Are you writing a lockdown will? Here’s a few things to consider

Since the Coronavirus outbreak, the number of enquiries relating to wills and Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs) has significantly increased. If you are considering one of these documents during lockdown, you might want to take a few things into consideration first.

Social distancing

The first thing to consider is that your will and LPA will need to be witnessed by a signatory. The Wills Act 1837 states that to be valid a will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses so that all three individuals – will maker and witnesses – are present together. It means you will need someone to physically sign the document whilst in your presence - someone not in your household, or someone who is related to you. The witness also cannot be named as beneficiaries in your will or related to any beneficiary

With the rules surrounding social distancing, getting those signatures could prove tricky. But, people are turning to a number of creative ways to get the signatures they need. We’ve heard stories of people sitting in a car, whilst their witness signs paperwork secured to the windscreen by one wiper. We’ve also heard people taking it in turns to approach garden tables and passing paperwork over walls and through windows. As long as all three are present together and can see each other sign, this is deemed as acceptable.

Solicitors for the Elderly and the Law Society are pushing the Government to pass emergency laws to relax the witnessing rules. Soldiers on active service have long been able to make a will without witnesses and the law may be changed quickly to extend this privilege to all. This is not necessarily a sensible option as it is highly likely to lead to more wills being challenged and family disputes. However, for the foreseeable future, all wills still require two witnesses.

Remember to prepare

Downs Solicitors has been able to continue providing a virtual service, like many others, and we are seeing a number of client instructions by telephone, Facetime and Zoom. We’ve been very well equipped to provide you with the advice and associated paperwork needed as draft documents can still be sent by post. One key issue is that to make a will you must have mental capacity to do so. If this is in doubt or if there are concerns in this respect by the family and/or professionals involved then an assessment of capacity will be needed. This is usually dealt with by a suitably qualified doctor, consultant or social worker. These assessments however are also been carried out virtually, depending on the circumstances.

In order to make the most out of your first (virtual) meeting with us, it’s always a good idea to do some preparation. Pull together a list of your assets and be ready to show any financial statements you may have. Think about any beneficiaries you’d like to include in your will, as well as any questions you may have for us. Having full names, addresses and dates of birth to hand is also helpful so that we can prepare draft documents for approval without delay.

Why now?

Think about your reasons behind why now might be a good time for you to revisit your will or LPA. Note that marriage revokes, cancels a will, so you’ve recently re-married, had more children, or you are concerned about how the Coronavirus pandemic may affect you/your family, then it is a good idea to think about updating your will.

If you would like some further advice, or any other information relating to a will or LPA, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office