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Wills in the time of Coronavirus

Posted on 23rd March 2020 in Probate & Wills, Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted by

Rachael Morley

Partner & Solicitor
Wills in the time of Coronavirus

With social distancing, self-isolation and the key threat of Coronavirus, it is a deeply worrying and potentially lonely time for all of us. It has been heartening to see many examples of the country continuing to soldier on regardless, though, and to work out creative solutions to deal with the restrictions. With Skype dinner parties, FaceTime games nights and catch-ups in the garden, we are all working with the rules in a creative way to ensure that life goes on.

This creativity and spirit has also been needed in the workplace and particularly in the area of Wills. This area of law is one which relies on face-to-face meetings between legal advisors and their clients, such as in needing the physical presence of the Will-maker and two witnesses to put the document in place at the end of the process. As you can imagine, the current climate has seen a sharp increase in those wanting to ensure that their affairs are in order, but many of you who have requested our help are elderly, vulnerable or self-isolating. So, how do you put a Will in place but ensure that you are not at risk in doing so?

At Tozers, are committed to doing whatever we can to help you in this tricky time and to give you peace of mind. Our solution to this dilemma has been to take instructions from you over the ‘phone or by Skype and, then, to act as your witnesses…. through the window.

Our colleagues have already taken to this new method with enthusiasm and have been visiting Will-makers up and down Devon to help get their Wills validly in place. We have hovered in gardens, stood in hedges and skirted flowerbeds to see you signing your Wills through the window and are happy to keep helping you in this way for as long as this crisis needs.

If you are concerned to get your affairs in order in a Will but are unable or are worried about leaving your home, please contact us. We would be delighted to help.

Self-isolation Powers of Attorney

The threat of Coronavirus has made a strange new world for all of us. Thankfully, with the advent of modern technology, self-isolation does not necessarily mean being cut-off completely from the outside world.

But, in some areas at least, it can cause problems. For those of you who prefer to deal with banking in person rather than online or over the ‘phone, for example, it has brought a stop to your ability to deal with your finances. Perhaps you have a business and need someone to manage things in your absence, or are buying a house and want another to be empowered legally to deal with things for you.

A creative solution for you would be a self-isolation Power of Attorney. It is possible, under the law, for you to appoint another person to step into your shoes, either for all your financial matters or for a particular transaction. This document is known as a ‘Power of Attorney’.

Powers of Attorney come in many forms and there are even those which last if you lose mental capacity, known as ‘Lasting Powers of Attorney’. As a simple, quick and efficient solution for you to cover a period of self-isolation, though, you may be interested in putting a ‘general’ Power of Attorney in place. This can be as limited as you want and can at least ensure that things keep running for you whilst you are confined at home.

We at Tozers are dedicated to helping you with your legal needs in a time of crisis. Please do get in touch with our specialist team if we can be of any assistance. We look forward to welcoming you.

Wills through a window?

As part of the series of articles to help you consider your legal needs in the time of Coronavirus, we explained about our creative solution to the problems of self-isolation and putting a Will in place: witnessing through a window.will writing

Our commitment at Tozers is to ensure the safety of you and your families, along with our colleagues, in our dealings with you as far as we can and to do our utmost to smooth the path of legal transactions for you during this crisis. This is why we are working constantly and consistently to think of novel ideas to help you, particularly if you are in self-isolation.

Some have asked us what it was that inspired the solution of witnessing through a window – and which has led to our colleagues hovering in gardens, on paths and outside homes across the county.

The simple answer is that the relevant law for signing a Will to ensure it is valid only mentions ‘witnessing’ and being ‘present at the same time’. There is technically no restraint on how you, as the Will-maker, and your witnesses might be present together. So, looking through windows or peering through letterboxes are two ways in which the Will-maker and their witnesses could see each other sign!Wills through a window_1

In fact, from the specialist training of a large number of our colleagues on the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners Diploma, one particular case has always stuck in our minds. This was a situation where a lady, back in the eighteenth century, signed her Will in front of two witnesses in her solicitor’s office. Being heat-struck and rather tired of the process, she then retired to her carriage outside the window whilst the witnesses signed their portion.

Was the Will validly made? The courts held that yes, it was. The lady and her witnesses had each seen each other sign, either in person or through the window. Even if something had distracted the lady’s attention at the crucial moment when her witnesses then put pen to paper, she could have seen them sign had she chosen to look. The Will was validly eWills through a window_2xecuted.

The current situation of self-isolation may be a little different to carriages and horses, but the analogy remains true. Please do contact us if you would like to put a Will in place and we would be pleased to assist, acting as your witnesses outside the window if needed, whatever the weather!

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