amending your will please complete the contact form or ask to speak with the Private Client team on 0808 252 5231.