Coronavirus Blog Series:
Making sure your Will is valid
By Lauren Fullerton
During this time, many people are thinking about the future, and for some that includes writing their Wills. Writing a Will is still a straightforward process however with current social distancing requirements, there is some confusion with regards to Will signings.
There are strict legal rules laid down regarding how a Will should be signed, witnessed and executed to ensure it is valid and effective. We therefore usually recommend that your Will is executed at our offices to ensure that these rules are complied with.
In response to the current situation, we have been providing our clients with detailed instructions for the signing of their Will at home.
Your Will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses whom you know and could give reliable evidence regarding the witnessing of your Will. Having two independent witnesses is a fundamental requirement for the valid execution of a Will.
When we state ‘independent’ we are referencing those who will not benefit from your Will and those who are not under the age of 18 or members of your family. Making the mistake of having a beneficiary witnessing your Will may result in that person losing any potential inheritance. Neighbours, colleagues, friends, and professionals, for example doctors and solicitors are all classed as ‘independent’.
We understand that finding suitable witnesses during the current climate will be difficult, and we do not wish for you to travel to find them. If you are having difficulty finding a witness, please contact us in the first instance and we will advise on how to proceed.
We advocate that you and your witnesses adhere to the two-meter social distancing rules or the latest government guidelines when signing, to keep both you and your witnesses safe. When signing, use your own separate pens (pencil is not accepted). Some clients have used an open window or door to allow witnesses to see them signing their Will without stepping into their property. Please note that this is not our advice, rather a good example on how to keep safe whist signing.
It is important that both witnesses are present at the time of signing and that they sign the document immediately after yourself. Once your Will has been signed by all parties please date it. A photograph or scan should be taken, and the original Will sent to MKB Law, via recorded delivery if possible. The scanned or photographed Will can then be sent to us via email. If you are unable to make a copy of your original Will, please keep it in a safe place until social distancing rules have been lifted.
We encourage all parties to wash/sanitise their hands before and after signing the Will.
We also suggest that the execution of your Will is video recorded or that a video call is set up with us, so that we can oversee the signing and witnessing of your Will to make sure it is a valid and legal document.
Please advise the witnesses of the recording or video call prior to the signing of your Will to make sure they are comfortable with this, or for them to record or make the video call if you are unable to. If a video call or recording is not possible, then we would advise that you make a separate note detailing how the Will was signed and witnessed and keep this with the Will.
Your safety is our priority and we do not wish for you to put yourself at risk in relation to the execution of your Will. We understand that making sure your Will is signed is of the utmost importance to you. However, we need to make sure it is safe to do so and if it is not, then it may be that the execution of your Will needs be postponed until social distancing restrictions are lifted.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the valid execution, signing and witnessing of your Will please contact MKB Law and we will be able to advise of the appropriate steps over phone or video call.
We recommend that when things settle in relation to the current crisis that you consider arranging an appointment with our private client team so that we can review your Will and satisfy ourselves that all requirements relating to the signing and witnessing of your Will have been adhered to. This may seem like an unnecessary burden; however, we are in uncertain times and we at MKB Law want to make sure that we are doing the best for our clients.
Should you require any further information on the above, please contact our Wills specialist Lauren Fullerton.
This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.