In the current Coronavirus pandemic many people are considering making or updating their Will. Our Wills, Trusts and Probate trainee solicitor Lauren Crosby recently took part in the Law Society Twitter #SolicitorChat session to discuss how it is still possible for clients to make or update a Will during the coronavirus pandemic.
Q1. Can I still make or update my Will during the Coronavirus pandemic?
Yes! We appreciate in these uncertain times people will want to make sure their affairs are in order. We are still able to complete the process of making or updating your Will and have adapted our working practices in line with the Government guidelines, allowing us to work from home but still providing a full comprehensive service with our clients.
CASE STUDY: Amy Taylor recently acted for a client who was self-isolating due to COVID19 as she suffers from COPD and only has 45% lung capacity. Amy needed to reassure the client that our process could be adapted to meet her needs with all draft documents exchanged via email and meetings conducted through video call. The client was very anxious about receiving the final document in the post for signature as she did not want to touch any incoming mail for fear of contracting the virus from paper. Amy arranged for final documents to be printed by the client’s neighbour (with the agreement of the client) and provided instructions for a ‘no touching’ signature process.
Q2. How can I instruct a solicitor in relation to making a Will?
You are able to speak to a member of the Wills team via telephone or email in the first instance, calls to all our offices are being dealt with as usual and are being passed to relevant members of the team.
Although the team are now working remotely, we have systems in place to conduct meetings via video link using Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp video. If this is not convenient, we are able to take instructions via the telephone. A member of the team will then draft your Will and send it to you for your approval via email or post where email is not possible.
Q3. What solutions are being found to make sure a Will is properly witnessed during the Coronavirus pandemic? Why is this important?
The law hasn’t changed and it’s important to follow the strict rules to ensure a Will is properly witnessed during the Coronavirus outbreak.
If a Will is not properly executed it will not be legally valid and therefore your estate may not pass in accordance with your wishes. For example, if you have not made an earlier Will your estate will pass according to the statutory intestacy provisions. These are inflexible and can often work unfairly. Alternatively, if you have made an earlier Will it may not include family members that have been born since you made your Will e.g. grandchildren.
A Will must be signed in the physical presence of two witnesses who must also sign in the physical presence of the person making the Will.
- One solution to this is for the Will to be signed by the Testator and two neighbours, with each neighbour standing near to their boundary so they are in sight of one another but whilst still maintaining social distancing. For example, standing near a shared hedge/fence or on a shared driveway. Each individual can then sign the Will in turn, whilst maintaining a safe distance.
- Another option is for the witnesses to view the Testator signing through an open glass window or door. A Will signing could also take place in a garden with each individual maintaining social distancing.
We suggest that each individual uses their own pen when signing.
Our previous article on practical tips for making a Will during the coronavirus reviews in greater detail how to ensure signing and witnessing Wills remain legal in the current climate.
Q4. Some people may be tempted to write their own will during lockdown, what are the risks of doing so?
Whilst making a Will yourself may seem like an easier option during lockdown there are risks to doing this. The validity of a home-made Will, or one prepared by an unregulated Will-writer, is much more likely to be challenged than a Will made by a solicitor.
There are strict rules for signing Wills, which must be observed in order for your Will to be valid. These can often be overlooked when using DIY Wills kits. In addition, if there is any doubts about the capacity of the person to make the Will, e.g. they are ill, becoming frail or forgetful, or there is a possibility that they have been coerced into making or changing their Will, the Will may be challenged as being invalid. These factors are often not considered when using DIY kits or unregulated services.
Creating a Will using a DIY kit or an unregulated service also runs the risk of containing errors, such as inadvertently using legal terms which have a different effect than intended. A legally trained professional can advise on any issues throughout the process of making your Will and provide you with the best advice.
Although a DIY Will kit or a Will through an unregulated service may seem like a better and cheaper deal it could leave your estate open to greater costs if your Will is later challenged or if the Will is not valid. See our previous article on Why the “DIY” approach might cost you in the long run
Q5. What tips would you give to someone who wants to make or update their will during the Coronavirus pandemic?
There are many important factors to consider when making a Will. A Solicitor is able to take detailed background information, which highlights any potential issues so these can be addressed at an early stage. They can then prepare a Will for you that is tailored your own circumstances.
Our Will Planner contains information to consider when making or updating your Will and is a good place to start; we ask all our clients to complete our Will Planner ahead of our initial meeting as it means we are fully prepared and can assist with creating your Will as easily as possible.
For additional Q&A, please see our Coronavirus: Wills and Probate Frequently Asked Questions article.
If you would like to speak to a member of our specialist Wills, Trusts and Probate team about our Q&A: Making a Will in a pandemic, please do not hesitate to us on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01379 652141.
*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.