Wills witness requirements during Coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis is seeing more people wanting to draw up a will and sometimes with practical difficulties to execution. Currently a will must be signed by the testator and two independent witnesses, which has become difficult under the current crisis.

To relax this process and make it easier, the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are discussing ways to deformalise the signing of wills. Among the options on the table are an Australian-style approach which would give judges more flexibility when deciding what constitutes a will; a European-style system where testators could write wills by hand without witnesses; and a process where wills could be witnessed electronically. 

Firms are now taking instructions from their clients via skype, facetime, email, zoom conferencing. Solicitors have been urged to take additional precautions when executing wills like asking the clients to bring their own pens for signing off their wills, using gloves etc. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the signing of wills are now being witnessed by solicitors through the windows of clients’ homes and their cars.

It is unclear whether new legislation would be revoked once the coronavirus crisis is over as the existing laws around the signing of wills have been in place since 1837.

We expect that this is resolved quickly so that the process becomes more practical and easier both for the public and the solicitors.