The Witnessing of Wills During a Global Pandemic

To be legally valid, a Will has to be signed by the Will-maker in the presence of two witnesses.  The witnesses, who are also required to sign the Will, must be over the age of 18 years, have full mental capacity and must not be a beneficiary of the Estate.

In the midst of a further lockdown, where the safety of both our staff and client alike is paramount, it is advised that Wills are signed in the presence of witnesses from a safe distance, by using appropriate personal protective equipment, separate pens, adhering to social distancing rules etc.

A further option involves having Wills witnessed through a window with the witnesses having a clear view or sight of the Will-maker at the time at which the Will is signed. In such a case, the Will-maker and the witnesses must ensure that they remain safe at all times during the process and that strict adherence to the Covid regulations applies.

Alternatively, there is the option of having a Will signed via video link which allows either a two-way or three-way link with the Will-maker and the witnesses.  During the process, the Will-maker must ensure that the two witnesses can see him or her, that all parties can see each other and that all can witness each other’s actions.  It is important that the witnesses can see that it is a Will that the Will-maker is signing and that they can clearly observe the signing of the Will.  If the witnesses are unknown to the Will-maker, confirmation of their identity should be requested and shown during the video call.

As soon as the Will itself has been signed by the Will-maker, it is important that the Will is taken or sent to the witnesses as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours.  Once the Will has been received by the Witnesses, they must contact the Will-maker by video link, in order that they can witness the Will in the presence of the Will-maker.  Once both witnesses have signed in the presence of the Will-maker via video link, the Will becomes legally bound.  It is also advised that the Will signing process is recorded, if possible, where video-witnessing is used.

Due to the complexity and potential issues surrounding the Will signing process which can result in the invalidation of a Will, we strongly advise that you contact a qualified legal professional for legal advice and guidance in this regard.

If you would like to discuss any points in this article further, or would like to prepare a Will, please contact one of our Spire Solicitors LLP offices on:

Attleborough: 01953 453143

Aylsham: 01263 732123

Dereham: 01362 692424

Diss: 01379 641221

Norwich: 01603 677077

Watton: 01953 882864

Wymondham: 01953 606351