In this second of two articles, Sarah Loveless, a Solicitor, Trust and Estate Practitioner and a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, considers the practical steps to be followed in making Wills and LPAs during the COVID-19 lockdown. To contact Sarah direct, please email her, or complete the contact form at the foot of this page.
See also – COVID-19: Should I update my Will now?
If the experience of us and other law firms over the last month or so is anything to go by, COVID-19 is serving to focus the minds of many of us on putting our affairs in order. Indeed, the number of new enquiries from people wishing to make or update Wills and/or Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) is unprecedented.
A concern in the legal profession is that any delay caused by the current demand, coupled with the need for social distancing, will mean people may feel pushed towards the circling sharks – those unqualified, unregulated, expensive (watch out for all the hidden charges) and often uninsured individuals who describe themselves as ‘Will Writers’.
Although our offices are closed, we are continuing to work remotely.
Current remote procedure for:
In the normal course of events, it would be highly unusual for us to take instructions on Wills and LPAs anything other than face-to-face. This is because we are under a professional duty to consider:
- whether a client is giving instruction of their own free will; and
- whether they appear to have mental capacity.
Also, a face-to-face meeting makes it far easier for us to obtain as much information from you as possible to ensure that we:
- fully understand what you wish to achieve; and,
- can better advise you on the implications of carrying out your wishes.
But we recognise that these are far from normal times and, heeding government advice, we have taken the decision to suspend all appointments in person for the time being.
Current or former clients
Nevertheless, if you are an existing or former client of this firm and we have met with you in person before, or you have provided us with your identification in the past, we can take instructions from you remotely in the following ways:
- Skype – Video Call;
- FaceTime – Video Call;
- WhatsApp – Video Call;
- Over the telephone.
For any new client, before we can accept your instructions, we are required to verify your identity before we can carry out any work on your behalf. In these uncertain times, we have adopted the following procedure for doing that.
You must provide a scanned copy or clear photograph of your passport, driving licence or travel card plus a scanned copy or clear photograph of a recent utility bill or bank statement; not more than three months old. In addition, you must show us these exact documents to us via video call (Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp).
Once we have copies of your ID on file, we can begin work on your behalf.
In doing so, however, it is vital when we take instructions on your Will that nobody else is present, other than you, unless you and your spouse or partner are making mirror Wills, when you can, of course, both be present.
In all cases, what happens next?
Once we are satisfied that we have received clear instructions from you, we will proceed to draft your Will, which we will then send to you by email. This will be accompanied by our Will explanation letter to explain the meaning of each clause in detail.
After you have read it through and, subject to any amendments, a hard copy will be posted to you for signing and witnessing, together with detailed instructions on the legal requirements for doing that. If a time comes when we are unable to post the document to you, we will send it by email.
If you are self-isolating and are concerned that you do not have the two independent witnesses required to make the Will legally binding, please do contact us and we can discuss this further.
It is important to note, however, that while discussions are ongoing between the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice to temporarily deformalise the signing and witnessing of Wills, currently the normal strict requirements remain.
Storing your Will safely
It is usual practice that we store your original Will in our firm’s strong room for safe keeping and send to you a copy of your Will for your records; therefore, once the Will is signed and witnessed, we advise clients to return the document to us as soon as possible.