For many people, the current situation with COVID-19 has brought into focus the importance of having a Will in place and making sure you have done all you can to put your mind at rest in the event that the worst should happen.
We would like to offer support to everyone at this time and we are receiving lots of requests, including for advice on how to make a Will whilst respecting the Government's social distancing advice and the limits on travel in the new Coronavirus Act that came into force last week.
As we are getting a lot of questions about this, we thought it best to make this information publicly available to help you understand your options for making a Will whilst the coronavirus restrictions are in effect.
Can I make a Will over the phone or online to comply with social distancing?
We are able to offer a virtual clinic for you if you would like to discuss your options and make a new Will – there is no need to have a face to face meeting in order to take your instructions and draft your Will.
Our Partners and employees are all complying with the Government's instruction to "stay at home", and we have the technology in place to arrange a meeting with you via video conferencing facilities.
Using video conferencing rather than a phone call helps us comply with our professional obligations to check your identity when it comes to writing this important document for you, whilst also protecting you and others.
However, to make a valid Will in England, it needs to be signed and witnessed in person – the law doesn't currently let us do this part of the process through technology or over a video link.
Whilst we really hope the Government will relax this requirement during the coronavirus crisis, in the meantime we have laid out some of ways to minimise the risk of infection whilst signing and witnessing your Will.
Signing and witnessing a Will during the coronavirus epidemic
Wills need to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. 'Independent' in this context means they may not be family members or anyone who potentially stands to gain from the provisions you make in your Will - or indeed anyone who is married or in a civil partnership with a beneficiary of the Will.
In normal times, this would usually mean the drafting solicitor would act as the first witness and another member of our staff would act as the second.
The right to make a Will and to deal with your estate as you wish is fundamental in our justice system.
As a result, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that solicitors who act in connection with the execution of Wills are classified as key workers. This means that we are able to come and see you for your Will to be signed, which removes the worry of you having to locate two independent witnesses.
Of course, if we do this we will put in place all necessary measures to ensure that we do not actually need to enter your home or come into contact with you or anyone else. The law says Wills need to be witnessed, but it is silent on how close witnesses need to be, so we can witness you signing your Will at a safe distance to avoid transmission of COVID-19.
If you would like to discuss your options and arrange a virtual meeting, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will assist you in any way we can. You can use the form below to request a meeting and one of our team will get in touch – otherwise, please call us on 01752 675 500.