Making a will whilst in self-isolation

In these strange and unprecedented times the Law Society are reporting a huge increase of people understandably either making or updating their wills or setting up a Power of Attorney. Something in the order of a 30% increase on the average. Possibly unsurprising but the process itself is not without its challenges at this difficult time.

Whilst drawing up wills can be done easily enough via email or telephone; the actual witnessing of wills is usually done with other people in the room. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t ways around this problem.

The requirements for executing a will under English law are reassuringly strict.

The person making the will must sign the will in the physical presence of two witnesses who observe the person making their will sign the document and then sign the document themselves. An e-signature is not valid, and it also cannot be witnessed by video call. Spouses or beneficiaries of the will cannot act as witnesses as this would prevent them from inheriting anything in the will.

Interestingly, case law suggests that the person making the will and the witnesses being in each other’s ‘line of sight’ would be enough to satisfy the requirement of “presence”. It could therefore be possible to adhere to social distancing rules while witnessing the will by witnessing through a window or by having the witnesses view the signing of the will from an adjoining room. Indeed, there is actually case law where, in around 1780, a will was witnessed through a carriage window!

It should be pointed out that The Law Society has recently contacted the Ministry of Justice to request the urgent need to relax some of these rules, at least for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic to the Ministry of Justice who have agreed to review them but no timescale has been set for this at the time of writing this piece.

Get in touch
If you would like to update an existing will or make a will, we would be glad to help. Just call us on 01872 241408 or email us info@penderlaw.co.uk  and our team will guide you through the options available to you.