I WANT TO MAKE A WILL – HOW DOES COVID-19 AFFECT ME

No doubt you will see a change in the procedures now going forward.  Up to this in relation to drafting of a Will I would meet the client, shake their hand and complete a checklist to take down their instructions (see this checklist in our Wills section on our Website.  Feel free to use it as a guide). 

If the instructions are straightforward and we can advise on the basic tax issues we would complete the Will there and then in our office using some of our team as witnesses to the signing.  

Client would be provided with a draft of the Will and they would either read it or it would be read out to them.  We have found over the years sometimes persons are unhappy reading or displaying their lack of reading ability and prefer to have the Will read out to them.  If they approve it, we print a top copy on legal paper and again ask the client to confirm that all is in order.

Then, while we are all sitting at the same table, we witness the signing and dating, copy the Will and send it with a covering letter to client while retaining the original  securely in our safes.

From March 2020 on our procedure has now changed.  We still take the client to our own office but only by prior  arrangement and now we keep the 2 metre  distance in our  meeting room.  While client is at the table we would be outside the two meter guideline area.  The discussion can still take place at a distance in private.  The instructions are then prepared by Word Processing and when acknowledged  again by client it is signed by them with their own pen . The witnesses can see the signature, again standing at the appropriate  distance.

In an emergency situation recently we witnessed a Will in a restaurant carpark by passing the original Will in through a car window.  We could see the signature of our client, as did our Assistant who was parked in her car on the far side, all of us again keeping the 2 metre  distance from each other.

I would not advise sending out a draft Will by post and asking for it to be witnessed while the signing takes place.  This is a disaster waiting to happen.  There are rules for signing and witnessing and not following them could void the Will.

Remember both independent witnesses must sign in the presence of the person.  Witnessing the Will  while standing on the far side of a glass window should comply with the Rule  “in the presence of the Testator”.

The Law Society has suggested  guidelines  for solicitors in relation to drafting and executing wills during this period of self-isolation and social distancing. 

The Succession Act, 1965 is perfectly clear on this and the will must be signed or their signature acknowledged by the testator in the (physical) presence of witnesses who must then sign in the presence of the testator. Both witnesses have to be present when the testator signs but they do not have to sign in the near presence of each other, so a suitable distance can be maintained at all times. 

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