Writing a Will is a task that most people know is important. We know that putting a Will in place saves our family and loved ones from a great deal of anxiety and trouble after you have passed away. There is never a situation where not having a Will is a better plan than having one. But you may be wondering how to write a Will without leaving your home, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Will is something that never seems to make it to the top of the ToDo list. In fact, most surveys put the number of UK adults without a Will at about 60-65 percent. Of those that do have a Will, many are not kept up-to-date.
But we are now living in very unusual and uncertain times. During the COVID-19 pandemic an increasing number of people are finally getting Will writing off their To Do list. At LegalWills.co.uk we have seen a dramatic surge over the last 8 months in the number of people preparing their Will.
But although COVID-19 has made people more aware of the importance of writing a Will , it has presented it’s own challenges with tiered lockdowns and family bubbles.
But there has been some changes in the law to help people prepare their Will during a pandemic. So the question remains:
Is it possible to write a Will without leaving your home?
How to write a Will – 3 approaches
Let us start by explaining the three approaches to writing a Will:
1. Write a Will yourself, in your own handwriting, or using a blank form Will kit.
This is an approach made famous by people like Aretha Franklin and more recently Larry King. These two celebrities inexplicably chose to scratch their estate distribution plans on a scrap piece of paper.
Of course, Aretha Franklin’s Will and Larry King’s Will immediately went to court and at the time of writing both are being whittled away in legal fees. Nothing has been passed onto any beneficiary.
It’s a terrible approach to writing a Will. But of course it is one strategy for writing a Will that allows you to prepare the Will without leaving your home.
2. Using a solicitor or other professional Will writer
The traditional approach to writing a Will usually gives you a well drafted Last Will and Testament, and depending on who you see, you can benefit from receiving legal advice. However, keep in mind that not all Will writers are experienced in the law, or in estate planning.
Anybody can set themselves up as a Will writer. In the UK, it is not a protected profession. Clearly, if you see a solicitor, then they have legal credentials (although not all solicitors specialise in Will writing and estate planning). But if you are approached by somebody in a shopping centre offering £50 Will writing services, this is unlikely to be a legal professional.
There are two significant drawbacks of this approach to writing your Will. Firstly, it can be expensive, usually several hundreds of pounds to write a simple Will. But it is also quite inconvenient.
Simply writing your Will is likely to require at least two visits to the solicitor’s office. It also means that any time you wish to update your Will, you will have to pay several hundreds of pounds more, and make further appointments at the solicitor’s office. If you are married, these trips must usually be co-ordinated with your spouse’s schedule so that you can both attend together. It can also be an intimidating process.
3. Writing your Will using an online interactive service.
This is an increasingly popular approach to writing a Will because it combines the convenience of writing your own Will, with the quality of a professional Will writer. It does this by effectively giving you access to the same software used by professional Will writers, but allowing you to do it yourself.
Services like the one at LegalWills.co.uk guide you through the process to prepare your own Will by asking a series of simple, plain language questions. At the end of this, your document is compiled, based on the answers to the questions, and you then download and print the document.
Your final document must be signed in the presence of two adult witnesses in order to make it a legal Will.
How to write a Will without leaving your home?
Step 1: Decide on your approach to writing the Will
We would recommend using an online interactive service like the one at LegalWills.co.uk. You should avoid trying to prepare your own Will with a blank-form kit, or writing a free-form Will in your own handwriting.
There are many online Will writing services, and we have provided a review of some of the leading services in a previous article.
If you use the Will writing service at LegalWills.co.uk, the process will take about 20 minutes and costs £39.95.
You actually don’t need any particular information to get started. The sections of the service are as follows:
You don’t even need to complete the service in one sitting. You can save your work at any time, create a User ID and Password for yourself, and then return to it at a later date. Perhaps after consulting with some family members over a particular question.
Step 2: Download and print your Will
This step is an extremely important part of the process, and often misunderstood. Although you are using an online service to prepare your Will, there is no such thing as an “online Will”. You cannot simply create a digital version of your Will. It is also not legal to digitally sign a Will.
Your legal Last Will and Testament must be a physical piece of paper with a signature in ink. The requirements for a legal Will are written into the Wills Act of 1837. And although there have been slight amendments to the law over the years, the fundamental requirement for your Will to be a physical piece of paper has not changed.
The service at LegalWills.co.uk provides a number of different options for obtaining a physical document.
The vast majority of people simply download and print their Will as a PDF file. The ensures that the formatting and page numbering is correct. But a PDF is not easily editable, so we do offer the option to download the document as a Word file. So if there is a particular clause that isn’t quite right for you, you have the option to edit the final document. Either of these documents can then be saved as a file for printing, or to be put onto a memory stick for printing later.
Not everybody has convenient access to a printer, so we offer two additional options. You can email the document as a PDF attachment to any email address (including your own). This would allow you to send the document to a family member, or access the document from your local library for printing.
But this article is about creating your Will without leaving your home, and so even without access to a printer, LegalWills.co.uk offers a service to print the document for you, bind it, and post it to you (for a fee of £9.95).
