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Effect of coronavirus on signing wills

View profile for Amy Nelson
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It has now become increasingly difficult for lawyers to ensure that the basic requirements of creating a valid will have been met given the current social distancing guidelines and requirements to stay at home. 

Under the current government guidelines, lawyers and testators are being discouraged from meeting in person either at the lawyer’s office or at the testator’s home. In light of this, lawyers are restricted in their ability to fully oversee the signing of Wills to make sure it has been proved correctly. 

We understand that in the current climate it will be difficult to arrange for two independent witnesses to be present when signing a Will. Unfortunately, until such time that the government introduces emergency legislation to change the requirements it is still necessary to adhere to the requirements laid out by The Wills Act 1837 below to ensure the will is a valid document and legally enforceable.

The Will Act 1837 specifies that no will shall be valid unless: - 

a)    it is in writing, and signed by the testator (person creating the Will), or by some other person in his presence and by his direction; and

b)    it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the will; and

c)    the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and

d)    each witness either: -
i.    attests and signs the will; or
ii.    acknowledges his signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness)

This means that as long as the witnesses are in the line of sight of the testator when they sign the Will, the signing is still valid. Therefore, the testator and the witnesses can still maintain the current social distancing guidelines whilst being in the line of sight of the testator which allows the signing to be completed. 
    
Please feel free to contact a member of the Private Client Department who we will be happy to talk you through these rules and provide advice to help you plan a safe and practical method of signing your will correctly. 

Our Private Client team can be contacted on 01252 907 829 and privateclient@baker-law.co.uk. 

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