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Coronavirus: the Government has no immediate plans to reform strict Will signing formalities

The coronavirus outbreak has focused the minds of many with regard to ensuring their affairs are in order.

Making a Will is one way to ensure your wishes are properly recorded and that your loved ones are adequately provided for.  In the current crisis however, you may be worried about the practicalities of updating your Will or making a new one. In particular, signing a Will in these extraordinary times is causing difficulties and concern.

The Wills Act 1837 sets out the basic formalities for the execution of Wills, requiring a Will to be signed by the will-maker and two independent witnesses, who all have to sign the document in each other’s physical presence.  Finding sufficiently independent witnesses and following the Will signing requirements is therefore proving somewhat of a challenge.

The government have come under pressure to relax the Will signing rules in the current crisis and although they have done so when it comes to signing other Deeds and documents, they have now confirmed that they have no immediate plans to reform the strict requirements.

The requirements are in place in order to safeguard vulnerable people in particular against undue influence and fraud.

Wards are currently abiding by a strict social distancing policy in order to protect our clients and employees, as per the government’s advice.  We are therefore recommending that our clients contact suitable witnesses to arrange to sign their Will, whilst complying with the social distancing rules. We would suggest meeting with your witnesses in your street, driveway or garden and for each party to use their own pen and wear gloves.

We can discuss your individual circumstances and use our discretion on a case by case basis to make arrangements to witness your Will. However, our general policy is that we are not currently providing witnesses, except where there is no alternative.

Our experienced Wills and Probate team is here to help and support you in these uncertain times. We are continuing to provide a high quality service to our clients.

For Wills or LPA enquiries, please contact Jenny Pierce at jenny.pierce@wards.uk.com

Or click here to view the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team

 

 

 

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UPDATE October 2020

We have now re-opened our branches to clients but all appointments and visits must be pre-booked to comply with government guidance.

Availability for face-to- face meetings in branches will be limited and remote contact with teams – via phone, email or video call – is preferred wherever possible.  Our prime concern remains the safety of our clients and our staff.

Please note that all visitors to our offices must, by law, wear a face covering.

We cannot accept drop-in visits from clients without an appointment being made in advance. If you have documents for us, including for ID certification, please deliver them to our letterbox

How to get in touch:

  • Please email or telephone your usual lawyer or team, or
  • Please telephone the branch most convenient to you between 9am and 5:30pm, or email info@wards.uk.com at any time and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you.  A list of our 11 branches is available here.

Thank you.

Wards Solicitors LLP