Guide to making a will during lockdown
4th November 2020
For a Will to be legally valid it needs to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, who then sign the document themselves. The current social distancing guidelines that are in place to combat coronavirus make this task more challenging than usual. But it is still possible to make a Will during lockdown, as we explain.
How to make a will without visiting a solicitor
There are many Will writing services that can be carried out remotely, without any need for you to visit a Solicitor's office. At Co-op Legal Services, we carry out all of our Will writing appointments over the phone and it's also possible to start your Will online. Once we've drafted your documents, we'll post these to you to sign and return.
Who can witness a will during lockdown?
The rules around who can legally witness a Will during lockdown currently remain the same as they were before the coronavirus outbreak. Due to the challenges that social distancing now poses, the Government is looking into ways to address this.
You need two people to witness your Will, and both of your witnesses should be independent, competent adults who are not:
- A member of your family
- A beneficiary under your Will
- The husband, wife or civil partner of a beneficiary
- Blind or partially sighted
- Without sufficient mental capacity to understand what they are witnessing
How to execute a will during lockdown
Often people would ask neighbours, colleagues or family friends to witness a Will for them, but social distancing guidelines may make this difficult, particularly for anyone self-isolating.
The Government has now introduced legislation that means Wills witnessed via video link can be valid. This should only be used as a last resort if there is no practical way for the Will to be witnessed in person. For more information, see How to Video Witness a Will.
Anyone who is self-isolating should first identify whether any member of their household is eligible to act as a witness. For example, this could be a lodger, housemate or carer.
If no one in the house fits the required criteria then the next option would be to ask a neighbour or friend if they can act as a witness. You and each of your witnesses should all maintain the required 2m distance from one another while signing the Will.
This could be carried out in an outdoor space where each person separately approaches the Will to sign within clear view of the other two. It's crucial that both of your witnesses have clear sight of you and that they are able to watch you signing your Will.
The independence of the witnesses is crucial for the following reasons:
- If a witness is also named as a beneficiary, or the witness is the husband, wife or registered civil partner of a beneficiary, then the beneficiary will lose their entitlement to inherit under the Will
- It could be argued that a witness placed the testator under undue influence – this claim is far less likely to be upheld if the witness is completely independent
Anyone you know can act as a witness providing they do not fall into the categories listed above. This could be a friend, neighbour, colleague or even two people from your doctor's surgery. As long as you take steps to adhere to social distancing guidelines while executing your Will and take the relevant hygiene precautions, then there's no reason why you cannot still execute your Will during lockdown.