Alison Fielden & Co October 2020
Unsurprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has focused the minds of those who have had making a will on their ‘to-do’ list for some time. If you’re one of those people, you’re one of many!
For several weeks now, The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice have been considering how best to update the rules surrounding the execution of wills, and whether to do so temporarily or permanently, if at all.
The current laws have been in place since 1837! In light of recent social distancing and self-isolation measures, there have been all sorts of suggestions such as, should we allow wills to be made verbally, to be witnessed via video call or to be signed electronically? However, it is easy to see how such methods could be abused. This combined with ever more valuable estates, ever more complex family dynamics, and the ever-increasing likelihood of wills being challenged, of course leads to understandable reluctance to change the rules that have worked so well for so long. The old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, certainly springs to mind.
Despite the pandemic, rest assured it is still possible to make a new will. I am still seeing clients in person at home, with of course socially distancing in place, I am also conducting meetings via telephone. Your will is sent to you by e-mail or post within a matter of days, together with a detailed explanatory letter. Once we’ve made any final changes, I send your will in the post with full signing instructions or we can arrange a further meeting at home or at our office to sign.
In most cases it is possible to sign your will with two witnesses present whilst maintaining a 2-metre distance. Where this is not possible, I will consider alternatives with clients on a case by case basis. The witnessing of a will for a person who has Covid-19, however, would of course be a challenge, making it all the more important to ensure you’ve made your will sooner rather than later.
Whilst it is possible to write your own will, it is incredibly easy for the will to fail to reflect your actual intentions, for instance certain words may not mean what you think – the word “property” alone can be extremely ambiguous! Furthermore, with so many rules surrounding wills, it may not even be valid if all the legal formalities are not complied with. You may think that you and two witnesses signing your will would be sufficient, but without specific wording known as an “attestation clause”, your will wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on.
When you consider that your will is the one document that deals with all your worldly assets and directly affects your loved ones, this is not a document that you should cut corners with.
Dying is the single largest financial transaction you will ever be involved in. At present the rules surrounding making a will have not been relaxed and therefore it is vitally important that you take advice from a qualified solicitor to ensure that both the rules and your intentions are met.
Call me on 01285 653261 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs and circumstances with no obligation.
I look forward to hearing from you.