- - Standing inside your house whilst your witnesses stand outside, watching you sign, and passing the Will through the letterbox and watching through the window as the witnesses sign, with the Will passed back through the letterbox.
- - Sitting or standing near a park bench or pop-up table or car bonnet or similar with witnesses nearby, and rotating so each approaches the bench, table or bonnet individually to witness the will;
- - Getting neighbours to witness and sign the Will from the safety of their own garden (provided that you and each witness can see each other sign the Will);
- - Keeping on opposite sides of the same room, if it is a large room, whilst ensuring the safety of others in the room.
In a pandemic, how do I get my Will witnessed safely?
A Will is not valid unless it is witnessed correctly. A person creating a Will and two witnesses need to be in the same place and all sign the document correctly to ensure that the Will is legally valid. In a pandemic lockdown situation with social distancing restrictions, this becomes difficult, especially as witnesses must not benefit from the Will, which often rules out people living in the same household being witnesses. If one of them were to witness the Will, they risk losing any inheritance left to them in the Will.
The following are our recommended options for Will signing and witnessimg that takes into account the Public Health England two metre social distancing guidelines:-
To ensure the well-being of all involved, it is best to use separate pens and ideally use gloves and hand sanitisers if possible.
COVID-19 has changed the world in an unprecedented way, but this should not stop you writing your Will and ensuring that it is properly executed – it is after all essential for people to have a Will to ensure that their wishes are carried out.
The coronavirus outbreak in 2020 sparked a dramatic rise in people making Wills, and we have seen a marked increase in demand for our Wills as people seek to put their affairs in order. The pandemic showed that people wanted to write their Wills online.
We were open for business throughout lockdown, and we followed all necessary precautions for the health and safety of our staff. We worked seven days a week, and were available to answer any queries by email or phone. We did not do house visits, so there was never any direct contact with others.
Will things change?
We have lobbied parliament and the Ministry of Justice to find 'common sense' ways to loosen current rules, which date back to the Wills Act of 1837, requiring two witnesses to be physically present at the signing of a Will.
One day in the future electronic signatures and/or video witnessing may well be appropriate. Any changes need to be thought through and discussed carefully, as it will be hard to simply overturn almost 200 years of legal precedent. Also, after a temporary change, due to emergency legislation, it will be difficult to argue we should go back to the Victorian era. We should always remember the devastating consequences of Coronavirus, and remember to stay safe, and stay protected.