Disclaimer: The information about the increased demand for wills due to coronavirus in this article is intended for general information only and reflects the position in the law at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated or relied upon as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.
Demand for wills has surged in the past two weeks because of coronavirus fears. According to a study by financial consultancy deVere Group, demand for wills jumped by 76% in the past fortnight, as the pandemic exerts a ‘collective focusing-of-minds effect’.
However, client safety is being put at risk by the need to sign and witness wills in person. Current laws around the execution (signing) of wills have been in place since 1837 and require a testator’s signature to be witnessed by two individuals in person. A will that does not comply with these formalities will not be valid (although there are some very limited exceptions to this rule).
The requirement for a signature to be witnessed in person by two other individuals conflicts with the UK Government’s social distancing measures and is particularly problematic for elderly and vulnerable individuals who are currently self-isolating.
There are demands for the government to change the law to allow for electronic signatures or for the lawyers to sign on a person’s behalf and witnessing to take place via video conferencing. Talks between the Ministry of Justice and the Law Society about a major overhaul of probate legislation are still ongoing.
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