As with many services, the impact of Coronavirus has meant that new ways to execute documents which require witnessing are having to be considered. This is the case in relation to the execution of Wills which have become increasingly urgent in the wake of the Covid – 19 virus. The firm is currently still offering a Will writing service however we are unable to meet with clients in person at the moment as we do not wish to put you, or our team, at risk during this difficult time. However as long as you are able to arrange for two witnesses to sign your Will with you, at a distance, under the “social distancing” rules, such as neighbours or friends, then this would allow you to formally execute your Will.
Unfortunately, we have heard from a number of clients that obtaining the assistance of two independent witnesses to witness them signing their Will in line with the execution rules set down in 1837 is proving difficult, especially for those in care homes and hospitals as well as those who are self-isolating or vulnerable is very difficult. To counteract this, the Law Society and Ministry of Justice are discussing ways to deformalise the signing of wills, in an attempt to speed up the process and remove the need for clients to have two witnesses.
This is expected to be announced very soon and the options being discussed are:
- an Australian-style approach, which would give judges more flexibility when deciding what constitutes a will;
- a European-style system, where testators could write wills by hand without witnesses or
- a process where wills could be witnessed electronically.
It is not yet clear whether any change to the legislation rules surrounding the execution of Wills, will be temporary and revoked once the Coronavirus is over, but as any new processes are announced, we will endeavour to provide our services to all, as long as we can do so in a way that is safe for all those involved.