However, the crisis has made many people feel that it is the right time to plan for their future and that of their family by making a will, and we are now frequently dealing with enquiries about how this can be done.
Our private client advisor, Katie Birch, explains how she is dealing with clients’ specific issues relating to wills safely.
“A legally valid will is a written document that has to be signed by the person making it in the presence of two independent witnesses, who must both see each other and sign the will too. This is, of course, a challenge, but we have managed to overcome it” says Katie.
“We are all working safely and remotely and are taking instructions, at a time that is convenient for our clients, using video call, such as by Skype, which enables the transaction to be carried out in the face to face manner that we usually offer. Where clients don’t have access to a computer or don’t like to use video calling, we can deal with the instructions by telephone. Where possible, all documents are shared using email, which is completely safe due to our encrypted systems. If this is not possible, we are accepting posted documents.”
How is a will witnessed during the coronavirus crisis?
As mentioned above, your will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. During these times of social distancing, we understand that this might be difficult, as the people who are living with you are most likely close dependants and also beneficiaries. Unfortunately, a beneficiary of a will cannot witness it. If they do, the will may become invalid and the relevant witness will lose the right to any bequest within the will.
“Whilst the government has said that it is urgently looking at witnessing requirements, at present, our advisors can attend a client’s home with another person (who lives in the same house as our advisor) who will act as the second witness. Sometimes a neighbour is acting as a second witness – the first witness being our advisor. The signing of the will and the witnessing is all done safely whilst people are at least two metres apart but can see each other. When it is all finished, our advisor allows the client and any witnesses to retreat and then picks up the signed will.”
Can I amend an existing will during the coronavirus crisis?
Yes, again we can deal with any amendments you want to make by video call or by telephone. Some amendments can be made to the will itself, whilst some will need a codicil (a separate document that is attached to the existing will). Both types of amendment need to be executed in the same way as a will, i.e. signed by the person making the amendments in the presence of two independent witnesses (they do not need to be the same people who witnessed the will when it was first made). If major amendments are required, a new will is recommended. Our private client advisors will advise you on the best way to make any amendments. We can deal with making amendments remotely, in the same way as we deal with making a new will, as detailed above.
We have put as much in place as possible to help ensure that you and our staff remain safe, whilst enabling us to continue to offer the same professional and seamless private client service that we have always provided. We have now carried out our ‘at home’ wills service for several clients and have found that it is working well. Not only that, but Katie is going one step further and is also offering to do shopping for those clients who are vulnerable or unable to get out of the house.
Please contact Katie or one of our other private client advisors, Ellie Bowater or Maria Amin to find out more or make arrangements for your will to be drafted. You can also find out more about making a will on our web pages.
If you are over 70 years old, our free ordinary power of attorney might be of interest to you. Find out more here.
Author: Katie Birch, private client advisor.