Why lockdown makes writing a will almost impossible

The government is exploring ways to relax the rules on writing wills so people can get their affairs in order.

The Law Society noted last month that “some firms had seen business double in recent weeks as people rushed to put their financial affairs in order”, says Lucy Warwick-Ching in the Financial Times. But now we are in lockdown, updating your will is almost impossible. The law requires you to sign your will in the physical presence of two witnesses who don’t stand to benefit from it.

The government is now exploring ways to relax the rules so people can get their affairs in order. It could insist on just one witness, or not require any, says Harry Brennan in The Telegraph. The armed forces’ “privileged will” rules mean you can make a written or oral will with no witnesses required. 

Wills could be witnessed via video conferencing. Witnesses could sit behind screens or windows In the same room or building. 

In the meantime, you could draw upon the 18th-century case of Casson v Dade. It confirmed that witnesses do not actually have to be in the presence of the testator when signing the will, “just within the line of sight – for instance through a window or at a suitable distance”, says James McNeile, a partner at law firm Royds Withy King in the FT.

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