How to make or amend a Will during the pandemic

During this period of National crisis, is it sensible to tackle some of life’s most important tasks, protecting your family’s best interests.

Many people in Staines and the surrounding area are aware of this and have been contacting us at Dale & Newbery in recent weeks to make or amend their Will.

While the UK lockdown has made this more challenging, we have been working hard to come up with solutions to this issue that are practical for our clients, whilst also adhering to the government guidelines on minimising social contact.

As solicitors, we’re able to work from home and have all the necessary technology that enables secure working, meaning that we are still able to engage and service our clients as we would when in the office.

So, what is the best way to make or amend a Will in Staines during the lockdown?

Instructions can often be taken over the phone or via video link and then a draft Will sent via email or post for consideration and approval.

Once agreed, the Will, by law has to be witnessed by the will maker in the presence of two independent witnesses.  Neither of the witnesses can be from those who will gain from the will (or their spouse), so that would generally include family members or partners.

Obviously, the witnessing of a Will during lockdown is not an easy task but there are ways around it, such as arranging a meeting in a place that you are able to social distance, such as our car park or if you prefer to deal with it at home, in your street or garden with your solicitor and another member of our staff overseeing things, or with neighbours or friends acting as witnesses, but always keeping 2m apart.

We would also recommend that different pens are used by each individual and gloves are worn by each of the parties to protect themselves.

We are always happy to oversee the signing and witnessing otherwise we can send your Will to you to deal with at home.

Once signed the Will can then be placed in a pre-paid envelope, which we will send you, and posted back to us at Dale and Newbery.

The government has said that people can leave their homes to help a vulnerable person and we would say that helping someone who wishes to get their affairs in order at this time would qualify as long as the government and NHS guidelines on safe distancing are adhered to.

Furthermore, Solicitors acting in connection with the execution of Wills are key workers according to the Ministry of Justice guidance.

Why can’t Wills be signed electronically?

There has been a long standing concern that if wills are signed electronically that this would increase the opportunity for fraud and abuse, whereas a physical signature identifies a person with others witnesses supporting this.

The Law Society and The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) are lobbying the government to relax the witnessing requirements. However, nothing, as yet has been amended and therefore wills still require two witnesses.

Frequently, we stress how professionally drafted legally valid Wills give great peace of mind and this is especially so in a period of history many of us could never have imagined we would ever see.

Taking the time to ensure that you have a legally valid Will, which will reflect your wishes, gives reassurance that your estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes and takes the stress off your loved ones.

Failing to have a correctly drafted Will can cause terrible issues for families grieving the loss of a loved one, and problems arise more often than in the past generation due to the family unit often being more complex than it once was.

As we stated, the current climate has not hindered our ability to deliver legal services to our clients, and we are happy to help if you feel you need support and advice on making or amending your will or any other legal matter.

The Wills, Trusts and Probate Team here are open for business working remotely from their homes near Staines with all members of the team fully operational.

If you wish to know more about these issues, please contact us today.

We wish you well at this difficult time.

For the latest government advice on coronavirus, visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

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