Law Society And MoJ Discuss Will Restrictions In Lock Down
The Law Gazette has reported that the Law Society of England and Wales and the Ministry of Justice have been in communication about finding ways to make the execution of Wills easier whilst the UK is in a lock down situation.
The meetings have focused on the difficulties with the current system regarding witnessing a Will.
Having a Will signed by the testator whilst being witnessed by two witnesses during a time of social distancing is proving extremely challenging.
Firstly, adhering to government recommendations means that social gatherings of more than two people is deemed unacceptable; making the witnessing of a Will non-compliant with government guidance if the Wills Act 1837 is followed exactly.
The Law Society have lodged many possible solutions, including the use of electronic witnesses or envoking a European system which allows the testator to write their Will themselves, by hand, without the presence of witnesses.
Given the unprecedented rise in demand, coupled with the obvious restrictions preventing a Will from being easily created, it is clear that the current system needs to change if demand is to be serviced.
The Law Society’s frequently asked questions concerning coronavirus have asked if it is reasonable to refuse to take instructions for emergency Wills because of the difficulties in adhering to the Wills Act 1837. The Law Society advises that it is fine to refuse instructions if the legal service provider is following government advice on social distancing guidance.
James McNeile, partner and head of private client at regional firm Royds Withy King, commented:
“Section 11 of the Wills Act 1837 introduced the privileged will which allows for members of the armed forces to draw up a will quickly when they do not have the time, resources or capabilities to comply with formalities otherwise needed. They are able to make either a written or an oral will and, if written, there is no requirement for witnesses to its execution…
“With the coronavirus pandemic moving as quickly as it is, this is seeing more people wanting to draw up a will and sometimes with practical difficulties to execution. Having a privileged will would enable them to do this and reduce concern of there not being a will in place when really needed.”