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Hook & Partners
5 months ago

Will Writing During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Hook & Partners

The demand for will writing has increased by 30 percent since the coronavirus lockdown began. People have become more contemplative about their own wishes and how they would prefer to support their nearest and dearest if they were to succumb to the virus. Equally, the National Will Register has reported a surge in will searches by those who wish to need to determine a loved one’s funeral arrangements when they have unexpectedly passed.

Only 40% of UK adults have already committed to will writing, and more worryingly, a third of those in retirement haven’t yet formally put pen to paper. Amongst these are people who may unknowingly pass on their assets to a separated spouse, or those who are under the misconception that an unmarried partner would have a right to inherit. Two out of five parents also wrongly assume that if both parents were to die, then custody of your children would fall to an immediate family member such as a grandparent or sibling. In the scenario that there is no will in place, it is actually the courts that would make the decision on who should raise your children.

Unfortunately, the reality is that without a legal will in place, you cannot be certain that your wishes will be carried out. To avoid this possibility, our dedicated will writing service Essex team is available for a telephone or video call consultation and can assist you in making the best choices when creating your last Will and Testament.

Will Writing Services in Essex During Lockdown

Will writing in Essex faces some challenges during the government’s quarantine. The requirements to keep to social distancing regulations make it difficult to adhere to the strict laws which set out how will writing must be witnessed in order to be legal.

In accordance with Section 9 of the Wills Act of 1837, a valid will should:

  • Be signed by the testator in writing, or by another person in their presence and by their direction
  • Be signed by the testator with the aim of giving effect to the will
  • Be signed or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the time

Witnesses must attest and sign the will OR acknowledge their signature whilst in the presence of the testator, (usually without the presence of additional witnesses) without further attestation required.

The particular challenge with meeting these requirements whilst social distancing, is with regards to the term ‘presence’. The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice have been looking at ways to potentially relax some of the legalities with regards to being present, so as to facilitate more will writing during the pandemic. However, although Scotland has already moved to allow Skype or video conferencing communication as a form of ‘remote’ witnessing, as yet this hasn’t been deemed possible in England and Wales.

Advice for Will Writing Clients

Currently, in order to meet the Section 9 requirements, it is advised that wills can be witnessed through windows or alternatively if all relevant parties are able to meet in an open space, bringing their own pens and observing the social distancing measures, then this would also be sufficient.

In situations where neither of these approaches are possible, will writing Essex clients can opt to make lifetime or deathbed gifts, which is also known as donatio mortis causa. Alternatively, you can prepare a non-binding letter of wishes which you can reasonably assume will be taken into consideration in the event of your death.

The priority during the Covid-19 pandemic should always be to safeguard your own health as well as those you come into contact with. Therefore, if your will is drawn up in circumstances that are atypical or less than ideal, then it would be prudent to prepare a statement outlining the scenario surrounding the execution of the will. Your solicitors will keep this information on file in the event that there are any challenges to your will following your death.

Hook and Partners are open throughout the Covid-19 lockdown and are undertaking will writing work as normal. Get in touch with us on 01268 692255 or email info@hookandpartners.com to find out how we can assist.