There has been a significant increase in the number of people seeking to make a Will or review their Wills during the current crisis as well as executing Powers of Attorney.
We understand that this may be a cause of great anxiety especially as we have all received advice from the Government on social distancing and self-isolation which is particularly important for the elderly or ill.
Whilst our London and St Albans offices are physically closed, we are all working from home and the Wills and Probate Department is fully up and running.
We are able to arrange meetings via various video conferencing facilities including FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom. You can also speak to a member of the team on the telephone as our office numbers have all been diverted to our mobile telephone numbers. Where possible, most correspondence can be done by email.
As far as the signing of a Will is concerned, the law states that there needs to be two independent witnesses present when the Testator signs the Will. They must then each sign the Will in the presence of the Testator and one another. This law has been in place since 1837 and is very precise.
In the current climate this poses some difficulties following the Government’s advice to reduce social contact. Family members will not be independent and therefore should not act as witnesses.
So, how can a Will be witnessed at present? We are waiting for further guidance from the Government and it may, be in due course, that the law is temporarily changed so that witnessing can take place, for example, by video conferencing.
For the time being it seems that two possibilities could include the signing and witnessing of a Will through a window or in an open space such as over a garden fence. Ancient case law (Casson v Dade 1781) suggest that it may be sufficient to have two witnesses who are in the line of sight if they are not in the same room.
As soon as we have received further information on this from the Law Society in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, we will provide an update.
In the meantime, should you have any concerns or wish to discuss the preparation of a Will or review of your Will then please contact myself or a member of the Private Client team.