How to sign and witness (“execute”) a will in self-isolation

From 23 March 2019 new rules have come into force relating to social isolation. People must stay at home except for some limited exceptions. These rules are in force until further notice from the government.

To execute a will you need to sign it in front of two independent adult witnesses. The witnesses must not be beneficiaries or related to beneficiaries.

This presents an issue whether you live alone or with others. People in your household are likely to be beneficiaries or relatives.

We hope the following guide will help. Your feedback is welcome.

Points to consider when signing and witnessing your will during self isolation.

Time needed: 20 minutes.

When witnessing your will please think “Safety First”. Your health and that of any potential witnesseses is paramount. Also comply with the current rules around social distancing. Links can be found at the bottom of this page.

  1. Safety first and throughout witnessing your will – protect yourself and your witnesses

    Through all of the steps below take sensible and appropriate precautions. If you are handling a will, do so wearing gloves and/ or ensure your witnesses do. Do not share your pen: ask the witness to use their own. Do not stand within 2m of a witness. Take other precautions where appropriate.
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  2. Make sure your will is up to date

    You can make a will online or speak to your solicior remotely. If you don’t have access to a printer ask your will provider to send a hard copy.
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  3. Consider: who can witness your will

    Your two witnesses must be adults, of sound mind, and they must not be beneficiaries or related to beneficiaries. Your two witnesses must see you sign your will and also see each other sign and enter their details onto the will. They must also comply with current rules around social distancing such as not leaving the house apart from for exercise or to go to work. They should also consider current health guidelines such as remaining two meters away from others.

    If there are members of your household who are not beneficiaries or if you are a key worker and you have colleagues in the workplace they would make ideal witnesses. If not, see below.

    Couples or people who share a household can make good witnesses. They are allowed within two meters of each other and they can leave the house to exercise together.
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  4. Also consider: how can your will be witnessed.

    If you are not a key worker and there is nobody in your workplace who can act as a witness please read on.

    Your will needs to be signed in front of two witnesses. They must see you sign the will and also see each other sign the will. If you are limited to your house you will have to think practically and logically.
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  5. Use your garden

    Can you speak with neighbours who can watch you sign the will over the boundary between your garden?
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  6. Through your window

    If you don’t have a garden, can you communicate with neighbours, health visitors or others through a window? Once you have signed (in sight of the witnesses) they can take the will from a window sill and witness it.
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  7. In the common parts of an apartment building

    If you live in a flat or apartment that has common ways then your neighbours could use these areas to witness your will. Please respect social distancing guidelines and leave the will for your neighbours to pick up after you sign it and retreat a safe distance.
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  8. Do not use video conferencing for witnessesing

    A recent case in the courts found that a deed signed in front of a witness who watched the signing through a video call was not validly executed. Please do not use video conferencing or any other method like this (e.g. facetime / messenger)
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  9. Any other safe, practical and legal method

    The above list is non-exhaustive. Bear in mind the requirements for executing a will:
    (a) Sign and date the will in front of two witnesses;

    (b) Make sure the witnesses are adults of sound mind and they are not beneficiaries or related to beneficiaries;

    (c) The witnesses must see you and see each other sign the will and enter the witnesses names and addresses on it.

    If you can do this safely and legally some other way please do it. You can tell us about it so we can add it to the list.
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  10. Safety last and throughout

    To reiterate: please do not expose yourself or your witnesses to risk.
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Useful links:

You can get in touch with us through www.makeawillonline.co.uk/contact

Rules for social distancing and self isolation: www.gov.uk

NHS Guidance on social distancing, self isolation and symptoms: https://www.nhs.uk/

If you are not in self isolation you can follow the usual guide here: https://www.makeawillonline.co.uk/how-to-sign-execute-a-will/

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