Private Client Team Update

27th March 2020

Executing Wills during the Coronavirus

Many clients have been concerned about making new wills at this difficult time, and have been struggling to reconcile the usual advice for executing a will with the problems of social distancing and self-isolation. Here are a few key points to remember:

  • To be valid, a will must be signed by the Testator ‘in the presence’ of two witnesses at the same time, and those witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the Testator. See s.9 Wills Act 1837.
  • ‘Presence’ in this context means the witness must have a direct line of sight to see the Testator sign, but they need not be able to see exactly what is written. They need only be able to see the act of signing. This means that they can keep their distance and still be a valid witness.
  • The same applies to the witnesses’ signatures; they need not sign in the presence of each other, but the Testator must be able to see them sign. Again, a clear line of sight will suffice.
  • It is also possible for someone else to sign the will on behalf of the Testator at his direction. This may be one of the attesting witnesses, and they can either write the testator’s name or sign their own name on the testator’s behalf. If this is done, there should be a clear record of this being done (and preferably video evidence).
  • This means it should be possible for someone to execute a will without coming into direct contact with any of the witnesses or (in extreme cases) even with the paper on which the Will is written.
  • There is an open question whether documents can be ‘witnessed’ via videolink or Skype, but at the moment the advice must be that such a will would not be valid.

Members of the Trusts and Estates team at New Square Chambers are on hand to advise with any issues which arise at this difficult time. In particular, many clients will be looking to execute new powers of attorney or to deal with urgent matters relating to succession planning, property transactions, or the Court of Protection. 

With Kind Regards,

New Square Chambers

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