Where there is a Will there is a Way: Executing Wills and Social Distancing

People who wish to make a will are concerned that they may not be able to do so in light of social distancing requirements and the risk that face-to-face contact now poses to their health and safety. The following considers solutions and alternatives to executing wills while adhering to the Health Service Executive’s guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene.

Taking Instructions

First and foremost, a person who wishes to make a will (“testator”) is not required to attend at a solicitors’ office to provide instructions. Instructions may be taken by phone, skype, email or alternatively by video call. It is also best to contact your solicitor to ensure that you do actually need a will, as in some cases dying intestate may also achieve the desired result.

Upon receipt of instructions, a draft will may be emailed or posted to you in order to carry out a review of its contents prior to execution. Any amendments can be discussed via any of the methods outlined above and posted back to your solicitor.

HSE Guidance & Will Execution

The HSE have provided guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. When executing a will, adherence to this guidance is essential at all times.  

  • The Law Society of Ireland has recommended the following protocol when attending at a solicitor’s office to execute a will. A person wishing to make a will is brought to a large space within an office environment. All parties should have their own pens and wear disposable gloves. The surface upon which the will rests should be cleaned and sterilised in advance of signing. The party executing the will may now do so in the presence of two witnesses who are keeping a social distance of 2 metres as advised by the Health Service Executive. Once the person making the will has signed in the visual and physical presence of two witnesses, they may then step away from the table in order to maintain a safe distance. Each witness can then sign the will while keeping a safe distance from both the other witness and the person making the will. Upon completion ensure that the gloves are disposed of upon the first available opportunity.
  • In the event that someone is unwilling or unable to leave their home to make a will due to the current restrictions then it is possible to post the will out for execution. It is always best practice that a solicitor oversees the execution of a will to ensure that all the statutory formalities are adhered to. However, should this not be possible then you should keep in contact with your solicitor who can guide you through the wills execution via Skype or video call.
  • The Law Society of Ireland has also provided guidance for attending at the home of a person wishing to make a will. The guidance states that in such cases, an individual who wishes to make a will should organise another person to attend who along with the solicitor can witness the wills execution. The will can be executed through a window or while sitting in a car. If the will is executed in a car or through a window, this must be done in circumstances where both witnesses can actually see the act of signing the will. Each witness can then sign the will on the bonnet of the car in the presence of the testator while at all times keeping a social distance. As above and in accordance with HSE advice, disposable gloves and a suitable distance should be maintained at all times.

If I live alone, how do I execute a Will?

Firstly, you should contact your solicitor who can take instructions by telephone or through one of the alternative methods described above. Upon receipt of your approval of the wills contents the final draft will be posted to your home address. You are advised to contact your solicitor immediately upon receipt of the will and prior to executing.

You must arrange two independent people to witness the will such as a neighbour. They must be physically present when you are signing the will and must also see you actually sign the will. You are strongly advised to contact your solicitor to discuss who you intend to act as a witness to your will prior to executing. In summary, you should ensure the following in relation to any witness:

  • Any Gifts to witnesses contained in will are void. Therefore a witness cannot also be a beneficiary.
  • Gifts to a spouse or a civil partners of a witness are void. Therefore your witness cannot be a spouse or civil partner of a witness.
  • A beneficiary under a will may not act as a witness.

Both witnesses must actually sign in the presence of the person making a will. It is vital that in such circumstances that you stay in contact with a solicitor both prior to and during the execution of the will. Please note that before anyone considers acting on any of the above, legal advice should always be sought from your solicitor.

Anyone wishing to read the Health Service Executives guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene may do so by visiting www.2hse.ie. Should you wish to make a will or discuss any of the above matters, please get in touch by contacting us at (01) 833 8147 or alternatively you can email us at [email protected]. Telephone, Video call and Skype consultations are available by appointment.