If you’re self-isolating due to the coronavirus lockdown, you may be wondering how to get your will witnessed and signed. Here are a few steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones protected.
Why your will needs to be witnessed
Your will isn’t legally-binding unless it has been signed with wet ink alongside two witnesses. Until that point, it’s simply a list of your wishes.
This means that, if you were to die without getting your will signed and witnessed, you would effectively be dying without a will – otherwise known as dying intestate.
In these circumstances, the wishes in your will would be regarded as invalid, so your estate would have to be divided up following the rules of intestacy. These are a set of generic laws in England and Wales that define who inherits your estate based on their relationship with you.
You can find out more about the laws of intestacy and what happens if you don’t write a will here.
How to get your will witnessed when you're self-isolating
Over the last few weeks, millions of people have been self-isolating to minimise the chances of catching the coronavirus – many of whom have pre-existing health conditions that put them at higher risk.
This has caused a lot of people in self-isolation to write their will using our online service. However, an essential part of making a will legally binding is signing it alongside two witnesses. According to the law in England and Wales, a will must be signed with wet ink, so there’s no way for this process to be done digitally.
If you are self-isolating but need people to witness and sign your will, it’s incredibly important that you don’t put it off. To get around this, you could arrange for both of your witnesses to watch through a closed window as you sign your will – it’s important that they’re present at the same time for this.
Then, after ensuring that your witnesses have recently sanitised their hands, you can pass your will through your letterbox. You’ll then need to return to the window to watch them both add their details and signatures to your will – ideally, they should use their own pens for this.
After sanitising their hands again, they can return the will to you through the letterbox, allowing you to put it away somewhere safe.
Who can witness your will
Your will can be witnessed and signed by anyone over the age of 18 – they don’t need to be a solicitor or legal professional. However, there are a couple of rules that need to be followed:
Your witnesses can't be beneficiaries of your will. This means that, if you've chosen to leave your estate to your partner and children, they can't witness your will.
Your witnesses can't be the spouse of one of your beneficiaries. This means that, if you've chosen to leave part of your estate to your daughter, your daughter's husband can't witness your will.
Your witnesses can’t be blind as it’s important that they see you sign your will.
How to choose witnesses for your will
When choosing witnesses for your will, it’s important to think about how far they’ll need to travel in order to witness and sign your will.
If possible, you should choose people who are close to home, or even those in your household. But remember, your witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of your will, married to beneficiaries, or blind.
If you live alone or don’t have anyone in your household who can witness your will, here are some other people you could ask:
Your neighbours Neighbours are a great option as they won’t have to travel very far to help. If possible, you should ask neighbours from the same household so they don’t have to worry about distancing themselves from each other.
Your friends If you have friends living close by, you could ask them to come and witness your will. Again, you should choose two friends from the same household if possible. If your friends are also self-isolating, you could ask if their children could witness your will – as long as they are over 18.
Your relatives If you can’t get any friends or neighbours to witness your will, you could ask some of your relatives instead – as long as they aren’t a beneficiary of your will, or married to beneficiaries. This could be a great choice if you have family members bringing you food, drink or medicine during the coronavirus lockdown.
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