01 April 2020
We have never seen such rapidly changing circumstances, and new guideline procedures for drafting and signing wills and power of attorney have been issued.
The good news is that we can, of course, help you with your will and power of attorney, we might just have to make some changes to how we deal with taking your instructions and how you deal with signing the documents. We are all working from home, and easily contactable on our usual phone numbers as well as by email and mobile numbers. Importantly, the government has recognised us as ‘key workers’ and our team is prioritising the preparation of all will and power of attorney instructions.
How can you get advice and documents drafted without meeting?
We are more than happy to take your instructions over the phone or if you prefer we can send you a will and power of attorney questionnaire for you to complete and email back to us. We will then call you to confirm your instructions and talk through your personal circumstances.
How can you sign your will and power of attorney?
We have never known the legal profession to change rules and issue guidance as quickly. The adjustments of the rules enable us to continue to support their clients to enable them to grant wills and powers of attorney while adhering to the governments social distancing rules to avoid the spread of Covid-19, but also to keep robust procedures in place to prevent fraud and undue pressure.
Normally you must sign your will at the bottom of every page in the presence of an independent adult witness who is aged over 16 and not mentioned in the will or a close family member. If you are still able to sign in the presence of a witness, this is the best option.
However, as we are not allowed to meet with others out with our home it may be difficult for you to find an independent witness.
Therefore I have noted below the different options which are available to you:-
However, this would involve your witness handling papers which you have handled and they, or you, may not be prepared to do this.
Emergency legislation has just been passed to allow solicitors to witness will signing by video call. We are using FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Facebook messenger and other video call apps more in the last 2 weeks than ever before (particularly in relation to Powers of attorney, see below). If you have any video call apps on your phone, Ipad, computer, a solicitor could watch you sign, you then return the signed will to your solicitor and they can then sign as witness.
We would not normally suggest doing this as it isn’t best practice but it would still be a validly signed will. Extra steps would need to be taken before that will could be relied upon properly, involving someone providing affidavit evidence that the signature is yours. It might be prudent to speak to us on the phone at the same time as you sign the will so that we could, if necessary, provide further evidence that you have legal capacity and are not acting under pressure from anyone.
We are advising clients to keep a diary note and get back in touch once restrictions are lifted so that wills can be re-signed and ‘properly’ witnessed.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney must be witnessed and signed in the presence of a practising advocate, solicitor or doctor. The advocate, solicitor or doctor must then sign a certificate confirming that you have full legal capacity and are not acting under pressure from anyone else. The Law Society of Scotland has suggested that it is permissable to do a video conference where a face-to-face meeting is not possible, in overview-
Please contact us if you have any questions – our usual office numbers are being diverted and we are at home waiting to hear from you.