The process of writing a will has changed a little as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This page tells you how to make sure you will is legally valid while the pandemic is ongoing.
Writing a will during the pandemic
Most solicitors and will writers have been working from home during the pandemic. You can speak to them over the phone and they can draft your will and send it either via email or post for you to approve or amend.
Many solicitors can speak to clients via videoconferencing if you prefer this to talking over the phone.
Getting your will witnessed
The main change is that witnessing the signing of the will can be done slightly differently because of social distancing guidelines. In England, Wales and Scotland these measures are set to remain in place until at least 31 January 2022 - after this date you will only be able to make new legal wills using the previous methods.
Different approaches are being allowed for witnesses to be present while you are signing the will. For both of these it is recommended that everyone uses their own pens, wears gloves, and stands two metres apart.
Witnessing through a window or open door
You can sign the will in the presence of witnesses who are on the other side of windows and doors of cars and vehicles. You can place the document on a flat surface, such as a table or car bonnet, with each person stepping forward separately to sign. After signing, put the will into an envelope before removing gloves.
Witnessing outdoors from a short distance
If you have an outdoors space each person can approach the will individually to sign within a clear view of the other two. While maintaining the recommended 2 metre distance, the most important aspect is for both witnesses to be able to watch you sign the document.
If you live in England and Wales, the Government has introduced temporary measures to allow videoconferencing as a way to witness the signing.
The type of videoconferencing platform or device is not important, as long as everyone involved can clearly see the will being signed. Witnessing pre-recorded videos is not allowed, but wherever possible the signing must be recorded and saved somewhere safe, to avoid any issues in case the will is challenged in the future.
Here is some guidance to ensure your will is legally witnessed using videoconferencing:
- If the witnesses don’t know you, they must ask you to confirm your identity on camera, for example by showing a passport or driving licence.
- Make sure the witnesses can see you, as well as each other and their actions. Hold the front page of the will up to the camera, and then turn to the page you will be signing and hold this up as well.
- Before signing, make sure the witnesses can actually see you writing your signature. They must confirm they can see and understand their role in witnessing the signing of the will.
- The witnesses then need to each receive the document to sign. This should take place as quickly as possible, as the longer the process takes the greater the potential for issues to arise, for example if you die before one of the witnesses has signed then the will won’t be valid. Electronic signatures are currently not permitted, to avoid potential fraud and the risk of undue influence.
There is more information on writing a will during the pandemic on the Government’s website.