It is estimated that about 60% of the adult population do not have a Will and not surprisingly The Telegraph reports that Will and Lasting Power of Attorney instructions are up by 30%. Difficult times are upon us but we are finding new ways of working so that matters can be progressed whilst observing social distancing .
Many people are not aware that for a will to be valid it must signed in accordance with the strict requirements of Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 , 183 years ago they couldn’t have envisaged the situation that we now find ourselves in ! Apart from the main requirement that a person must have sufficient mental capacity to make a Will it also needs to be signed in the presence of the person making the will and 2 witnesses ( and there are some restrictions on who can be a witness , the most important being that the witness cannot be a beneficiary or the spouse of a beneficiary otherwise the gift to them will fail ) , and all have to be present at the same time .
In normal times clients attend at our office and we would provide the witnesses. However we now have to be more inventive . We can discuss instructions by telephone or by Facetime or Zoom and we then confirm instructions and send a draft , usually by email , but by post if that is preferred . Once the draft has been approved we send out the original Will in the post for signature .It’s lucky that so far we have had dry weather as we are suggesting that the 2 witnesses could stand in the garden or on the drive ( with their own pens of course ! ) the person making the will signs the will in sight of the witnesses and then stands back at least 2 metres, but still in the line of sight , and the witnesses then step forward and witness the signature . They also have to sign and then print their names and address . The will is then dated . This can also work through a window with the person making the will on one side and the witnesses on the other . We have a demonstration video on our website that is proving popular . It is also possible for a person to sign on behalf of the person making the will , in normal times this is usually done if a person is physically unable to sign or if they cannot see and in those cases we add a special clause to the will . In due course when normality returns we will be happy to reprint the will and have it signed in our office .
For Lasting Powers of Attorney ( which can be Health & Welfare or Financial ) only one witness is required for each signature but most importantly the document has to be signed in a strict date order ie the person making the Lasting Power of Attorney signs first in the presence of the witness and then the Certificate Provider ( who confirms the persons understanding of the document and that the person is not being forced into making the Power of Attorney ) signs and dates and then the attorneys can sign . If not done correctly the Office of the public Guardian will reject the document when it is submitted to them for registration . We will explain the signature requirements and then check the document when it is sent back to us for registration .
We’re here to help and ensure your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney is done properly during this difficult time and our experienced team will be happy to guide you through the process . Contact Louise Salisbury , Zoe Clough or Joanne Ford for advice and assistance ,