Step 3: Sign your document
There are a couple of obscure approaches to writing your Will that do not require two witness signatures: a holographic Will, and a nuncupative Will. But let us put those aside, as they are not universally accepted.
All other Wills require you to sign the document “in the presence” of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign in each other’s presence.
This clearly presented some challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic where people felt the need to put documents like their Last Will and Testament in place, but were also told to self-isolate.
In response to this, an emergency law was put in place to allow remote witnessing of Wills. In theory this sounded like a promising idea, but in practice it required the document to be couriered around for each witness to sign. It really isn’t a very practical approach to signing a Will – we wrote about remote witnessing in a previous blog post.
It is however, still possible to sign a Will in the presence of two witnesses and observe health guidelines for physical distancing. There have been reports of people becoming quite creative with this.
But you actually don’t need to step outside. It is perfectly legal to sign your Will, step away from a table, and then have your two witnesses, one at a time, step up to the table and sign. Each providing their own pen of course.
Who can witness the signing of a Will?
The requirements for a witness are not as complicated as you may think, or have been led to believe. A witness cannot receive anything from the Will. So clearly, your witness cannot be a beneficiary within the Will. The spouse of a beneficiary is also disqualified from serving as a witness.
The witness must be an adult, over the age of 18.
But your witnesses can be related to each other, for example, a husband and wife pair. They can also be family members, just as long as they are not beneficiaries.
Put simply – a witness cannot be seen to benefit in any way from the contents of the Wil.
However, your witness can also be your Executor (this is very common when you write your Will with a solicitor).
How to write a Will for somebody else.
Yes, you can. At LegalWills.co.uk we provide an information collection worksheet.
This worksheet allows you to collect information from a friend or family member, so that you can step through the service on their behalf. Again, you would print this document, and your friend (the person for whom the Will is being written) would need to understand the document and the implications of what the Will is saying.
They would then sign this document in the presence of two adult witnesses. The witnesses would also then sign the document. At this point, it would become their legal Last Will and Testament.
What other documents do I need?
Writing your Will is a very important step, but there are a few other documents that should be prepared to get your affairs in order.
1. A Lasting Power of Attorney
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA): “Health and Welfare”, and “property and financial affairs”. Both of these documents are written when you have capacity to prepare them, and come into effect if you were ever to lose capacity.
At LegalWills.co.uk we do not have a service to prepare these documents because the government provides a free online tool. You really shouldn’t pay anybody to prepare the LPA for you.
Although the tool is free, the document must be registered to be legally accepted for a fee of £82 for each document. There is no way to avoid this registration fee.
2. An Advance Directive or “Living Will”.
Your LPA for Health and Welfare allows you to appoint a decision maker to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This can range from the type of medical treatments you should receive, through to whether life sustaining treatments should be administered or withheld.
To accompany this document it is a good idea to document your own wishes for medical treatment through an “Advance Directive” or as it is commonly called, a “Dear Doctor letter”. It often includes a sense of your values, and your preferences for terminal care.
At LegalWills.co.uk we offer this document through our MyLivingWill service.
3. An expression of your funeral wishes.
There is a common misconception that your Will should include your preferences for your funeral including whether you should be buried or cremated. This information does not belong in a Will.
Your Will is a legal document, but your funeral wishes are simply an expression of your preferences, and not legally binding. Furthermore, your Will has to go through a number of important legal steps before being accepted as your official Last Will and Testament. By the time this is complete, your funeral will have been taken care of.
Your funeral wishes should be described in a separate document that can be attached to your Will, but not in the Will itself.
At LegalWills.co.uk we provide a separate, free, MyFuneral service.
4. An inventory of your assets
Your Last Will and Testament should not include a list of your assets. You don’t know when your Will is going to come into effect, and your assets are likely to change over time. This would require you to update your Will every time you opened a new bank account, or made a major purchase. Furthermore, once a Will is probated, it becomes a public document that everybody can read. You may not want details of all of your assets made public.
If a particular item has a specific beneficiary that is different to the main beneficiary of your estate, then yes, it must be included. So if everything is going to say, your son, except for a piece of art which is going to your nephew, then the piece of art has to be included in your Will.
It does however, make sense to list your assets in order to help your Executor administer the estate. They have to gather your assets, and it is helpful to have the accounts documented so that they can be sure that nothing is forgotten. But not in the Will itself.
At LegalWills.co.uk we provide two options for this. Under the MyWill service there is a downloadable form labeled “List your Personal Details & Assets (PDF file)”. You can save this to your computer and update it whenever you need to. This is not a legal document, so does not have to be signed and witnessed.
We also have a MyLifeLocker service which is an online version of the same document. You can then set up access to the document for your Executor, so they can download your LifeLocker at the appropriate time and all the information they need will be captured in a single document.
Write your Will today
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of interesting challenges. Certainly there are now limitations on how to write a Will. But with online Will writing services like the one at LegalWills.co.uk it is quite possible to prepare your own Last Will and Testament without leaving your home.
We strongly recommend that you get started now. It costs less than £40 and takes less than 20 minutes.
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