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?
The legal statute that describes the requirements for signing your Will was written in 1837. That same year, Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, Michigan became the 26th US State, and Samuel Morse invented the telegraph.
It was a long, long time ago.
The 1837 Wills Act states that in order for a Will to be valid:
(a) it is in writing, and signed by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction; and
(b) it appears that the testator intended by his signature to give effect to the will; and
(c) the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time; and
(d) each witness either—
(i) attests and signs the will; or
(ii) acknowledges his signature, in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of any other witness),but no form of attestation shall be necessary.
So let us break down exactly what this law means. And discuss the implications of this law in 2020, with particular consideration of COVID-19.
“A Will must be in writing”
In the context of the Wills Act, this means that you must write it down. You cannot verbally tell somebody what you would like done with your possessions. If you simply tell somebody, it is not compliant with the Wills Act, and a verbal promise has no legal standing.
We are in the midst of a very strange time with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are being asked to “self-isolate”, some people are being quarantined, and thoughts are turning to estate planning and getting one’s affairs in order.
We get this question a lot: “Can you let me know how to make a Will for my parents, or an elderly neighbour?” You may have a friend or family member who needs a Will, but they are not very good with computers. You have heard horror stories about the blank DIY Will Kits and how they don’t produce quality final documents. Surely there must be another option.
You may also be thinking about creating a Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs, or a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Wellfare. Perhaps you’re even considering an Advance Directive.
You may not want to book an appointment with a solicitor. You certainly don’t want strangers coming to your door (or your elderly parent’s door) offering to write a Will. Is it possible to prepare documents for somebody else without an appointment, and without leaving one’s home?
Let’s be clear from the outset. The person that you intend to prepare the Will for must have testamentary capacity. It’s one thing for them to not like computers, but if they are struggling with a cognitive illness like dementia or Alzheimer’s, then this is a non-starter. The person must know that they are working with their Last Will and Testament, they must understand the contents of that document, and they must appreciate the implications of what they are signing.
We would also recommend steering away from this approach if you are planning on making yourself a beneficiary in the Will, particularly if other people have an expectation that they will be beneficiaries, but are going to be disinherited. For example, if you are one of three siblings, and you want to help your elderly mother prepare her Will leaving everything to yourself, there is a good chance that the Will is going to be challenged and ultimately rejected by the courts. Likewise, if you are a care provider and planning to include yourself as a beneficiary, we would not recommend taking this approach.
Most UK adults do not have a Will. It’s unfortunate because every adult needs a Will and you shouldn’t wait until some time in the future. A Will should be written whilst you are young, and updated throughout your life. Fortunately, now there are great options to make a Will online.
Traditionally, making a Will was an expensive and inconvenient process. It involved booking an appointment with a solicitor, co-ordinating schedules with a spouse or partner, and then making a follow up appointment for the document signing. The process was also expensive costing several hundreds of pounds to prepare the Will, and several hundreds more every time the document had to be updated.
If you are very lucky, you may be able to find a solicitor who will visit you at home. But this can still be intrusive, and this approach makes it difficult to update your Will over time.
How to write a Will at LegalWills.co.uk
Most people know that they need a Will, but according to recent statistics, as many as 30 million UK adults have not made a Will. According to this report; more than half of UK adults don’t have a Will, but only ten percent of those have not even considered it.
This report breaks down the numbers of people who do not have Will. Continue reading