The impact of COVID-19 on Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a huge surge in clients wishing to get their personal affairs in order. Ian Bond, chair of the Law Society’s Wills and Equity Committee, recently reported that the number of clients wishing to complete wills and lasting powers of attorney is up by 30 per cent. So, with the country in lockdown, how can you safely and legally draw up a will and lasting power of attorney?
Legal practitioners who are “essential to the running of the justice system” have been named in the government’s list of key workers. Crucially, this includes “solicitors acting in connection with the execution of wills”. It is clear that the government deems the ability to make a will of paramount importance. Lawyers should ensure that, if it safe to do so, clients continue to be provided with assistance to complete their wills and lasting powers of attorney.
At Sintons we have a team of legal experts on hand to assist you. To keep our staff and our clients as safe as possible, the majority of the team is now working remotely. However, we have numerous measures in place to ensure that the disruption to client service is kept to an absolute minimum. We have designed a pack specifically for clients who want to make both a will and a lasting power of attorney at a discounted rate but, due to Covid-19, they are unable to leave the house. If you would like details of this free pack them please email us at email@example.com. Of course, we can also take instructions over the telephone or by videoconference (such as Skype).
As well as advising you on the contents of your will and lasting powers of attorney, we will be able to provide you with guidance on how the documents should be correctly signed and witnessed. On Monday 23 March 2020 Boris Johnson announced strict measures aimed to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The message was clear: stay at home. All gatherings of more than two people (excluding those in the same household) were banned.
This new guidance somewhat conflicts with the law regarding the signing of a will. Put simply, 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, especially in light of the government guidance regarding social distancing.
The Sintons team can offer you 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 of our legal advisers are members of professional bodies such as Solicitors For the Elderly and STEP. These bodies, which liaise with the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice, are regularly providing lawyers with advice and guidance on the signing of wills and lasting powers in light of the ever-changing situation with Covid-19. The team at Sintons are, therefore, monitoring the position carefully to ensure that our clients are given the most accurate and up to date advice.
Finally, Sintons have worked closely with the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for a number of years. Now, more than ever, we truly value the hard work of the NHS. Sintons have always been proud to offer all members of staff in the Trust discount on the preparation of a will and we will continue to do so in these unprecedent times. We would strongly encourage staff working in the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Hospitals to contact us – we will be as flexible as possible to ensure your needs are met.