In the time of COVID-19 and social distancing, individuals and businesses have been forced to change the way that they carry out simple tasks in a way that would have seemed unbelievable only two weeks ago. This period of uncertainty amid an unprecedented public health crisis has also inevitably led to an increase in people looking to draft or update their wills.
At Spratt Endicott, we have found that this period has created some unusual challenges – that we are finding practical solutions to – as we look to provide our usual level of service to clients. We outline a few of these measures in the following article.
Verifying identity and assessing capacity
When drafting a Will it is essential that we verify our client’s identity and also assess their capacity in addition to ensuring that they are not being coerced. These measures will typically be carried out in an initial face-to-face meeting, which we are now carrying out by video conference instead and we can receive further instructions by email or telephone.
Witnessing signatures remotely
There is another hurdle to overcome with regards to witnessing the signing of Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). Despite electronic signatures being legally valid on commercial contracts, both Wills and LPAs still require a physical signature and witnesses.
We have taken some measures to ensure that this is still possible for clients who are self-isolating:
- For clients who are able to, they should arrange witnesses themselves but ensure that they follow the National Health England guidance of keeping a two metre separation between each other. If the client feels that it is necessary we oversee this by video conference.
- If clients are unable to arrange their own witnesses, we are offering a ‘drive through’ witnessing service. In this scenario our clients sign the Will in their car, witnessed by two members of Spratt Endicott’s Wills & Probate team (at least two metres away), who will then collect the will wearing suitable personal protective equipment to sign before returning the Will through the client’s passenger window!
We are here to support our clients in these unprecedented times, and are proactively approaching the challenges created by the current climate to ensure that the normal level of service that we provide is not diminished.
Lucy Gordon is a Director at Spratt Endicott and Head of their Private Client practice, she is also a member of Solicitors for the Elderly. To discuss any of the matters discussed in this article, please contact Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org