As the UK begins to adjust to the “new normal” that we face amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are approaching their affairs with an increased sense of reflection and pragmatism. In the Wills and Probate sector, this has manifested itself in a significant increase in clients looking to update or create their will.
Wills & Powers of Attorney During COVID-19
A recent study undertaken by the deVere Group suggests that demand for wills in the UK has risen by a staggering 76% in the past fortnight. This is a stressful and worrying time for everyone and we are seeing a big increase in enquiries not only for wills, but also for Advance Directives (‘Living Wills’) and Lasting Powers of Attorney relating to both health and welfare and property and financial affairs. These are important, as they set out who will be able to make important decisions on your behalf should you not be able to; for example, due to a hospital stay or a permanent illness.
Signing and Witnessing Wills During COVID-19
While most firms are still able to produce these documents for clients, it is getting them signed legally that is causing concern – and in the case of LPA’s, it is also the length of time it takes to get them registered (usually no less than 8 weeks) so that they can be used by the attorneys.
The witnessing requirements for wills, to ensure they are valid, means that two independent witnesses must see you sign your will (in person) and they must then sign it in your presence.
For some people there will be a work around whereby this is done through a window or over the fence, possibly wearing gloves and not sharing a pen. We are hearing of some very enterprising ways of dealing with this. However, this is not possible for everyone and clearly, in this age of video conferencing, it should be possible to change the law so that wills can be signed and witnessed without the witnesses having to be there in person, even if this is a temporary measure. The Ministry of Justice may also want to consider allowing a form of privileged will (that is available to serving military) during the current crisis.
Wills and Probate Services During COVID-19
It’s vital that even during these difficult times, people are protected and we can help you to achieve this by taking your instructions, preparing your documentation and getting it to you with clear details on how to get it signed according to the current law.
In these unprecedented times, the Private Client team here at Hodge Jones & Allen wishes good health to everyone with the hope that life will return to normal as quickly as possible. We are very much still dedicated to helping those who require assistance during the Coronavirus pandemic.