Yorkshire law firm, Jordan Solicitors, are offering a mobile will signing service to combat the limitations COVID-19 are presenting to will writing during the nationwide lockdown.
With social distancing looking likely to continue for some time, the team of solicitors at Jordans have decided to significantly adapt their will signing process to ensure clients are able to execute their wills during this difficult time.
Managing Director, Christine Sands, explains:“Writing a will is something people generally put off but sadly now more than ever is the time to have a will in place.
“However, given the Government-issued guidelines about working from home and social distancing, this has presented various obstacles to overcome.
“Firstly, the initial meeting with all new clients can’t take place in person.This is something that we have previously regarded as essential, but with social distancing in place since last month, this simply isn’t possible.
“Therefore, during this indefinite period of social restriction, we are able to take instructions over video link, for example by Skype, Zoom or Facetime, the telephone, or in writing by post or email.
“Secondly – and this has required the most change – we are not able to ask clients to come into our offices to be present with our clients in person to oversee the signing of their wills.
“As a consequence, we are either issuing very clear instructions regarding what to do to make the will legal.Or, as is our preference, we are offering what is essentially our “mobile” will signing service – where we will organise two independent witnesses to oversee the signing process at a safe distance at your location.
“From 1 April onwards, all of our probate team – classed as Key Workers during lockdown – are offering their mobile services to those who do not feel confident to proceed with the formal will signing process themselves.
It is the least we can do for our clients right now, particularly those who are Key Workers themselves, such as those who work for the NHS, so might have little time on their hands; those who are vulnerable in one way or another; or for many who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions, meaning leaving their house would be a dangerous position to put themselves in.”
Further wills guidance during COVID-19
Last month, Jordans Solicitors wrote to new clients who had approached the firm about writing their wills, explaining to them what can and can’t be done during this unique time for everyone.
The extra considerations Jordans Solicitors are asking their clients to take during the coronavirus outbreak include the strong recommendation that the actual signing of the will is filmed on their witnesses’ phone.This is because the formalities can then be verified by the acting Solicitor if he or she is not present.
The file for the video would be emailed to the Solicitor, who will then retain it for any necessary future use if the circumstances signing are ever questioned. A further cautionary measure regarding the signing of the will is, of course, not being able to be too close to another person, as the witnesses should not be family members.This means, under current social distancing measures, the signing would probably need to take place outdoors, with an obvious choice being someone you know nearby.
Christine adds:“Never before has having a good relationship with your neighbour over the garden fence been of such potential legal use.
“For those who are less connected socially, finding witnesses might be difficult as previously they might have asked somebody at work, for example.
However, during COVID-19, society has mobilised with a zest for community organisation likened to the “togetherness” attributed to the WWII spirit.
As a consequence, finding a local group nearby might be easier than ever, and certainly contactable through social media.”
Probate matters to consider during the COVID-19 outbreak
The concern of most parents is to protect their assets for their family, made more acute if one parent were to pass but wished for their partner to benefit from assets whilst they are still alive.
This is particularly pertinent when you consider the various modern family arrangements that are now very much the norm.
Having a properly drawn up will that recognises the intended structure of ownership of assets is therefore essential in this particular instance.
Another area of considerable concern is the matter of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), a legal principle which allows a trustee to manage your affairs on your behalf should you suffer illness.
There are two types of LPA – a Property & Financial Affairs LPA and a Health & Welfare LPA. Simply put, an LPA ensures that there is somebody in place of you that is trusted to manage your affairs on your behalf should you not be able to handle them yourself due to a variety of reasons, including serious illness.
“Sobering as it is to say, Christine adds, “given the contagiousness and fatality rates of COVID-19, ensuring you have a Property & Financial Affairs LPA in place would be more than advisable in the current climate.
“This legal formality is relatively straightforward, and can be implemented at the time of writing your will.”
Director and Head of Probate Solicitor, Peter Kirrane, advises: “Should a relative pass during the COVID-19 outbreak with no will in place, the rules of intestacy apply to their estate.
“But Intestacy rules may not reflect what that person would have wanted for those they leave behind. Again, this is an area of probate that Jordans Solicitors can help with as we have extensive experience of probate and estate administration. Finally, the organisation of Trust Funds are a service which the firm advises parents or guardians of a young family to consider during this global pandemic.
“A worst-case scenario for any family is the breakout of the coronavirus within their household. Should a family experience the loss of both parents of a young family, a Trust Fund in place for their children would hold assets until the children come of age.”