To say it’s been challenging to help clients to make their Wills during lockdown would be something of an understatement!
When the lockdown was imposed, the traditional methods of taking instructions from clients who wished to make a Will went out of the window. We would normally meet with the client in our office or in their home, listen to their requirements and provide them with advice. We’d then prepare a draft Will and send it to them for their review – and if they were happy with the Will, they could then sign it in the presence of a witness or come into our office and we’d witness it once they’d signed it. Of course, that witness couldn’t be someone mentioned in the Will as an executor or beneficiary.
This meant there were a number of hurdles to overcome. The first of these – meeting in our office or in the client’s home to discuss the Will was off the table. Social distancing and lockdown rules meant that we had to close our offices and work from home. We were also prohibited from visiting clients because we were outwith that household unit.
Whilst we could always take client instructions over the telephone, that’s never ideal. If you’re a client you know well and have dealt with for many years, all well and good – but if you’re a client we’ve only acted for infrequently or have only just become a client, we might not recognise your voice. That presents a problem for us in ensuring that we’re being instructed by you and not someone else. The last thing we want to do is prepare a Will that’s been decided by someone else.
We quickly scaled up our technology and learned new skills to be able to have video meetings with clients and we have found this to be an extremely effective method of taking instructions from clients.
This meant we could “meet” with clients and take instructions that then allowed us to prepare the Will. However, there was still an issue regarding the witnessing of the Will. Because the Will needs to be witnesses and because of the lockdown rules, it was highly likely that the people living with you would be either an executor or beneficiary in your Will – or, perhaps, both. This then meant that even though we could provide you with a Will for signature, you couldn’t sign and witness it.
Fortunately, the rules on execution of Wills were quickly reviewed and new regulations passed to allow witnessing to also be done over a video connection. This then meant that we could have your Will properly witnessed and that then made if fully effective from the time of signing.
Many clients who asked us to prepare their Wills also asked us to prepare a Power of Attorney for them. Similar challenges existed here too and, again, we overcame these using the same processes now available for Wills.
We do not know if these provisions will continue or if we will revert back to the “normal” requirements as the lockdown is eased – only time will tell.
It has, however, been something of a relief to know that we have been able to help our clients with their Wills and Powers of Attorney during this very worrying time for many.
If you’ve been thinking of preparing your Will or having a Power of Attorney drawn up, you can still do this now even thought restrictions on movement are only now beginning to ease.
If you would like to discuss this, please give us a call or email us. We’ve happy to discuss this with you and to guide you through the entire process.