COVID-19 Making A Will In A Pandemic

Each week on Thursdays, between 9-10AM, we join The Law Society’s #SolicitorChat on Twitter to answer questions about various legal matters.

This week’s subject is Making A Will In A Pandemic – @SolicitorChat says:

“In light of current circumstances, many people may be considering making or updating their will. But who needs to make a will? And how can a solicitor help someone to make or update their will during the Coronavirus pandemic?”

The questions explored in today’s chat are listed below, with fuller answers than appear during the Twitter chat from a member of our Wills & Probate department, Stephen Morgan.

Can people still make or update their will during the Coronavirus pandemic? How can a solicitor help?

Wills can of course still be made, but adaptations such as our Mobile Will Signing Service have had to be put into place.

Right now, we recommend that if you want to make a new Will or update an existing one, you should make the necessary arrangements without delay, as nobody knows what the future holds, and it may not be possible to put your intentions into effect.

The main issue, particularly if you are shielded, is to ensure that your Will is validly executed (formally signed) in the presence of two independent witnesses whilst respecting the social distancing requirements.

Even if a Solicitor cannot attend the execution, we they can give clear instructions about the way in which the Will should be executed, a service which Jordans is offering.

The Solicitor can check afterwards that the process has been correctly followed.

Jordans offer a Mobile Will Signing Service where we can supply independent witnesses, albeit whilst still complying with the requirements of social distancing.

How can a client instruct their solicitor in relation to their will during the Coronavirus outbreak?

We consider that it is vital to have a face to face meeting to take your initial instructions.

During this meeting, we would verify your identity, ensure that you have sufficient understanding to make your Will, and review your circumstances with you to ensure that your proposed Will fully meets your requirements.

Ideally we would meet in person but this is currently not possible.

At Jordans Solicitors we are undertaking all our initial Will instruction meetings by video call and (so long as you have access to a smartphone, tablet or laptop) will be able to assist you in setting up the call on your device.

What solutions are being found to make sure a will is properly witnessed during the Coronavirus outbreak? Why is this important?

Put simply, your Will will not be valid unless it has been properly witnessed.

There has been talk about the witnessing requirements being relaxed during the outbreak, but so far they have not been.

Our advice is that it is usually possible for your witnesses to be sufficiently close to you to be deemed to be in your presence, whilst still complying with the distancing requirements.

This can be actioned by all parties meeting outdoors and taking turns to approach the Will to sign.

If you are shielded and you are concerned this with this approach then an alternative could be to sign through an open or possibly even closed window of your house or even car.

There is a risk if a Solicitor is not present, that the correct process may accidentally not be followed, invalidating your Will.

Therefore, the team here at Jordans strongly suggest to clients that we provide at least one independent witness to lead the process.

We also strongly advise that the whole process is filmed as this could give useful evidence that all witnesses were reasonably in your presence when you signed, as well as give us the opportunity to check the process if we were not present.

Some people may be tempted to write their own will during lockdown, what are the risks of doing so?

The same risks apply in relation to home made Wills as would apply in more normal times:

  • your Will may not deal with all the assets in your estate, and may not appoint suitable executors and guardians
  • it may contain mistakes which means that it does not have the intended effect, and it may not be validly signed
  • there can be a higher risk of the validity of home made Wills being challenged, for example on the basis that you did not have sufficient understanding to make a valid Will or that you were unduly influenced (strongly coerced) into making the Will
  • there may be valuable opportunities available to you through your Will which you may overlook if you are unaware of them
  • instructing a solicitor to make your Will will give you protection against these risks and may help you identify opportunities to protect your assets the value of which greatly exceeds the cost of instructing a solicitor in this regard.

What tips would you give to someone who wants to make or update their will during the Coronavirus pandemic? Why should they use a solicitor?

We have 8 main tips – they are:

1. Do not delay making a Will if you wish to make one. It could get harder to put a Will in place if the social distancing restrictions are tightened. Hopefully it will not happen, but if you delay making a Will, it may not be in place at the time it is needed.

2. Do instruct a solicitor to ensure that you put in place a valid Will which fully meets your requirements and minimises the risk of it subsequently being challenged.

3. Do ensure that your initial instructions are taken on a face to face basis with the solicitor.

4. Ideally, arrange for the solicitor to be present when your Will is signed. If this is not possible, follow their instructions exactly and video the whole process.

5. Do not use any family members or anybody named in your Will as witnesses. This could invalidate gifts to them in your Will.

6. Currently it is possible for independent to meet you outside your house to sign your Will whilst observing the social distancing requirements. If you wish to execute your Will through a window, it is vital that you take detailed advice to ensure your witnesses are reasonably in your presence.

7. It would be sensible for your witnesses to wear gloves, to use their own pen, and not to touch your Will (other than with their pen). You may also prefer that they wear a face mask (although if the process is videoed it would be helpful if they show their face to the camera at least once).

8. Do return your Will to your solicitor after it has been executed so that they can check it and also store it on your behalf, but it may be sensible to deliver it by hand or post it by secure delivery to their office rather than posting it by normal unsecured mail.

 

Do you need advice about Wills & Probate?

If so, our Wills & Probate team are here to help during this difficult time for everyone.

With so much to deal with in a document as important as a Will, appointing a Solicitor you can trust is essential.

Here at Jordans Solicitors, we’ve been supporting people with their legal needs for over 70 years.

If you need advice about your will, or a probate matter, just telephone 01924 387110 or 033 0300 1103 and our expert team will be able to assist you further.


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