Looking to amend or create a Will, how can we help you overcome the formalities that need live witnesses and hard copy signatures!
Our Private Client team being agile and proactive have adapted their services so you remain safe but enable us to still provide these services.
During these uncertain times, we have seen an influx in clients seeking our assistance with ensuring their affairs are in order by drafting or updating their Wills or creating Trusts. We want to ensure we are still able to offer this vital arm of our legal services to our clients, whilst remaining in compliance with government measures on Lockdown and self-isolation, so we have adapted our processes. In order to maintain the safety of our clients and our staff, but enable you to have the support you need.
Why do you need a Will?
Unfortunately, most of us do not like to dwell on the subject of our death, or discuss it with anyone, which is why many people do not make a Will. However, a Will is the only way to ensure that your property, possessions, savings or investments will go to those that you want them to and with tax advice avoids unnecessary losses to the beneficiaries in tax.
A Will allows you to control your possessions and assets and what happens to them once you pass away, without having the rules of intestacy dictate the same.
What do we mean by a valid Will?
The law governing Wills is Wills Act 1837. This provides that for a will to be valid:
- The person making the Will must be aged 18 or over;
- The person making the Will must be (1) of sound mind (2) drafts the Will voluntarily and without duress;
- Sound mind is concerned with the mental capacity of the person making the Will, concerned with whether the person fully understands the implications of making the Will, is aware of the overall value of their estate and understands to whom their assets are going to be distributed. If mental capacity is in contention, it is advisable to seek medical opinion.
- The Will must be in writing;
- The Will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. If the witness is a beneficiary of the Will, or married to a beneficiary of the Will, that witness cannot subsequently inherit. Therefore, it is strongly advisable that the Will is witnessed by non-family members. Usually this is in person and all sign the same document.
What you should do should you need a Will in lockdown?
Download the questionnaire below and email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details and a brief summary of your wishes and we will send you our confirmed quotation.
We will require you to provide us with a form of ID (a valid passport or driving licence for example), and proof of address reflecting your name and residential address (bank statement within the last 3 months). We can accept scanned copies or you can take a photo with your camera and send this to us. (Since we cannot meet you in person and see the originals we would need you to pay £12.00 inclusive of VAT to carry out a compliance check to verify your documents for Anti-Money Laundering regulation compliance)
In order to confirm your instructions and comply with our due diligence requirements, we may also require you to engage in a video link call, through FaceTime or Zoom or WhatsApp for example, or a telephone call.
Once satisfied with the due diligence process, we will email you our Client Care Letter and our Terms of Business, in order for you to review and confirm acceptance by email or post to avoid the need to sign and return this.
Once in receipt of the signed documents, completed questionnaire , we will begin to draft your Will following your instructions and send it to you via the post or email for your approval.
Signing and witnessing of a Will
Signing of a Will is also known as attesting the Will. The current law still provides that for a Will to be valid, it must be witnessed by a non-family member. Otherwise if they are family members and you make a gift for within the Will, the person cannot benefit from your gift as they also acted as witnesses and there will be a conflicted.
The current law also provides that a Will cannot be signed electronically as this is a deed.
We know that provisions make it hard, if not impossible, for some clients to comply with considering the current social distancing and lockdown policies in place. So we have adapted
SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) guidance suggests you may be able to sign and have your Will witnessed with your neighbours who are non-family members. This will happen whereby we will first send you the drafted and approved Will through the post. You yourself can thereafter sign your Will from a window, for example, where you are visible to 2 neighbours or other non-family members (whilst wearing gloves) and you will then pass your neighbours the Will for their signing maybe by posting this through the letter box , leaving it on a wall and moving back 2metres. They will also sign the Will in your presence through a window, with separate pens and gloves, and from a distance from each other.
We will provide you with more in-depth instructions on how to do this once you are ready for this step of finalising and legalising your Will.
If we have not met you throughout the process of preparing your Will, however, we cannot guarantee the validity of the Will in the face of a challenge after your death. We would therefore recommend that we do meet with you once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, so that you can sign the document again in our presence, even if you have signed your Will following the steps above. However, we may also suggest we have a video call with you when you are signing the Will so we can also verify we saw you sign this.
Making sure your intentions are clear
- We may require you to engage in video calls, or telephone calls in order to make sure we have understood your intentions for your Will.
- We will record the information you give us, for only those working on your matter to view so in strictest confidence.
- We may also have to record our calls or video calls to act as evidence of your intentions. We would obtain you prior approval before doing this, in the form of a letter that you would sign.
- If you want to ensure privacy from your family members in the house hearing the call you can email instructions or post these and just confirm with a yes on the call as we run through them.
Recording your meeting
We may ask to record any video meetings with you as evidence to show your intention and capacity which are requirements for a valid Will. This makes it more likely no one will later challenge the validity so is in your best interests. This will be held on compliance with the Data Protection Act and firm policy. However, please be assured that we will ask for your consent to do this beforehand. Should you consent to your meeting being recorded, please also be assured that the meeting will only be viewed for the purposes of drafting your Will and complying with your instructions and will only be viewed by members of staff who are dealing with your matter. You can also later contact us to withdraw your consent if you change your mind.
Steps post COVID-19
Once the COVID-19 situation is clear and the lockdown has been lifted, please note that we will require you to attend our offices so that we may meet face to face and complete our due diligence checks.
We may also require you to re-sign your Will to ensure that we are compliant with the general governing law concerning Wills and to confirm that you are happy with the Will.
A City Law Firm are committed to providing a professional and cost-effective legal service.
Upon reviewing your completed questionnaires, we shall advise you of our fees for drafting, completion and guidance with attestation of your Will. We can send you a guide though upon receipt of your initial email or call confirming a basic summary of your asset and needs. All fees will be a fixed fee so you know exactly where you stand.
Our contact details
Although we may be working from home following the Government advice, we remain fully operational and are always happy to assist.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions at:
Telephone: 0207 426 0382