Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Law Society has reported a 30% increase in levels of interest for individuals wanting to put in place wills and complete Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). We have seen such a spike in demand.
Understandably, the gravity of the current crisis has focussed people’s minds on whether their wills are up-to-date and the consequences of losing capacity, either for a short period (such as a period in intensive care) or in the long-term. In cases of mental capacity, LPAs afford you with the opportunity to state who will deal with your finances and make decisions about medical treatment and social issues. This, in addition to people having the time to think about this, whereas during the hustle and bustle of everyday life, these are on a ‘to-do’ list for most, but get pushed down and down the list while other things, deemed to be more urgent or higher priority, get added above.
This has created a paradox as unprecedented demand for wills and LPAs has arisen at a time when we have been told to self-isolate and monitor our social distancing. Both wills and LPAs have strict requirements for signing which need to be closely followed in order for the documents to be valid.
For a will to be properly executed, the following requirements need to be met:
- The Will must be in writing.
- The Will needs to be signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two independent witnesses (who must be present at the same time).
- The witnesses must each sign the Will in the presence of the person making the will.
As witnesses cannot not be a beneficiary or a close family member of a beneficiary nor an executor, this often precludes anyone with whom you are in Lockdown being a potential candidate.
However, as is often the case, necessity is the mother of invention. Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) guidance states that wills can be witnessed by neighbours through a window or from the garden gate as long as all 3 individuals (person signing the will and two witnesses) are present together and can see each other sign. The witnesses then add their signatures, names and address in case they need to be contacted later to prove the signing of the will. Everyone would need to use their own pen and perhaps wear gloves.
We are still very much open for business and it is business as usual. The team of legal professionals at RRL Wills (which includes members of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners (STEP) and Solicitors for the Elderly) are using video conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype to take clients’ instructions.
Documents are then prepared and drafts sent to the clients via email. Once final copies of the documents are agreed, final copies can then be sent to the clients together with detailed instructions on how to get them signed and completed.
This publication has been prepared by RRL Wills Limited. It is to be treated as a general guide only and is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the law or represent specific advice. No liability is accepted for the opinions it contains, or for any errors or omissions. All rights reserved.