Below is a list of frequently asked questions about making or updating a will during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Am I still able to make a will or update an existing one?
Yes, we are able to take instructions over the telephone or by other electronic means, such as email or video call. During that communication, we will discuss your requirements and provide advice on matters such as Inheritance Tax, jointly held property, trusts, claims against your estate, etc.
Many clients are now considering revising existing wills or making wills where they do not already have something in place. Provided we can establish there are no issues with mental capacity and undue influence, we can produce a document that suits your circumstances.
How do I sign the will and have it witnessed?
You are still required to sign in the presence of two independent witnesses who must be present at the same time. With the current social distancing guidance in place, that can present a problem.
Some clients are able to ask neighbours to watch through a window whilst they sign their wills and then pass these to the neighbours to sign as witnesses. There have even been reports of wills being signed on car bonnets. However the wills are signed, it is important that you and your witnesses can see each other when you all add your signatures as any deviation from this can cause the will to be invalid.
Whilst there has been much talk in the media about relaxing rules on signing documents and allowing electronic signatures, that is currently not the case when executing your will.
However, legislation was brought into force in September 2020 allowing virtual witnessing of wills. This can, in certain circumstances, be carried out using any video-conferencing technology but it must be done in real time, i.e. it cannot be recorded. It should also only be used where absolutely necessary as witnessing in person is always the preferred option and less likely to be open to challenge.
Can I just create a will myself?
Whilst it is possible to draw up your own will, we would strongly suggest that you use a professional to do so. They know what they are doing and how to word the various clauses required to prevent the will from being invalid or confusing.
It is worth remembering that, when having a will drawn up by a professional, the fee includes advice about matters such as blended families, Inheritance Tax, claims against your estate, excluded family members, protection for minors, etc. Estate disputes are becoming more common and the advice that you receive when you make your will with a professional, and the notes they keep, can assist in mitigating such claims or defending them where necessary.
How can we help?
Our Private Client Team is here for you and your family. Contact us and we’ll make sure the right legal advisor gets back to you.
This information is given to the best of our knowledge and does not constitute individual legal advice upon which you can rely. The situation relating to Covid-19 is constantly evolving and may have changed since this document was produced. For up to date advice on your own situation, please contact us before taking any action.