Getting your will done during a pandemic
Solicitors are concerned that wills prepared during lockdown may give rise to an increase in disputes about inheritance, not least due to the fact that the strict requirements for signing and witnessing a will may not be followed properly.
The legal requirements for signing a will requires the testator (the person making the will) to sign his/her will in the presence of two witnesses. This can be particularly difficult at present due to the rules about social distancing, and for people who are shielding, it can be even more difficult.
The Law Society in England & Wales published a statement in April 2020 saying that wills must not be signed via video link.
However the concern amongst the legal profession is that it is likely that wills have been signed via webcam, or not signed in the line of sight of a physical witnesses as a result of social distancing measures. This could cause a rise in claims that a will is invalid as the legal requirements have not been met.
The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are still currently discussing ways of making a will and deformalising the signing of wills and solicitors are expecting an announcement shortly.
Until there are new requirements that protect testators and beneficiaries, the best method of completing a will is to follow the existing guidelines which have been in place for many years. This means that wills should be signed by the testator in the presence of two independent witnesses, who also sign the will at the same time.
At Samuels Solicitors, based in Barnstaple, we have strict protocols in place to protect clients who wish to come to the office to sign wills. This can be arranged by prior appointment, and we can ensure that there are staff available to assist you. Our offices are deep cleaned regularly, and we have taken all other steps possible (with the installation of perspex screens and the use of santisers and face masks), to protect you as far as we possibly can.