The Risks of Home-Made Wills
The Coronavirus pandemic has increased the demand for Will-making. Many people have also turned to home-made Wills without understanding the risks involved when getting your Will signed and witnessed.
Some countries such as Australia have passed emergency legislation to make it easier to sign Wills. There are no such changes in England and Wales and unfortunately signing your Will via Zoom or Skype does not satisfy the requirements for a valid Will under the Wills Act 1837.
How can we overcome this in the current COVID 19 circumstances?
In accordance with S9 of the Wills Act 1837, the person making the Will must sign in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time. The government have issued strict social distancing guidelines which may make witnessing a Will much more difficult. However provided your witnesses maintain an uninterrupted line of sight with you the whole time, you can sign your Will. Therefore signing Wills over fences or through windows in the current circumstances means you can satisfy the requirements of S9 if done correctly.
Other issues to consider
Another problem that arises with homemade Wills is choosing the wrong witness. The Wills Act prohibits beneficiaries in your Will from being witnesses. It also prohibits the spouses of beneficiaries from witnessing your Will as well. Your witness must be completely independent and not related to you by blood or marriage. They must also be over the age of 18 and have full mental capacity. This can cause a few issues when in isolation especially as you are likely to be living with the people who will be inheriting your estate.
How to reduce the risk of an invalid Will?
Your Will can be contested or challenged if it has not been correctly witnessed. Therefore even if you feel your Will is simple, you need to take care following the strict rules for signing.
We are able to offer our clients peace of mind by providing a remote and efficient service for Wills. We can take instructions over the phone or via video call. Our office is also open should you wish to come into the sign your Wills and our solicitors can ensure the signing adheres to the strict rules mentioned above. If you are in isolation, vulnerable or would prefer not to come into our office, we can attend to you at home and offer a remote Will signing service. This means that two staff members will come to your home to witness the signing of your Wills through a window, glass door or in your garden.
At Watson Thomas our staff can work from home and access all systems so even if all are required to self-isolate this will not affect the day-to-day running of your case. We can also hold appointments via telephone and video link as needs be to ensure that your service is not interrupted.