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Making a Will during the Covid-19 pandemic

Advances in IT are proving to be invaluable during the global lockdown brought about by coronavirus, but making a Will is one process that cannot be done electronically and lags behind the times. The strict signing formalities for a valid Will are causing practical difficulties while social distancing measures remain in place.

The problem is that a Will (or Codicil which makes minor changes to a Will) must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are present and sign at the same time. This cannot be done via a video call or other digital media and the witnesses must not include anyone who is a beneficiary of the Will, or their spouse or civil partner. That means members of the same household are unlikely to be able to witness a Will and so, with current social distancing rules and restrictions on movement, executing a Will is proving to be very difficult; but may not be impossible.

Two other adult members of the same household may be able to validly witness a Codicil provided it does not contain gifts to them, even if they are beneficiaries of the main Will. This could be helpful for small changes to non-family Executors, for example.

If independent witnesses are, however, required it may be advisable to ask two members of another household to act. Provided everyone remains a suitable distance apart and is present for as short a time as possible, it may be possible to get a Will executed within the social distancing requirements. Crucially, the person making a will and the witnesses must all be present and be able to see each other sign and this may be possible through a window, for example. Videoing the events and re-signing once this is all over have also been recommended.

The Law Society and Ministry of Justice are in discussion about this issue and we may see a change in the law to relax procedures in these extraordinary times. Until then, we are working with clients to explore all options to carry out their wishes and so please contact your lawyer if you need to sign a new Will or Codicil.

1 April 2020

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Bankside Office

240 Blackfriars Road
London
SE1 8NW
DX 53 Chancery Lane

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7629 2621
Email: bh@boodlehatfield.com

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