Making a Will during Covid-19
Social distancing measures introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have changed the way legal professionals are managing an increased demand for their Will writing services. Creative ways of working are now more common with changes to the way that a Last Will and Testament is validly executed (signed and witnessed).
What has changed?
Under Section 9 of the 1837 Wills Act, a testator (the person making a Will) must sign their Will in the presence of two independent adult witnesses. The witnesses cannot inherit from the Will or be in a relationship with a beneficiary, and more obviously they should be sighted and understand their role.
Until March 2020 signing and witnessing a Will was very straightforward. Clients could meet their chosen will writer in their home or the firm’s offices. The testator signed their Will and the two witnesses signed to confirm they had seen this happen; all 3 people were in the same room at the same time.
With lockdown, the 2m distancing rules, and the guidance to work from home where possible, innovative solutions for meeting clients and safely signing documents became the new normal. Video calls have replaced face to face meetings, but the usual process of following up with telephone calls and emails has continued. Wills have been witnessed across the garden fence by neighbours, on car bonnets, and through windows. For most modern legal practices it’s been business as (un)usual.
After a strict national lockdown, many people are comfortable resuming a more social life. But not everyone feels safe enough to attend a face to face meeting.
How can I stay safe and make a valid Will?
Meeting clients in person, shaking their hand and making them a brew before guiding them through the Will making process may not be possible, but video calls are simple and straightforward. They are an excellent substitute for a face to face meeting and even have a few benefits… no need to leave home, no masks, no gloves and you can make your own coffee, just how you like it!
For anyone who isn’t comfortable with Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, or for those without access to a laptop or smartphone, many legal professionals have reopened their offices. Strict social distancing, masks or face coverings, hand sanitiser, cleaning before and after appointments, using separate pens and avoiding all physical contact are all part of the new normal. No coffee though, sorry!
New legislation will be introduced in September, allowing video witnessing of Wills but this is time limited. It will only be appropriate where a person wanting to make their Will is quarantining or shielding. Video witnessing of a Will is likely to be very rare, but will be useful where there are no other safe options.
Making a valid Will is an essential part of everyone’s financial plans. Covid-19 has changed the process a little, but isn’t a reason to delay making a Will.
Call us on 01538 756166 to book your video call, or a covid-secure meeting at our offices. Home visits can be arranged if essential and safe for all.