Surge in demand for wills amidst Coronavirus pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant increase in demand for advice on wills and inheritance tax planning across the country, according to The Law Society.

As people make and reassess their financial arrangements in light of the rapidly rising rate of COVID-19 cases, law firms are seeing a dramatic increase in levels of enquiries and instructions, with Sintons also seeing such a surge.

With almost all members of the firm currently working remotely and in observance of the government’s rules on social distancing, it is not possible for anyone who wants to make a will to have a face-to-face meeting in the office to provide their will instructions.  As such, Sintons can send out a will questionnaire either by email or in the post so that people can provide them with their instructions without the need for a meeting.

The current situation can also make signing the will difficult.  Essentially the law states that a will must be done in writing and then signed by the person making it – the testator – in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses must then sign the will in the presence of the testator.  However, due to the enforcement of social distancing amidst the pandemic, such arrangements can be problematic.

In response to this issue, Sintons has revised its way of enabling the completion of wills, to allow people to continue to complete their future planning. During this current period, wills are being sent out to clients for signing, with the recommendation that witnesses stand outside the house and watch the testator sign the will through an open window.

The testator then passes the will to the witnesses and they sign it while the testator watches them from inside the house, to ensure the process is completed in accordance with the law.

The Law Society is also considering further measures, including its current discussions with the government about temporarily relaxing some of the rules that could result in only one person having to witness the signing of a will and for digital signatures to be valid.

Paul Nickalls, head of the wills, trusts and probate department at Sintons, said: “We have experienced significant increases in levels of enquiries and instructions from people wanting to make a will, or revise the one they already have in place. We have adapted our usual procedures so as many clients as possible can make a will, even those in isolation.

“The Coronavirus outbreak has clearly influenced a lot of people to consider future planning in ways they perhaps have not previously, so they can make provision for their family if they are no longer around, and give them the peace of mind that this will happen according to their wishes.

“We are supporting people across the North East and wider UK in making their will, and our specialist, award-winning team remains contactable as usual in order to do so.”

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