For a Will to be legally valid, it must be signed by the person making the Will in front of two witnesses who then countersign.
However, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, arranging to sign a Will may prove difficult due to social distancing and self-isolation.
As solicitors specialising in Wills and trusts law, NSS Legal can advise on how to navigate this problem. We explain what requirements are needed for a Will to be validly signed and how we can help.
The Requirements for Witnessing a Will
In order for the Will to be valid, the person who is making the Will must:
• generally be at least 18 years old (this rule is relaxed where the will-maker is in the army).
• have the capacity to make the Will.
• create the Will voluntarily. This means that they have not been pressured into creating the Will for the benefit of others.
To learn more about the importance of having a valid Will, please take a look at our article.
Two Individuals Must Witness the Will Signing
The person who is making the new Will must sign it in the presence of two other people, who act as the witnesses to the will-maker’s signature on the Will.
The Two Witnesses Must also Sign the Will
Once the creator of the Will has signed their name, the Will must then be signed by the two individuals who witnessed the signing.
The person signing, whether the Will-maker or one of the witnesses, must do so in the presence of the others. The witnesses should also complete their details which includes printing their name, address and occupation.
Once everyone has signed, the Will should be dated.
Who can Witness a Will?
A witness cannot be:
• The spouse or civil partner of the Will-maker
• A beneficiary of the Will
• The spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary
An executor can be a witness as long as they are not a beneficiary.
What If a Beneficiary Witnessed the Will?
If a beneficiary or their spouse or civil partner witnessed the Will, they would forfeit their entitlement under the Will.
Who is Recommended to Witness a Will?
It is recommended that you have two independent witnesses to avoid any doubt being cast over whether the Will was validly executed.
This could be:
• A friend
• A next-door neighbour
• A colleague from work
• A doctor
• A solicitor
Where there are concerns about the capacity of the person making the Will, a medical practitioner should act as one of the witnesses, where possible.
The Difficulty of Witnessing a Will Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the government putting the UK into lockdown. This means that social distancing rules are in place to minimise the interaction between people outside of those you live with to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading.
How Can NSS Legal Help?
As a result of the measures in place, there is the challenge of trying to ensure that witnesses remain at the safe distance of two metres or more while keeping to the requirements to ensure that a Will is validly executed.
It becomes even more difficult when the Will is made by someone who falls in the vulnerable category and are more at risk when it comes to being exposed to the virus.
Options to Consider
The following suggestions should be taken with the necessary precautions, particularly where someone is already in a higher risk group.
One possibility could be to ask your next-door neighbours to act as witnesses from the safety of their own garden. As long as you can both see the party signing the Will, this would count as a valid Will signing.
Another option could be to remain at your doorstep while the witnesses stay on the pavement, at least two metres from you. Once you have signed your Will, you can place the Will two metres away from you. Once you are at a safe distance, invite the witnesses to sign where the Will has been left separately. You may need time to place the Will safely and travel to and from your door, so you do not interact.
Essential Safety Tip
Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before and after touching the Will, and wear suitable protective clothing.
NSS Legal can assist with reviewing your current Wills to see if they require updating or where you need assistance with drafting new Wills and then executing these during the coronavirus outbreak.
Please contact our team of Will and probate solicitors in London on 020 8209 1222, and we can assist you through this procedure. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org