There has been a significant increase in the number of people seeking to make a Will or review their existing Wills during the current Coronavirus outbreak.
Whilst people are wishing to get their affairs in order, we understand that people think this is now difficult as a result of the advice we have received from the Government on social distancing and self-isolation which is particularly important for the elderly or ill.
When taking instructions for a Will, we would usually arrange a face to face appointment but at the current time, this is no longer possible. However, whilst we are not currently seeing clients, the Private Client Department is fully up and running.
We are able to arrange meetings via various means including Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom. You can also speak to a member of the team on the telephone and where possible, most correspondence can be done by email. Whilst we can now take your instructions over the phone, we will thereafter follow this up with a Client Care Letter to you, setting out your instructions. The telephone conversation is a no-obligation chat and you only proceed if you are happy to do so.
In order for your Will to be legally valid there are specific conditions which must be met and as far as the signing of a Will is concerned, the law states that there needs to be two independent witnesses present when the Testator (the person making the Will) signs the Will. The witnesses must then each sign the Will in the presence of the Testator and each other. The witness cannot be a beneficiary of the Will or a close relative of a beneficiary. Family members will not be independent and therefore should not act as witnesses.
In the current circumstances that we find ourselves in, this poses some difficulties following the Government’s advice to reduce social contact and whilst electronic signatures are becoming more common, unfortunately they are still not acceptable for Will signings.
So, how can a Will be witnessed at present? Once we have prepared your Will, we can send copies to you for you to make arrangements for suitable witnesses to be present when you sign the Will whilst maintaining a safe distance so far as possible. There has recently been media coverage dealing with ways that this can be done, for example you could ask neighbours to witness and sign the Will from the safety of their own garden and provided you and each witness can see each other sign the Will, this would suffice for valid execution.
Alternatively, you could stand on your doorstep whilst your witnesses stand on the pavement or you could sign the document and your witnesses can see you sign it through a window.
If you are unable to find your own witnesses, we are offering a ‘Drive-In’ service, located at our Bridgwater Office where we are able to witness your Will through an open window, taking into account all necessary precautions, for example, keeping 2 metres apart. You will also be able to remain in your own car if you wish to do so, as long we can see you sign the document.
Likewise, we are able to offer home visits to you and will be able to provide you with the two witnesses you are required to have, whilst maintaining a safe distance and following current guidelines for those clients that are self-isolating or unable to leave their own home.
There are various ways and means which can be used to ensure you execute a valid Will and whilst the current Coronavirus outbreak may have changed the way that people are having to go about their daily lives, this should not stop you preparing or updating your Will.
If you would like any further information, or wish to discuss the preparation of a Will, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Bridgwater: 01278 457891
Taunton: 01823 446200
Yeovil: 01935 382680