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How do I make a Will while I am self-isolating?

Your lawyers can take your instructions by telephone, Skype, Zoom or a similar tool. However, the formal requirement to make a valid Will requires two witnesses to be present with you when you sign the Will and they must then add their signatures. The witnesses or their spouse cannot be beneficiaries or they will forfeit their inheritance.

The main challenge is how to have your witnesses with you at a time when we are being advised to socially distance. One option would be for the witnesses to stand outside your window or at a safe distance from you where they have a clear line of sight. The witnesses can watch you sign and then you could post your Will through your letterbox or leave it on a surface for them to pick up so that they can then sign their names too. If the witnesses live together then they do not need to keep two meters apart from each other.

The Wills Act 1837 requires that your witnesses must be physically present when you sign your Will and therefore it is not possible to do this by Skype, Zoom or similar video conferencing means. You may however want to video record the process by which you and your witnesses signed your Will so that you have a record of what was done, particularly if you are worried that someone might challenge the validity of your Will in due course.  You can of course re-execute your Will once social distancing has been relaxed if you are particularly concerned.

Be aware that the virus can remain on documents for more than 24 hours so it would be sensible for everyone to wear disposable gloves and in any event to wash hands thoroughly after handling the Will.

Emergency legislation may be passed regarding the requirement to make a valid Will but you must follow the current rules unless or until new legislation is passed.

Related FAQs

Does Force Majeure apply to the leasing of commercial property?

Some commercial tenants have queried whether the current situation is a force majeure which may allow it to terminate the lease. Clauses which allow a party to terminate a lease for a force majeure event or, to put it another way, an “act of God”, are however extremely rare in modern commercial leases. Even if there is such a provision in your lease, it would need to be drafted to apply to an outbreak of disease.

What does “Force Majeure” mean?

Crucially the phrase “force majeure” has no specific meaning in English law. As a result, there is scope for complex legal argument, including as to whether the effects of the coronavirus outbreak can amount to force majeure in the first place. If the coronavirus crisis deepens, force majeure provisions could become relevant in the following ways:

  • suppliers to your business might seek to invoke force majeure
  • you may need to invoke force majeure under your own contracts

Each of these will need careful analysis of the relevant contract against the applicable factual background. Unfortunately, the position is unlikely to be clear cut.

Can I progress an application for EIA development?

Where a development is considered to be “EIA development” (being development where an Environmental Impact Assessment or Environmental Statement is required to be submitted) there are additional statutory publicity and notice requirements over and above the requirements for a standard planning application. Regulations usually require that the environmental statement is to be made available for inspection by the public at all reasonable hours at an address in the locality for a period of at least 30 days. Copies of the environmental statement are also to be made available for people to take away from that address. This clearly requires physical copies to be available at a specified location for a prolonged period of time, which may prove problematic during the current health crisis.

New regulations came into effect on 14 May 2020 which will temporarily suspend the above requirements and will instead require the Environmental Statement to be available for inspection online. The applicant must however provide a certificate to the Local Planning Authority stating what steps have been undertaken to bring the application (and the Environmental Statement) to the attention of people who are likely to have an interest and why it considers that such steps were reasonable.

When does IR35 generally apply?

It would apply if the contractor uses an intermediary to provide their services or labour and they would be deemed to be an employee or office holder for tax purposes if they were hired directly by the end user client rather than via the intermediary PSC. This would of course require an assessment of employment status for tax purposes.

Contractors who are not taxed in the UK and supply their services exclusively from outside of the UK are unaffected.

If IR35 applies, tax and NIC’s should be deducted under PAYE by the PSC. In reality this has not been happening so a major reform of the regime was due to be implemented in April 2020. The changes were postponed by one year and are due to take effect from 6 April 2021.

“Within IR35” means a contractor arrangement is caught by IR35 and the individual should be taxed as an employee.

“Outside IR35” means a contractor arrangement is not caught by IR35 and the contractor status is fine.

If a member of staff does not inform me that they ought to be self-isolating will I still be liable for a fine?

Potentially no.

If an employer is not put on notice that the circumstances of a worker or agency worker are such that they ought to be self-isolating, by either the worker or agency worker themselves or another member of staff, then there ought to be a reasonable excuse, and potentially, no fixed penalty notice will be issued.