Getting your Will witnessed during lockdown?

Getting your Will witnessed during lockdown?

Posted 02 April, 2020 at 10:51

Author Matthew Wildeman on behalf of MW Estate Planning

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If you have a Will or Codicil (amendment to an existing Will) that need to be witnessed, called Attestation, then isn’t straight forward during these troubled times.

Under the requirements of section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 the person making the Will, Testator, must sign or acknowledge their signature in the presence of at least two witnesses, together at the same time. The witnesses must be 18+ of sound mind and can’t be a beneficiary of the Will or married to a beneficiary of the Will. Therefore, immediate family members are unlikely to be able to witness the Will. Without the Will being witnessed and dated correctly it is not a legal document.

So how do you get your Will witnessed then?

The answer is carefully!

There is a precedent in a very old case law, Casson v Dade (1781). In this case it was established that a Will was valid where the witnessing had taken place through a window, so while the testator and their witnesses were not actually in the same room, they did see them sign the Will. How does this work?

The “Window Method”:

  • Pass the Will through the letter box for the Testator (person making the Will) to sign in front of the window while the two witnesses watch from outside
  • Then passing the Will back through the letterbox for the two witnesses to sign while the testator watches them sign through the window

This could be difficult to arrange as you will need to arrange two independent witnesses, friends or neighbours are fine, to witness you signing through a window or patio door. It is understandable that people might be reluctant to do this during social distancing rules.

The COVID19 crisis has highlighted the antiquated rules surrounding signing of Wills and other legal documents and there is talk of changes to the law to allow video witnessing or possibly online options. However, it is vital that the correct safeguards are still in place to protect frauds, it is unlikely any changes will happen for quite a while yet.

In the meantime, the only way is to either wait until the crisis is over or use the “Window Method”.

If you want any help or advice about Wills or Powers of Attorney then please get in touch for a free consultation.

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Matthew has worked as an Estate Planner for over 8 years. Initially he was the Senior Estate Planner and Will Writer for a large national financial services company. In early 2015 Matthew decided to break from this IFA firm and setup his own company, MW Estate Planning Ltd. As well as over 8 y...


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