Maxine Braham, Senior Associate and Head of Private Client at our Luton office, looks back over the past year and the impact Covid-19 has had on her usual working procedures.
"Since the start of the Pandemic, I have worked continuously as a Private Client Solicitor in the Luton Office at Neves. The office has been extremely busy and I have continued to act for clients in the preparation of their wills. Despite the restrictions, I have had to see some clients, if I could not see them via Zoom. Most of my elderly clients have preferred to see me face to face. Most of them are vulnerable and housebound.
From March of last year until May of this year, I have rarely seen clients at the office due to the restrictions in place. I have had to undertake more home visits and provided that I have access to a side gate through to the garden, I would not enter the house. I have had home visits in the freezing cold, wind and rain and I have also had visits sitting out in the sunshine."
"The government produced emergency legislation in September 2020, which allows for wills to be witnessed electronically by online video conference methods including Zoom and Facetime. The law allowing electronic will signing was backdated to 31 January 2020 and will continue until the Spring of 2022.
The new legislation lays down the procedure for signing a will electronically. The person making the Will (Testator) would need to be on the same video link as the witnesses. The witnesses can be together in the same location or in separate locations. The Testator should ensure that the witnesses have a clear line of sight and the witnesses can see the Testator signing their will or acknowledge the Testator’s signature. After the Testator has signed their will, the Will must then be taken to the witnesses for each of them to sign. The will is only valid when both witnesses have signed the Will and if the witnesses are in separate locations, it will take longer for the Will to become valid. I, therefore, have a number of concerns with this. The whole procedure could give rise to abuse and undue influence cannot be discounted given that the Testator is not seen physically. Another concern is that there is a risk that the Testator could die before the will is signed by both of the witnesses and therefore either their previous will is rendered valid or they would die intestate.
In light of the current procedures, I have continued arranging home visits to stand or sit in a client’s gardens, whatever the weather."
If you would like to make a will or amend an existing will, please get in touch with our Specialist Private Client Team who can arrange a home visit. Call 0330 0945 500, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our Online Contact Form and we'll get back to you.