Witnessing Wills and social distancing

Witnessing your Will during Covid-19

Heena Nadeem avatar
Written by Heena Nadeem
Updated over a week ago

A Will is not valid unless it is witnessed correctly. That could be challenging in the current situation, where people are shielding and the Government has to impose restrictions on movement.

But the Government also recognises it is essential for people to have a Will to avoid the problems of intestacy.

While it is preferable that you sign your Will in the presence of two witnesses, it is possible for you to sign your Will on your own and then acknowledge to two witnesses that it is your signature. If restrictions apply to you or your loved ones, we suggest you use that process to minimise contact.

Try and find two witnesses who are already living together, close by. That way, when they witness your Will they are not increasing the risk of passing infection between each other and they are not travelling to get to you, nor you to them. If you cannot, then each witness should sign the Will in sight of each other and you, but take it in turns to do so, from a safe distance.

Having your Will witnessed safely

So, here are our Top 10 tips:

  1. Contact your witnesses and agree a time and place where they can view your Will.

  2. Ask them to each have their own pen ready.

  3. Wash your hands, sign your Will and put it in the agreed place shortly before the agreed time - a doorstep, a garden wall, an outdoor table etc.

  4. Make sure your witnesses can see and hear you, from a safe distance.

  5. Confirm to them that the signature they see is your signature.

  6. Ask them to sign the Will and add their details in the signature boxes

  7. Thank them!

  8. Collect your Will, keeping a safe distance apart.

  9. Store your Will safely (and let friends and family know where it is).

  10. Wash your hands again.

Witnessing by video

In September 2020, the Government introduced legislation to permit Wills to be witnessed by video link. Your witnesses will have to see you sign your Will on a video call, and then you will have to send them the Will and see them sign it too. This new law is a temporary measure, and will last until the end of January 2022.

This is a little more complicated than it sounds!

So we strongly recommend that, if you are unable to arrange to sign the Wills in the actual presence of witnesses and are thinking of using video-witnessing, you seek professional legal assistance. In that way you can be sure all the right procedures are followed and all the right safeguards are in place.

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