Is it Possible to Update our Wills whilst Self-Isolating

It is right that you should make and record your wishes in a will, particularly during these uncertain and dangerous times. 

Unfortunately, a will cannot be created by email. The English law requirements for executing a will are strict, and contained in statute. 

There has been recent press releases, indicating that there will be a relaxation of these rules, but at this moment The Ministry of Justice, although agreeing to look at the issue, has not made any changes, and the law remains the same. 

The testator (the person making the will), must sign the will in the physical presence of two witnesses, who testate the testators signature by signing the will themselves. 

An e-signature cannot be used by the testator to sign a will, and it cannot be witnessed via video call or other digital means. 

Please remember that beneficiaries and their spouses, must not act as witnesses, as this could preclude them from inheriting under the provisions of the will. 

Case law which we are bound by, suggests that the testator and the witnesses being in each others line of sight, would be enough to satisfy the requirements of ‘presence’. It could therefore be possible to maintain social distancing practices, while executing the wills by, for example having the witnesses present in an a joining room, as long as they are visible to the testator, and vice versa. It has also been suggested that witnessing through a window could work. 

An important practical point, is to keep a note of who is present, where and in what circumstances and capacity they are acting. This record will be useful evidence should the will later be challenged, on the grounds of validity or undue influence being exerted on the testator. 

For testators with a connection outside England, there could be alternatives. 

In some cases, for the will to be valid in England, it is enough that it is valid under the law of another jurisdiction. For example France and other Civil Law jurisdictions (mainly in Europe) recognise hand written wills signed by the testator, without witnesses, giving more flexibility where those circumstances apply. 

As always if you require assistance please contact us.