July 2, 2020

Is it time to review a lockdown Will?

Complications have naturally been presented by lockdown, in circumstances where there are strict requirements for making a valid Will. These include the need for two witnesses to sign the Will, who are present at the Will signing, both with the person signing the Will and with each other. The consensus amongst legal experts is that this means physical presence, so not merely being 'present' through FaceTime or Zoom. Further, whilst any adult may act as a witness, if those witnesses are also beneficiaries to the Will, they will not be entitled to benefit.

Royds Withy King managed to circumvent such issues during lockdown – with steps including Wills being passed through windows or over the garden fence to neighbours. However, for those who attempted to make Wills without legal assistance, there will no doubt have been issues, particularly in relation to the requirements for witnesses.

Unfortunately, the rules governing the execution of Wills (contained in the Wills Act 1837) could not have anticipated advancements in technology, nor the challenges that might be faced during a global pandemic. Whilst there are continuing calls for the legislation to be brought into line with the modern world, any change is some way off.

In the meantime, it would seem these issues are likely to lead to yet more expensive and distressing disputes over the validity of Wills. In order to avoid this, with lockdown easing, now would seem a sensible time to review Wills made at home over the past few months.

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