Wills – The New Normal?
Many aspects of life have needed to change as a result of Covid-19 and one particular area for law has been the preparation of Wills. At this stage, it is not known whether these changes to the process will have a lasting impact.
One of the most significant ways that we have changed our procedure during the current climate is through the increased use of video and telephone appointments. Whilst face to face appointments in the office are not currently possible, the use of telephone and video calls have enabled us to continue to discuss Wills and take instructions.
Once restrictions have been lifted, this type of appointments may still be beneficial as they make Will appointments more accessible. This could benefit a wide range of our clients that may struggle to arrange face to face appointments, for example, those with travel or time constraints.
Not only are instructions taken in a different manner, the signing of the Wills has also had to adapt. One of the biggest concerns currently is arranging for two independent people to witness Will signings which is a legal requirement for valid execution. The witnesses must be present during the Will signing which means that they cannot witness via video call. This has been an issue of debate following technological advancements and now, more so than ever, as we try to follow social distancing guidelines. Therefore, the current climate could be the catalyst needed to force a review of an arguably archaic requirement which does not currently allow witnessing by video calls.
An underlying concern with all these changes to procedure will always be ensuring that the Wills are valid. By limiting the face to face interaction with clients, it could potentially reduce the protective measures taken to assess capacity and ensure valid execution of the Wills. With Probate litigation generally increasing, this would need to continue to be the main consideration when making decisions in relation to adapting the procedure for Wills.
It is hard to know for sure how the pandemic may change this area of law but it is plausible that many aspects of our altered procedure may become our “new normal”.
The author of this article is Sophie Bacon, based in our Leigh-on-Sea office and a solicitor in our Wills, Inheritance, Trusts and Probate Team. Our team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and by telephone on 01702 474 149