Laura Manton, Director at Dawson Hart Solicitors Wills and Probate Team looks at why those thinking about making and signing their Wills need to be very careful during these times of social distancing.
When it comes to signing a Will in England and Wales the law is very strict. The law dates back to 1837 and the requirements are that the Will must be signed by the Testator (the person making the Will) in the presence of two independent witnesses who also must be present at the same time.
Under current social distancing measures, we have heard of people having their Wills witnessed by neighbours over a garden fence or signing documents being held by a windscreen wiper and signed on a car bonnet. But especially for those in isolation or in hospital it is almost impossible to adhere to the rules. This has been a great concern to many of our Clients.
The Ministry of Justice spokesperson is now looking at a temporary relaxation in the rules, which could involve reducing the number of witnesses required or possibly accepting other solutions, such as video witnessing, neither of which is permitted at the present time. In parts of Europe you do not need your Will to be witnessed at all and in Scotland only one witness is needed.
A spokesperson at the Ministry of Justice said “This is a delicate area of law and we absolutely must continue to protect the elderly and vulnerable against potential fraud.”
So, during this unprecedented time we urge anyone making a new Will to take great care when it is signed to make sure their Will is valid.
In most cases there is a solution so please do contact us and we can help you with your Will whilst still observing the current social distancing policy.
For more information please contact Laura Manton.