As we neared the end of 2020, the unveiling of new effective vaccines for Covid-19 brought an air of optimism and hope that the world would start to resume normal service. The emergence of new variant strains, however, has tempered the hope of an early return to normality and, although a return to “normal” may be possible in the Summer, it is important, if possible not to put off important jobs that require immediate attention. For many, this will include making sure that they have a Will in place that is up-to-date, both in terms of covering off their wishes and to reflect any changes in tax legislation.
How technology can help
The archetypal way in which people envisage making a Will includes a visit to a firm of solicitors. Although face-to-face meetings provide a good opportunity for an in-depth review of an individual’s estate, this is not always practical with our modern, busy lifestyles and, in particular, with the current concerns about the pandemic and the difficulties posed by lockdown.
Many of us have become somewhat proficient with the use of video conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. It has proved an invaluable way of staying in touch with friends and family as well as being a useful tool for work.
These virtual meetings will also enable you to conduct meetings with a solicitor and to give your instructions to make a Will. Modern solicitors will use tools such as comprehensive questionnaires to enable clients to prepare prior to the meeting and gather together their thoughts and information. A draft Will can be prepared following such a meeting and then sent (by post or email) to the individual for approval. Subsequent emails, telephone calls and virtual meetings can provide the means of fine-tuning the will until you are satisfied with a final draft.
How do I get the will signed?
You will need two witnesses who should be independent, competent adults but not one of the following:
- A member of your family;
- A beneficiary under your Will;
- The husband, wife or civil partner of a beneficiary;
- Blind or partially sighted;
- Without sufficient mental capacity to understand what they are witnessing.
If you are able to find two independent witnesses, such as friends or neighbours, the will can be signed and witnessed in a way that still complies with social distancing guidelines and includes precautionary measures. For example, if you are completing the Will on a fine day (more likely with Spring approaching!) The Will can be signed outside with distances kept between the parties. Other precautionary measures can include the wearing of gloves and not sharing a pen.
The Government has also introduced legislation that allows a Will to be witnessed via video link. However, this should only be used as a last resort if there is no practical way for the will to be witnessed in person due to some of the inherent risks involved.