The present COVID-19 outbreak brings with it a great deal of uncertainty about the future. We understand that at this time many clients will want to make sure that their own affairs are in good order: thinking about tax and succession planning, perhaps making or reviewing their Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, or Advance Care Planning arrangements.
Our private client team remains ready to assist and to provide a responsive service, albeit that in line with Government guidance team members are working remotely. Whilst we cannot meet with clients in person at the moment, we can still liaise with existing and new clients regarding all aspects of their affairs. We can have meetings with you over the phone or via video conference and we can correspond by email. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
The outbreak and current Government guidance does, however, present a few novel challenges where we are preparing documents for you – particularly Wills and Codicils. To meet these challenges we can adapt how we provide our services and finalise your documents for you:
- Where we prepare documents for you, wherever possible we are sending these to you by email, but we can make alternative arrangements for any clients who do not have access to printers.
- Given social distancing requirements, clients are not so easily able to execute Wills, Codicils and Lasting Powers of Attorney with witnesses present. In particular, we are unable to take clients through the formalities in a face-to-face meeting and act as witnesses ourselves. This can be a particular challenge with Wills and Codicils, where strict formalities apply for the Will or Codicil to be validly made.
- However, we can provide practical advice about the options available to you whatever circumstances you are in and can guide you through the process by phone or video conference and send comprehensive instructions by email.
These steps ensure that you can put new arrangements in place if you need or wish to do so, to make sure your affairs are in order and up to date.
In the meantime, pressure is on Government to review the formalities around the witnessing of such documents, for example by permitting witnessing via video link or signing electronically, and we are monitoring developments in this area. For the time being, though, these options are not available.
Once you have executed your documents, in most cases we will ask you to hold onto these safely until our offices re-open, when we can arrange safe storage for you. Where a Will or Codicil has been signed in less-than-ideal circumstances, out of caution we may advise that you re-execute it in a more traditional setting once restrictions are lifted.
However, for the most part there will be workable solutions and we strongly recommend having your affairs in order – and in particular not relying on the intestacy rules or on an out of date Will that may not reflect you wishes.
If you have any questions and wish to speak to someone, please contact one of the partners listed on the left.