Lockdown measures posing will signing problems

Social distancing and self-isolation is posing several practical problems and limitations in the preparation and execution of wills, particularly with two witnesses required to be present, Forbes Solicitors has argued.

According to analysis by The Law Society, demand for wills has increased by “at least 30%” since the UK Government imposed lockdown.
Forbes Solicitors, which specialises in will signing, has issued advice on how to tackle the obstacles posed by coronavirus and the UK lockdown measures, and Jane Burbidge suggested the coronavirus pandemic had left people feeling vulnerable, making many “think about having something in place”, should the worst-case scenario happen.

“One of the main obstacles for wills in the current climate is that there must be two witnesses present when the will is signed,” Burbridge commented. “The witnesses, broadly speaking, cannot be a spouse, anyone named in the will, nor a spouse of anyone named in the will.

“Typically, people are in lockdown with a partner, or children, who are likely to be beneficiaries in the will and so cannot be witnesses. There are ways to have the will witnessed whilst practising social distancing and good hygiene.

“The crucial thing is that all parties are present whilst the act of signing and witnessing of the will takes place and have an uninterrupted line of sight.

“The witnesses could be some distance away, perhaps over the garden fence or down the driveway. We have heard of wills being held in place by windscreen wipers and signed on a car bonnet. We have witnessed wills on a front doorstep using an ironing board as a makeshift table.”

Burbridge also highlighted that the firm had been adapting several practices to advise on will signing during the pandemic.

“During lockdown, we are offering initial consultations by telephone or video conference via Skype or Facetime to discuss the best type of will for clients’ circumstances, and what should be included,” she added. “We are sending the will out to clients with clear written instructions on how to have it signed and witnessed correctly.”

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