We’ve come to expect that there will be challenges resulting from the pandemic in all facets of our lives – will writing is no different. We’ve put together a guide that will help you understand how the process works while in lockdown.
There has been a huge increase in demand for will writing service over the past year. This was expected as events that threaten our stability or mortality are often triggers for seeking out a will to ensure your family are set should you pass away unexpectedly and are worried about the consequences of not having a will.
While this demand has created challenges for will and probate service providers everywhere, the main challenge has come from ensuring wills are correctly witnessed according to legal standards – a process that has been disrupted by lockdown guidelines. As such, it’s important to know just exactly what you should expect from a will writers during the pandemic.
Thankfully, the team here at Romain Coleman will explain how the process currently works under current UK protocols (as of March 2021).
Despite some wills having some unique challenges or circumstances that need to be overcome, the law surrounding will writing has remained fixed for over 200 years – that is, up until September 2020. The first amendment to the Wills Act 1837 saw temporary measures brought in place to help will writers navigate the unique challenges brought about by the need to follow lockdown guidelines to ensure the health and well-being of all participants in the process.
The problem stems from the fact that wills cannot become legally binding unless there are two independent witnesses present to observe the testator/testatrix signing their will (the person signing the will is commonly referred to as either a testator or testatrix). The process is referred to as ‘attesting’ the signature and it covers the two steps involved in being an independent witness:
This is an absolutely essential part of will writing from that legal perspective as if there are not two independent witnesses present to witness the signing of the will, and to provide their own signatures, it will not be a legally valid document.
Additionally, as an ethical standard, independent witnesses act as an important deterrent to any sort of last-minute leaning by invested parties (such as family members or friends of the person obtaining the will) to change the intent of the will.
The key difficulty surrounding the observing of a will’s signing is that this requires multiple people from different households to be present in proximity to one another while the will is being signed. As you may realise, this is challenging while social distancing measures are in place.
During the early period of the lockdown, there were many creative approaches to ensuring this process could happen safely – including having the will being witnessed through the window looking out into the garden, moving furniture around, or having independent witnesses sitting in different rooms and observing the the testator/testatrix signing from afar.
However, in some instances, this proved challenging as not everyone has ground level windows nor a large amount of space in their home. Other factors – such as if someone is partially sighted or is currently in hospital – make this process all the more difficult to successfully navigate.
Thankfully, the new amendment to the Wills Act 1837 – known as the Electronic Communications Amendment – introduced temporary measures for the duration of the pandemic to allow for more technical solutions to the problem of witnessing wills during these trying times. The solutions include the allowance of video calls to observe proceedings and the signing, as well as the permissibility of electronic signatures.
With the law being archaic, there has been no considerations for our modern lives and this temporary amendment – which may yet become permanent – covers all wills made from 31 January 2020 until at least 31 January 2022. It may well yet become the standard in a post-lockdown world.
As well as being absolutely safer for all involved – as vaccinations against the virus still do not offer 100% protection – this is of particular importance to people who are in hospital and would otherwise be unable to complete their will. This is of particular importance and value in cases where, sadly, time is a factor in the successful completion of the will.
There are no regulations that stipulate that you need to use a professional will writing service as anyone can write a will.
However, while the convenience of a self-written will may seem suited to the current social distancing restrictions, self-made wills can often cause many disputes and problems for families. In fact, it’s thought that roughly 35,000-40,000 estates face issues resulting from a self-made/DIY in the UK every year.
This is often due to mistakes such as not having witnesses, not having independent witnesses (i.e. not the family or people who are going to benefit from the will) or not getting the signature process correct. As such, the possibility of having to set-up and remotely handle this process through video calls, the capacity for mistakes has increased.
Additionally, people writing their own will are not likely to have the legal knowledge to deftly navigate certain issues that may result from changes of circumstance (such as if they are subsequently married) or in cases where they want to make special provisions or instructions,
The cost of a poorly drafted will can be extremely high for some families. Tens of thousands of pounds can be lost in legal fees, tension can run high between family members and time ticks away as the legal process chugs along at a snail’s pace – even causing some assets to depreciate in monetary value.
We know times are tough right now but ensuring that your will ticks all the legal boxes will give you immeasurable relief in knowing that your family won’t have to waste time, money and emotional energy in having to sort out mistakes. Such mistakes can even end up voiding the whole will. At Romain Coleman, we provide excellent will and probate services at very affordable rates.
The peace of mind that comes from knowing that your family will be able to heal and progress through the stages of grieving is one of the best legacies you can leave – to know that they are secure and ready to tackle the future.
Our services cover basic will writing services to speciality in more complex cases where a part of an estate is being left to charity, some or all of the assets are overseas, or if special provisions are required for specified members of the family. Additionally, we will keep any physical interactions to a minimum to ensure the health and well-being of all involved in the process.
To get in touch with us, give us a call now on 0208 520 4555 or fill in our Quick Online Enquiry and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.