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How to write your will in lockdown

Written by: James Beresford
With the government extending the coronavirus lockdown for another three weeks as the death toll tops 14,000, families are looking to protect their loved ones should the worst happen. Here are practical tips on how to create a will during lockdown.

Since the health pandemic began, more than 14,000 have lost their lives in hospital due to Covid-19.

Now more than ever, taking the time to put your affairs in order is a sensible but simple way to maintain some control and create peace of mind for you and loved ones.

As the government reminds us again and again, this disease can affect anyone, anywhere, from any background at any age.

Whether you have millions of pounds of assets to consider or live in a rented flat that you share with your partner, it’s essential to plan for what should happen to your assets.

The first thing to be aware of is that just because we’re on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t obtain professional advice regarding your will.

While it might seem that online or DIY wills are the only option, this isn’t the case. Though these may seem like the most convenient or to an extent the least expensive options, each person’s individual circumstances are just that – individual. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to a will is often not the best solution and could go on to cause problems for your loved ones later down the line eg. hidden fees for estate administration

Even though we’re currently on lockdown, solicitors are set up to work from home and can take your instructions and provide guidance remotely, to make sure you’re still getting the best legal advice for your individual circumstances.

I don’t think many people realise that solicitors acting in the preparation of wills have also been identified as key workers, meaning we are still able to travel to and from the office, and, when necessary, visit clients for will signing (though maintaining social distancing rules).

If you decide to proceed with a will, any solicitor should be able to take your instructions over the telephone and communicate by email, post and telephone throughout the process.

How can I sign my will during lockdown?

The final step to creating a will and to ensure it is valid, is for it to be signed in the presence of two adult independent witnesses. In an ideal world, the witnesses would be in the same room as you  – but the world is far from ideal at the moment.

This is going to be difficult to achieve during social distancing, though it is not impossible while still adhering to government guidelines. We would suggest you contact neighbours (or friends who live nearby) and ask them to act as your witnesses. The will can be signed in your driveway or in a garden, it is important that you are all in sight of each other.

You will sign the document first within their line of sight and leave it two metres from the witness. After you have left the will at a safe distance, your witness can sign in your line of sight (importantly, with their own pen) and the line of sight of the other witness. The process is then repeated for the second witness.

The current advice is that you should try to video the signing and witnessing of the will, in case the validity is ever challenged.

Although what’s shared here is quite a complicated approach to finalising your will, it’s the only way to stay safe while making sure your will is valid. Your will can always be re-executed with your solicitor once the restrictions are relaxed.

I can’t print my will at home, so how can I finalise it?

There will undoubtedly be a lot of people across the UK who aren’t able to print a will at home. As such your solicitor will be able to send this to you in the post for you to sign in front of witnesses and then return to your solicitor. Once the solicitor has received the signed, witnessed will, they will share a digital copy as well as a hard copy in the post and give you a storage reference number.

Importance of communicating your plans to loved ones

It’s obviously a very difficult time for many and these are conversations lots of us hadn’t intended to have so soon, but it’s essential to make sure everyone has a valid will should the worst happen.

Lots of things are unknown at the moment, but specialist solicitors understand will writing better than anyone else, and will be able to create something that works best for you and your loved ones, even during these unprecedented times.

BLM is offering a free 30-minute virtual consultation to guide you through the estate planning process and provide advice on your protection needs. There’s no obligation to take this further.

James Beresford is head of wills and estate planning at law firm BLM 

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