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Where there’s a Will, there’s still a way! Making a Will during the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Where there’s a Will, there’s still a way! Making a Will during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The world is currently facing unprecedented times, leading
to a lot of concern and uncertainty.

One of the concerns that many face is whether or not they
are still able to make a Will, and given the current government restrictions in
place and the advice relating to social distancing, are individuals still able
to instruct a professional to act for them?

We are pleased to confirm that Crane & Staples LLP is
still operating through remote working and we would be pleased to assist you in
making or updating your Wills.

As a result of the current circumstances, and to ensure the safety of our clients, we have adapted the way in which we act in matters.

1. How can I safely meet a solicitor at Crane & Staples LLP to discuss making my Will?

Generally, a solicitor will need
to meet with clients in person to discuss matters, verify identification, and
take instructions.  Although our office
is closed to the general public, our staff are working from home. Crane &
Staples LLP are able to host electronic meetings using video conferencing
applications including:

  • WhatsApp
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Zoom
  • Skype

These applications are available
on most smartphones, so you do not need a complicated technical set up to
conduct a video meeting. Any follow up conversations can then take place by
telephone, where required.

Before the meeting takes place, a
Will Questionnaire will be emailed to you. This allows you to consider various
points in readiness for the meeting.

There is a requirement for solicitors to verify clients’ identification. In the current circumstances, we are asking clients to email scanned copies of original identification documents to us. The documents must then be shown on-screen during the video conference. Once the restrictions have been removed and we are able to meet clients in person, we ask that you present original identification documents so that we can take certified copies to meet the Law Society’s requirements.

2. Providing instructions

We will take detailed
instructions during the initial video meeting.  Further information or instructions will then
be taken in a follow up telephone call or by email.

Once your draft Will has been prepared, the document will be emailed to you for your approval.

3. Amendments

If there are any amendments needed to the draft Will, please let us know so that we can send an amended copy to you.  

If the amendment is minor, or the Will needs to be signed urgently, it is possible to amend the Will by hand before it is signed. Be sure to use ink to make the amendments and at the time that the Will is signed, ensure that you and the witnesses all initial each amendment.

4. How can I safely sign my Will?

Though there is ongoing debate
over whether to pass new legislation, it is currently not possible to
electronically sign Wills and for now, Wills still need to be physically
signed. 

It is a legal requirement for a
Will signing to be witnessed by two independent adults, as long as they are not
related to the testator or benefit from the Will in any way. Whilst, in an
ideal scenario, a solicitor will witness your signature, there is no legal
requirement for a solicitor to act as a witness.

Given the lockdown and social
distancing restrictions that are currently in place, signing a Will in the
presence of two witnesses presents a new challenge.

You must follow the Government
guidelines, to ensure your own safety and the safety of others. The easiest way
to sign your Will while you are staying home is to contact your neighbours. You
can either arrange to sign the Will in your garden or front porch in the
following way:

  • Signing the Will whilst your neighbours are
    present and at a safe distance (the NHS recommends at least two metres). Whilst
    being at a safe distance, the neighbours will need to be close enough to ensure
    that they can see you sign the Will.
  • Placing the Will down, either on the floor, a garden
    table, bench or car bonnet;
  • Moving a safe distance away;
  • Your neighbours signing the Will as witnesses to
    your signature before placing the Will back down and moving a safe distance
    away so that you can collect the signed Will. The witnesses must sign in each
    other’s presence and if they are not of the same household (or are practicing
    social distancing with each other) then they will need to ensure that they can
    see see both you and each other sign;
  • Once your witnesses have moved a safe distance,
    collect the Will and check it to ensure it has been signed by both witnesses
    correctly.

If you are a key worker, it may
be possible to arrange for colleagues to act as witnesses to your signature,
adopting the general principles referred to above.

To ensure the process runs smoothly, we suggest you telephone your witnesses beforehand, to explain the procedure. This way they will know what to expect and understand how the Will can be signed and witnessed safely.

5. What should I do once my Will is signed?

Ensure that you date your Will. This
will avoid potential problems arising when your estate is being administered.

At this stage, we advise that a
copy of the scanned Will is emailed to us so that we can check it has been
executed correctly.

Whilst the restrictions are still
in place, you should keep the original Will in a safe place at home.

It is important to note that you should not pin, staple, or clip anything to your Will, as any marks left on your Will can cause problems later.

6. What happens once things return to normal?

Please ensure that you arrange a
time to attend our offices to provide your original signed Wills and original
identification documents. We will inspect your Will to ensure it has been
executed correctly. We also suggest that you store your original Will in our
firm’s fireproof strong room.  We will
also take certified copies of your ID documents to meet the Law Society’s
requirements.

To arrange a meeting for advice on preparing a new Will, please contact us on 01707 329333 or email law@crane-staples.co.uk. We would be please to help you.