How to ensure your Will is executed and witnessed properly
Executing a Will
It is extremely important that a Will is executed properly to ensure it is legally valid.
The execution of a Will must be carried out in the presence of the person making the Will (testator/testatrix) and two independent witnesses. When signing the Will, all three people must be present at the same time. Wills cannot be electronically signed. The Government are currently looking at changing these rules in light of the current lockdown.
Who can witness a Will being signed?
There are rules regarding who is and who is not allowed to be a witness. It is essential that these rules are followed as it could lead to parts of the Will becoming invalid and wishes would then not be able to be followed.
A witness must be independent and needs to be over 18 years old. Alongside the solicitor who prepares the Will, neighbours, friends and work colleagues are the most common people asked to witness a Will. Another option is a Doctor/GP and this is particularly advisable if the person making the Will could be considered as vulnerable.
Usually finding an appropriate witness is relatively straightforward. However, due to the current pandemic and lockdown guidelines, this can prove difficult and the rules are being reviewed to see whether an appropriate alternative can be used during this unprecedented period.
Witnessing a Will & Social Distancing
During the current social distancing and lockdown limitations, to be able to execute a Will, it is suggested that the Will is witnessed by a local friend or neighbour in your garden, on your driveway/road or alternatively, through a window.
If these measures need to be followed, then precautions must be taken to prevent potential infection. Everyone would need to abide by the social distancing guidelines and stand at least two metres apart. Further to this, everyone involved in the process should use their own pen and wear gloves.
The Will should be placed on a flat surface, such as a table, tray or even a car bonnet, if necessary. Each person can then individually step forward separately to ensure that there is not physical contact between each other. The process is very quick and once complete, everybody should wash their hands.
Who cannot witness a Will being signed?
It is extremely important that a witness is not a beneficiary or potential beneficiary named in the Will, nor should they be a spouse or civil partner of such person, as the beneficiary would then lose their rights to inherit under the Will. It is likely that people are in lockdown with beneficiaries of their Will, so it is essential that they do not ask them to act as a witness and follow the suggested guidance outlined above instead.
A witness cannot be related to the person preparing the Will, the executors named in the Will or any beneficiaries by blood, marriage or civil partnership.
It should also be noted that someone who is fully or partially blind should not act as a witness and further, anyone who may lack mental capacity should not be chosen either.
What does a witness have to do?
As mentioned above, two witnesses must be present to ensure a Will is legally valid. When a witness signs the Will, they will also need to clearly write their name, address and occupation too. This is required to validate the Will and on the rare occasion that any queries are raised in relation to the Will, a witness can be easily traced and contacted to provide any clarification and necessary assistance.
Once the Will has been signed by the testator/testatrix and two independent witnesses, the Will should then be dated. Absolutely nothing should be attached to the Will once it has been executed and it should then immediately be stored in a secure place. Ideally, a fireproof safe. The executors/executrices of the Will should be told where it is kept.
If you would like more information or advice about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of family law please contact our expert legal team on 02080040065, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the form below.
The contents of this article is general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.