April 9, 2020

Planning and creating a Will during coronavirus lockdown – your questions answered

Will writing

In the meantime, we can still deliver the service for clients. These questions from clients and our answers will hopefully assist you navigate the challenge of getting Wills finalised in the current climate. We've heard from a broad spectrum of people across all age ranges, proving that it's not just the elderly who are concerned.

Can I see you in my home?

Following government guidance, visits to homes and offices are not permitted so as to keep the chances of infection to a minimum. Instead, we can speak to you on the phone, email or meet with you virtually by video facilities such as Facetime, Zoom or Skype.

Can you visit a hospital or care home to help prepare a Will?

Will writing is regarded as an essential service under the government guidelines and those writing Wills are designated as "key workers". Notwithstanding this, it is our policy not to visit care homes or hospitals where we would not be allowed access.

Again, there is the possibility of a "meeting" by phone or by video call as an alternative. Please call us to discuss how this can be achieved should you or your family need this sort of meeting.

How can we discuss my Will without being able to meet in person?

We will ensure we still provide a great service through a phone callor via a video call. We know that for some people, a video call isn’t always possible. In those circumstances, we are taking some Will instructions by phone, but are careful to check ID to minimise fraud. Due to these increased risks, a phone meeting is usually only appropriate in the simplest of cases.

It is also useful if you have thought through in advance what you would like your Will to achieve; to help, we are providing clients with email questionnaires beforehand. These questionnaires allow us to gauge the complexity of the instructions, any potential capacity issues and determine which of our specialist lawyers should conduct the call.

What happens after the call?

Once drafted, the Will will be sent via email or, if necessary, by post to you for review. You can still contact us to talk through any questions that you have.

How do I get my Will witnessed?

The legal formalities for signing a Will are quite strict and not very flexible. You will need two independent people (who are not named or related to those named in your Will) to act as witnesses. The witnesses need to be present at the same time and see you sign your Will. You will need to think about who might do this for you.

The solution, although not ideal, is to ask neighbours to step outside their front doors for a few moments, which means that the process can be completed in a way that takes into account the need for social distancing. We're providing our clients with simple written instructions to help.

Witnessing could be completed over a garden fence or from across the road. As long as you are within the line of sight of each other, you could even sign the Will in a field if one is available!

We’ve had a few clients who are very infectious and ill. In these extreme circumstances, one of our solicitors can sign the Will on behalf of the client, who watches and confirms the process via video link from his/her bed. We can then provide the witnesses remotely.

At the moment there is no guarantee that these are validly executed Wills, but it is hoped that in these unprecedented times the Probate Registry would consider such Wills to be valid. The current view is that this is "better than nothing" and that hopefully the client will recover and be able to re-execute the will conventionally in due course.

What about a Lasting Power of Attorney ?

The reasons for making a Will are obvious, but often the benefits of LPAs are overlooked. LPAs allow you to choose attorneys to make certain important decisions on your behalf in the event you lose capacity. Using an LPA, it's possible to ensure that these decisions are taken by someone close to you and who you trust. There are two types of LPA: one for financial decisions and one for health and welfare decisions.

Finally it is very understandable that during the coronavirus crisis we will see people making Wills in a rush and without legal advice. However, please be aware that this could increase the likelihood of those Wills being challenged in due course. Do seek legal advice: it really will save problems further down the line.

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