This is a stressful and worrying time for everyone and 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 Estate Planning and Probate sector, this has manifested itself in a significant increase in clients looking to both update or create their Will and establish Lasting Powers of Attorney. It is vital that even during these difficult times, people are protected which means it is very important to speak to clients (both new and existing) about their Will and estate planning arrangements so that they are up to date with current estate planning laws.
By making a will or Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), growing numbers of people across the country are making provision for their loved ones, giving them certainty and peace of mind that their wishes will be carried out in their absence. You cannot assume that a spouse or family member will have this automatic right as the mental capacity act states otherwise if no provision has been made prior to these events.
Ian Bond, chair of the Law Society’s Wills and Equity Committee, recently reported that the number of clients wishing to complete wills and LPAs is up by 30 per cent – but with the country in lockdown, the challenge was how to enable people to safely and legally draw up such crucial documents.
Having been inundated with enquiries from new clients wishing to make a Will or LPA, or existing clients who want to update/review to include Care & Inheritance Tax planning, Foresight Estate Planning has responded with new ways of working that enable us to deliver the service our clients need, with the reputation for customer service for which we are renowned.
Our team of experts remain on hand to assist. To keep our staff and clients as safe as possible, the majority of the team is now working remotely, but we have introduced numerous measures to ensure that disruption to client service is kept to an absolute minimum.
We can take all instructions remotely by telephone, we can also take instruction by video conferences, such as Skype, Zoom or Teams. As well as advising on the contents of your Will and LPA, we can provide guidance on how the documentation should be correctly signed and witnessed. As the country has been in lockdown since March 23, with gatherings of more than two people (excluding those in the same household) banned and the strict instruction being to ‘stay at home’, this is clearly at odds with the law regarding the signing of a will.
Under the Wills Act 1837, a will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses who are present at the same time. For many clients, especially the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, asking them to sign a document in the presence of two or more people will be of great concern.
The Foresight team can offer clear, practical guidance on how your legal documents should be signed. We are keen to ensure that our clients remain safe, but at the same time, we can provide you with the reassurance you need that your affairs are in order.
All our legal advisors are members of professional bodies such as the IPW and our legal drafters are all fully STEP qualified. These bodies, which liaise with the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice, regularly provide lawyers with advice and guidance on the signing of wills and LPAs in light of the ever-changing COVID-19 situation.
The team at Foresight, are therefore, monitoring the position carefully to ensure that our clients are given the most accurate and up-to-date advice. Please speak to us for any advice or guidance you need.