Will Writing Enquiries Increase During Pandemic
The Law Society has reported that there has been a 30% increase on the usual requests to create Wills.
Whilst speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Chair of the Wills and Equity Committee, Ian Bond revelaed that those who are requesting Will writing services are the elderly and vulnerable who receive hospital or other health care treatment, who want to “put their affairs in order”.
This is unsurprising, when you think that they are some of the groups of people the UK Government have said are the most vulnerable to the effects of the virus.
In a time of self-isolation and the country effectively in lockdown, technology is now becoming a Will writers’ best friend, as face to face meetings can’t take place.
However, concerns have now been raised with regards to the haste in which these Wills are being constructed, and the fact it could lead to disputes further down the line.
Jessica Jamieson, partner at Cripps Pemberton Greenish, said for some clients, the current restrictions may lead to practical difficulties in both giving instructions and signing the Wills.
“Often clients are not able to explain their wishes over the phone and so (until now) a face-to-face meeting has often been the preferred option.
“Wills need to be signed in the physical presence of two independent witnesses who are not mentioned in the will, which is problematic for those in isolation.
“Where there is a concern about a client’s capacity, in order to avoid any disputes in the future from disgruntled beneficiaries as to whether or not the client understood the will, we normally recommend obtaining a report from a doctor confirming capacity, and then signing the will in the presence of a solicitor. Both of these are currently problematic, with pressures on the NHS, solicitors working from home and elderly clients being asked to go into isolation.”
Ms Jamieson, also touched on the fact that delaying the preparation of a Will may not be an option for some clients, who are particularly ill or at risk. If these Wills are delayed, she fears solicitors will be equally criticised further down the line.
“Clients must be made aware of the risk of going ahead in these circumstances, and encouraged to re-sign the will once the current problems subside,” she said.
“Whilst it is possible to write a will online, this will not address the issues regarding signing and capacity. In addition, clients should be careful about preparing wills without taking legal advice.
“This is particularly the case if they have complex finances, which could give rise to tax liabilities that need to be considered under the will, or if they have assets in multiple countries, which will need specific advice to ensure their wishes are binding in each of those jurisdictions.”