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Social Distancing and making a Will

In an unprecedented time of national crisis, solicitors involved in the preparation and execution of wills have been recognised by Her Majesty’s Government as key workers.

However, due to the formalities for the execution of a will and current social distancing restrictions, Solicitors have been left in a position where they are unable to provide the public with a legally compliant Will.

Despite these issues, our team is working hard to ensure there is no disruption to Will making services during this challenging time. If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact one of our solicitors on 01274 350 800.

John Feaster, Private Client and Tax Partner and member of STEP (Society for Estate and Trust Practitioners) confirms “what had become an increasingly difficult process in the last couple of weeks, has now become almost impossible. Those facing the prospect of death and wishing to make or update their will are now unlikely to be able to do so”.

Private client lawyers up and down the country have been experiencing a surge in enquiries as our own mortality is brought into sharp focus.

Restrictions on all but essential travel, taken with social distancing and isolation for the elderly and more vulnerable in society have created a dilemma – how to deal with the practicalities of a correctly executed will.

The Wills Act 1837 still governs the formalities for the execution of a will – surely one of the most enduring pieces of Victorian legislation. This requires a will to be in writing, signed by the testator, in the presence of two witnesses who attend the testator’s signature.

The only exception provided in the legislation is for a privileged will – which provides an almost total relaxation of the requirements for a valid will made by a member of the armed services in certain circumstances.

“Given that March 2020 is a time of national emergency, unlike any other since the ending of the Second World War, now is the time to relax the Will execution formalities to enable the wishes expressed by those unable to meet the Wills Act 1837 formalities, to be followed. With the advent of technology solicitors and members of STEP must immediately be provided with the ability to act as witnesses using video calling applications and electronic signatures accepted as valid.” John Feaster, Schofield Sweeney

Our team is using innovative ways of ensuring a continuation of service, so you can be reassured that you can access advice and support when you need it. Find out how we can help you by calling John Feaster and his team on 01274 350 800 or email law@schofieldsweeney.co.uk

About the Author

John Feaster

Partner

John Feaster, LLB, CTA, TEP is taxation partner. He qualified as a tax lawyer with Eversheds LLP specialising…

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