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Wills & COVID-19
May 2020

The legal formalities for the proper execution of a Will in England and Wales require that a person (the testator) signs it in front of two witnesses, present at the same time as the testator. The witnesses should then sign the Will after the testator has signed and in his or her presence.

Signatures are being witnessed in a variety of novel ways, including through car windscreens, windows and patio doors, while social distancing requirements remain in place.

In family homes, loved ones named in a Will are not permitted to witness a Will (nor is the spouse of such a family member able to witness the Will) as this would void their entitlement.

There are no current plans to relax the rules relating to the execution of Wills, even though the need for social distancing and the restriction on people’s movements present considerable challenges at a time of heightened anxiety (which itself has resulted in an increase in people wishing to draw up a Will at short notice).

In hospitals, visitors are not permitted at present and doctors and nurses are not allowed to bring potentially tainted documents to a bedside (and they are concentrating on medical treatment in any event).

This does mean that someone in hospital could pass away without being able to write a last minute Will.

There are rules about who inherits an estate when somebody dies without a Will. The rules of intestacy should mean that a spouse or children should be entitled but the rules determining a beneficiary’s entitlement may not be in accordance with the wishes of the person who has died.

Further, under the intestacy rules, a partner who is not married or is not in a civil partnership with the person who has died is not automatically entitled to a part of the estate.

For advice on Wills, inheritance and private matters, please contact our team on privateclient@jolliffes.com.

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