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Published On: April 5, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

You’ve been round with the hoover, now sign your will

Christopher McNeill says: there is never a bad time to sign your will – as long as you can find the witnesses!

You’ve been at home for a fortnight, the place has never been so clean, you’ve made enough cakes and stews to last you until the clocks change again and you’ve even put up a couple of shelves to house all those extra toilet rolls.

Finally, with all your worldly affairs in order, you’ve contacted your solicitor about your will. She, like most of the legal profession, is currently working remotely with a minimal office presence. Because a solicitor “acting in connection with the execution of a will” meets the Ministry of Justice definition of “key worker”, she offers to meet you at her firm’s offices for the will to be correctly signed and witnessed.

You’re not so sure you want to travel. Can’t it be done at home and the witnesses watch you sign by, say, using Skype?

Unfortunately, this is not possible in the UK. The Government has considered whether during the pandemic everyone should be able to make a “privileged” will requiring no witnesses at all. So far, though, this is still only open to members of the armed forces “in actual military service” and to mariners at sea.

The objection to Skype is that the law requires a will to be signed “in the presence of” two witnesses, who must then sign in yours. Skype does not – yet –  meet this definition; the witnesses must actually be able to see the will, not an image of it, and nor does a remote link amount to their being in your presence.

Since the witnesses must not be beneficiaries or the spouses or civil partners of beneficiaries, it is unlikely that anyone in your own household can act. What to do?

With the better weather coming, one possibility is simply for the will to be signed out of doors with everyone able to be in each other’s presence and see the signing yet stay the essential two metres apart at all times.

But, if space is more cramped, it should be remembered that the law does allow for you to sign the will in advance and then “acknowledge” your own signature in the presence of the witnesses. In fact, it is even possible for the first of the witnesses to have signed (after you, of course!) and both of you then acknowledge your signatures to the second witness. The last witness should physically sign in the presence of the others.

It is easy to go wrong in following any variation of the normal procedure, especially if there has been any interruption. You should only do so under the guidance and direction of your own solicitors. We recommend you then send them an image or scan of the completed will so that they can check the will has been validly executed.

*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*

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