Wills and Covid

Charmaine Watkins (Student) 

For a Will to be valid there are three main requirements, as set out in the Wills Act 1937, these are: 

  • It must be in writing
  • Signed by the testator, who is over 18
  • Witnessed by two witnesses, who are over 18, in the presence of the testator

Creating a will is important for protecting your assets including property, money and sentimental objects. A will is a legal document that ensures your wishes are fulfilled.  

However, Covid changed this. In September 2020 a statutory instrument was introduced to allow for wills to be witnessed virtually. This allows the will to be sent to the various parties and witnessed using a virtual platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This allows for wills to be executed even during lockdown. 

However, according to the government guidance on video-witnessed wills,virtual witnessing should be the last resort and people should attempt to arrange for physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so. 

A spokesman from the ministry of justice has stated; ‘We know the pandemic has made it more difficult to make a will. That’s why we are changing the law to ensure video-witnessed wills are legally recognised. These changes will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded while maintaining all the existing safeguards against fraud or disputes.’ 

Simon Davis the Law society president has welcomed this decision however has said that solicitors will need the correct training to ensure this is done correctly. And that in the long term, wider reforms for the wills Act will be needed to bring it into the 21st century.  

There has however, been more recent criticism with this reform, probate specialists have called it ‘pretty unattractive’ as the remote system can cause delays because the will has to be physically signed by three people, the testator and the two witnesses, who can be all over the country, who will need the will to be posted to each member to be signed which will cause a delay between each signature.  

She also added that there are issues with ensuring the testator has capacity and is not acting under undue influence as well as making sure the client is correctly identified.  

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on probate matters (although we do not draft wills). If you wish to book an appointment call us on 01782 294 800 or alternately email us at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk 

 

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