Advice on signing a will, trust or power of attorney document during self-isolation
For a legal document to be valid, it must be signed by the person making the document in THE EYE-LINE of witnesses who then countersign.
However, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, arranging to sign a legal document may prove difficult due to social distancing and self-isolation.
As a practitioner specialising in Wills and Trust law, Paul Blackmoore, Managing Director of Thy Will Be Done advises below on how to navigate this problem..
The requirements for witnessing a legal document
The person who is making the new legal document must sign it in the EYE-LINE of two other people (one for Trusts and LPAs) who act as the witnesses to the document maker’s signature..
The witnesses must also sign the legal document
Once the creator of the document has signed their name, the document must then be signed by the individual(s) who witnessed the signing.
Everyone signing must do so IN THE EYELINE OF THE OTHERS. The witness(es) should also complete their details, which includes printing their name, address and occupation.
Once everyone has signed, the document should be dated.
Who can witness a legal document?
A witness should not be :
- The spouse or civil partner of the document maker
- A beneficiary of the document
- The spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary
An executor can be a witness as long as they are not a beneficiary
The spouse of a named Attorney who is not in themselves a named Attorney also can be the witness of their spouse’s signature on an LPA document.
So anyone of sound mind and over the age of 18 and not in one of the categories above is fine.
The difficulty of witnessing a legal document due to the covid-19 pandemic
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the Government putting the UK into lockdown. This means that social distancing rules are in place to minimise the interaction between people outside of those you live with to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading.
As a result of the measures in place, there is the challenge of trying to ensure that witnesses remain at the safe distance of two metres or more while keeping to the requirements to ensure that a legal document is validly executed.
It becomes even more difficult when the document is made by someone who falls within the vulnerable category and are more at risk when it comes to being exposed to the virus.
Options to consider
The following suggestions should be taken with the necessary precautions, particularly where someone is already in a higher risk group.
One possibility could be to ask your next-door neighbours to act as witnesses from the safety of their own garden. As long as you can both see the party signing the document this would count as a valid execution..
Another option could be to remain at your doorstep while the witnesses stay on the pavement, at least two metres from you. Once you have signed your document, you can place it two metres away from you. Once you are at a safe distance, invite the witnesses to sign where the document has been left separately. You may need time to place the document safely and travel to and from your door, so you do not interact.
Similarly the same thing could be conducted with both parties either side of a downstairs window so long as a 2 meter safety distance can be observed.
Essential safety tip
Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before and after touching the documents.
We hope this advice helps.
Remember, together we WILL get through this.
Where there’s a Will there’s a Way!