WHEN IS AN ONLINE WILL AN ONLINE WILL AND SHOULD YOU MAKE ONE?
(this article was originally written in April 2020)
A lot more of us are making wills at the moment – every evening the news shows us the number of deaths from COVID19, and each of us understandably fears for our own lives and those of others. This has led to a huge rise in the number of people rushing to make wills, and in the current lockdown, many turn to the idea of an online will.
But when is an online will an online will? The fact is that for a will to be valid it has to be signed by the person making the will, and that signing has to be in the presence of two independent witnesses.* Those two witnesses must both be there with you when you sign with a pen on the paper will, and not watching you over FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, but physically with you. If they are not, then the will is not valid.
The problem is that most of us are locked in at home with our families, and they are the people who will benefit from the will. The witnesses must be over the age of 18, and must not be a beneficiary in the will, or the wife or husband of a beneficiary in a will. If they are, then they will lose their benefit in the will. So you need independent witnesses.
The very best way to make a will that you know will be written in a valid way, and that really does take into account all of your circumstances including advising you on any inheritance tax, is to speak to someone who knows how to draft a will. A telephone call or a face to face virtual interview – is this making an online will? Perhaps it is.
If your will is drafted for you by a solicitor, and then sent to you by email, and any further questions or discussions are on the telephone, over email, shared documents, or virtual meetings, is it online? Perhaps it is.
And finally, if when the will is ready, you are offered an appointment to come into an office that has been set up to meet COVID19 safety standards, and two independent witnesses are provided for you, the problem over witnesses is resolved. Alternatively, if you cannot come to the office, we can come to you if you are local, and we can watch you sign your will through your patio doors, by sitting next to your car window or any other safe distancing that suits you. Or, we can send it to you with clear instructions on how to sign your will with two independent witnesses if you have availability to them
Finally, if you wish, we can keep your will in our bank vault free of charge, and scan you a copy.
We are transparent on fees, and we carry out online ID checks to protect against fraud.
So don't be blinded by and "Online will" headline. Call a solicitor on 01702 477106 to find out more or email us on email@example.com and see our website for costs transparency www.gileswilson.co.uk.
*The law changed in September 2020 to allow virtual witnessing in certain exceptional circumstances: ask us for more details.