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In these challenging and uncertain times our solicitors are coming up with novel and interesting ways of ensuring we can still provide our Wills service to clients as safely as possible.
The current law still requires a Will to be signed in the presence of two witnesses to be valid. However, this presents a challenge with the present social distancing measures and when clients are self-isolating at home.
“Over the last few weeks our solicitors have improvised. From signing and witnessing Wills over the garden fence, to a make-shift office on a client’s driveway, there have been several unusual ways we by which have ensured our clients have an up to date and valid will.
“We recognise that it is, perhaps, as important as ever to have a Will in place to ensure your estate passes in accordance with your wishes on your death and that your existing arrangements are up to date. Equally, it is important to ensure that your Will is valid and meets your requirements. We may not currently be able to follow the traditional route; however, it is possible to prepare Wills and obtain bespoke advice as needed from a qualified solicitor.
“Clients should not be put off making or updating their Will at this time, as although we are unable to arrange face to face appointments at the office or home visits as we would normally, we can use telephone calls or video conferencing to take your instructions. Assuming there are no capacity issues, we can arrange a convenient appointment to discuss your requirements and then send you a draft Will for approval by post or email. We can then go through this with you again by telephone if needed, to ensure you are happy and to explain the contents to deal with any queries or concerns you may have.
“Your Wills may then be posted or emailed to you, with instructions on how they should be signed. In order to keep both yourselves and your witnesses as safe as possible, the documents may be signed whilst your witnesses watch through the window and then handed to them through the letterbox to do likewise whilst you watch them. Alternatively, you might prefer to sign in the garden or over the garden wall, for example, so that social distancing might be observed. You can then return the documents to us and we will check the completed documents are in order and place in the firm’s securities. If necessary, we can assist with a home visit if you are unable to arrange witnesses yourself. Our solicitors are coming up with some unusual, but workable, solutions to these extraordinary circumstances.”
Abigail Mehta, Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitor said “In recent weeks we have adapted to find new ways to witness and sign Wills in accordance with social distancing measures. I have witnessed a Will over a garden fence! Luckily the gentleman was tall enough so that we could see him sign the document.”
Karon Walton, Head of Court of Protection, added “My colleague Martin Banwell and I recently visited a client’s home and spoke through a window to read over the Will. The client was in her living room and Martin and I were on the driveway. The Will was handed over in a plastic folder through the window for the client to sign and both Martin and I had gloves on. A table was provided for Martin and I to sign the Will on and we all had separate pens. The client was able to view us sign outside and we could see her sign through the window. Needless to say, this is the first time we have witnessed and signed a Will on a driveway!”