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COVID-19: Making a new Will

We are now three weeks into the government's advised lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, something that none of us could ever have imagined experiencing in our lifetimes. As we are all starting to adjust to the “new normal”, many of us are using this time to start to get our affairs in order. Law firms across the UK have seen an increase in interest in Wills and Powers of Attorney, with many wondering whether it is even possible to attend to these matters during these uncertain times.

Taking Will Instructions

While the social distancing guidelines have certainly had a massive impact on the way in which solicitors carry out their work, as the vast majority are now working remotely from home, here at HCB this has actually had very little impact on the way in which we conduct our Wills service. At HCB Cardiff we have always had clients based all over the UK, so we are well-practiced in offering a remote Wills service over the phone and by email.

As solicitors, we have a duty to assess the capacity of each and every client, to ensure that they understand what they are doing, that their instructions are their own and that they are not being coerced or unduly influenced in any way. Where we are currently unable to meet clients face-to-face, it is essential that we speak to clients over the phone to go over their instructions, even if all other communication takes place via email.

Formalities of instructing a solicitor to prepare your Will

As with usual practice, we need to verify the identity of all clients. This is more difficult where we are unable to meet with a client in person, but as a firm we are very well equipped to verify a client’s identity electronically. We would therefore ask all clients to provide us with two forms of ID from the usual list by sending us a copy of the original documents. We can accept these copies through the post, scanned by email or even a good quality photograph sent by email.

Witnessing a Will

The law governing how a Will is to be witnessed and executed is set out in The Wills Act 1837, which dictates that a Will is to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses and that this must be done in person. While it has recently been accepted that electronic signatures can be accepted on deeds and contracts this does not yet apply to Wills and Powers of Attorney. The fact that the procedure for the execution of Wills has not caught up with the modern age does make finalising a Will more difficult in the present climate. 

While normally clients could attend the office and we would witness their signature, or our remote clients would take their final Wills into work and ask their colleagues to witness them signing, we now need to be a bit more creative.

We have had many client raise their concerns as to how they can get a new Will in place during the current lockdown. However, it is entirely possible to correctly execute your Will with independent witnesses whilst still following the social distancing guidelines. For example, many of our clients have asked their neighbours to witness their signature over the garden fence or even through the window all while staying safe and not having any close contact. 

When we send out the final Wills to clients we always provide detailed instructions as to how to legally execute a Will, however, at the moment we are also actively encouraging clients to call us at the time of signing so that we can ensure that it is being done correctly and advise on how to do so safely.

We are here to help

If you would like to make a new Will or simply update your existing Will, please do not hesitate to contact us and we can go through the process with you in more detail and reassure you as to how it can be done safely and does not have to be as complicated as you may fear.

Our Private Client team are more than happy to help you with all matters relating to Wills, Powers of Attorney and Probate so if you have any questions then please do get in touch through your local office