We have written blogs before about the importance of the Will writing process and the legalities involved. The process and the documents themselves are tied up in some pretty ancient legislation as they’re still based on the Wills Act of 1837, written in Queen Victoria’s reign and many of the elements were designed to protect people at a time of less efficient record keeping, lower levels of literacy, and less advanced technology.
One of the elements of this process that is causing the most issues during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown is the need for two independent witnesses to be physically present during the testators’ signing. With the social distancing regulations in place and the government restrictions for remaining at home it is making this part of the Will signing process incredibly difficult.
There have been reports of documents that have been held in place by windscreen wipers and signed on a car bonnet in a novel way for wills to be witnessed during social distancing; signatures are also being watched through windows and patio doors.
Here at alh legal I am working really hard to ensure continuity of service for those who need help with their estate planning. I have been taking instruction over the phone or via video calling and then sending the wills to clients for signature with the following advice:
- Please keep to the social distancing rules during the signing of the Wills.
- Your witnesses need to see you sign, but they must be 2 metres away from you, or watching through a window.
- You can keep the Will – no need to return them to me, unless you want me to check that you have signed it correctly. If you wish, you could take a photograph of the signed page and email or text it to me so I can check it.
Whilst the idea of having to sign based on law that was created over 200 years ago may seem outdated or antiquated there are plans from the Government to change this law at some point in the future. As with everything we know that this lockdown will not last and life will, at some point in the future, return to normal.
If you need anything from me, to discuss your estate, make changes to existing documents or put in place a Will or Lasting Power of Attorney use the contact details below.