Where there's a Will .......Published on: 21 May 2020
How do you sign a Will in the midst of a pandemic when you’re not allowed to be within two metres of anyone? Well, as we at Lanyon Bowdler have discovered: where there’s a Will there’s a way…
In England and Wales, in order for your Will to be validly executed, it must be signed by you in the presence of two independent witnesses, who must also sign the Will in your presence. In a recent article we looked at the difficulties in validly executing your new Will during the current COVID-19 outbreak, whilst correctly observing the rules around social distancing, and the options available to you.
Since the beginning of the current lockdown and the implementation of social distancing, we have been able to assist many clients in successfully completing new Wills during the Coronavirus outbreak, and we have seen some very creative solutions when it comes to having the Wills witnessed whilst maintaining an appropriate distance of two metres from one another.
As was suggested in the above article, several clients have taken to having their witnesses observe them signing their Wills through a window before passing the Wills to the witnesses (by placing it on the doorstep) for them to then sign. We have been told that everyone used their own pens to minimise the risk of contamination.
During the pleasant weather in April we learnt from one couple that they had their neighbours witness their signatures over the garden fence. The clients signed the Wills before passing them over the fence to their neighbours using a garden rake. The witnesses then signed the Wills and passed them back over the fence using their own garden tool – a shovel – to again avoid cross contamination. To some extent, signing documents outside in the sunshine might even be preferable to doing so in the office!
When taken out of context these scenarios would seem utterly bizarre, but during these troubling times they demonstrate creativity and ingenuity. They show how brilliantly people can adapt and find a way to ‘get the job done’ despite obstacles presented by these difficult times.
Finally, we will leave you with a moving story involving a client who discovered he had terminal cancer when routine x-rays picked up the cancer following a bone fracture.
He wanted help to prepare his Will rather urgently whilst he was still in hospital. Unfortunately, whilst in hospital he was suspected of having COVID-19, so we were unable to attend to witness his Will. Instead, we were able to arrange for an oncologist and the hospital chaplain to witness the Will for him. The Will was hand delivered through a window at the hospital to a member of staff, who then gave it to the client.
He signed his Will and was then told he tested negative for COVID-19, which was great news. But the story doesn’t end there… The client subsequently married his long-term partner in the hospital ward, thus revoking his new Will! He then instructed us to make some slight - but very important - amendments to his Will (such as changing his partner’s name and referring to her as his wife) and we sent him a new Will at no extra cost to sign. He is now receiving palliative care at home.
Our experiences since the beginning of the current lockdown show that despite these very challenging times we currently live in, there are ways of getting around these situations. If you want to talk about your Wills or any other related issues, then please get in touch with one of our experienced private client solicitors.