Certain aspects of Will writing require at least some form of face to face contact during normal times. Most notably, the Will needs to be signed and witnessed and the solicitor needs to be sure that the person making the will is fit to do so. This has presented challenges for solicitors all across the UK during the Covid pandemic.
Just how do you get a Will prepared and witnessed when you have to significantly curtail personal contact?
Why Make a Will?
A Will is a legal document that sets out what you want to happen to your assets and your estate when you are no longer here. You can make provision for your partner, for example, if you are not married or you can include special requests, such as leaving certain items to certain friends or family members.
If you die without a Will, decisions on who benefits from your estate will go through the courts. This can take time to sort out and cost those you leave behind. It can also in some circumstances lead to disputes.
Remote Will Writing
When the pandemic and lockdown first began early last year, solicitors, the government and the Law Society began considering how technology could enable legal teams to provide will writing services without meeting their clients. There are a couple of issues with Wills:
- A solicitor needs to be sure that the person making or changing their will is doing so of their own free Will. That requires personal contact.
- A Will needs to be signed and witnessed to be valid and that can be an issue when it comes to offering a service remotely.
The good news is that, with today’s technology, solicitors can hold virtual meetings with their client, preferably by video linkup, and talk through writing the Will.
This ensures that the solicitor sees the client and can make an assessment that they are fit to make the Will and understand what they are doing. The big concern here, of course, is that someone with dementia may be coerced into making a will or changing their existing one by a third party who is trying to benefit.
The bigger challenge, of course, is the signing and witnessing of the Will.
Normally the testator and the people witnessing need to be present at the same time. The government has decided to make it legal to witness a Will remotely while the pandemic is still causing isolation and lockdown.
This law is not actually in place yet but will be legislated on in September and then backdated to cover any Will that was witnessed in this way after 21st January 2020. That means you can be confident that a Will witnessed remotely in this way will still be valid. It’s thought that this may continue up until 2022 when, hopefully, we will all be back to normal.
While it’s not an ideal situation, and solicitors should try to complete a Will in the normal way if possible, lockdown means that technology can be successfully utilised for those who either want to make a new will or amend an old one.