Those of us who are not frontline health workers, or involved in food distribution, may find ourselves with more time on our hands than usual, meaning that there can be no better time to ensure that our personal affairs are in order.
In normal circumstances we meet with our clients in person at one of our four offices before taking Will instructions. This is to ensure that we get as much information as possible about their situation, and to make sure that we are confident that they understand the implications of making a Will.
In these uncertain times, however, whilst we cannot meet with you in person, we are able to take instructions from you by video link via Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. If you do not have access to one of these platforms we can, in most cases, take instructions over the phone. It is important that when we speak only you (and your spouse if they are also making a Will) are in the room and that no-one else is present.
Once we have drafted your Will we will email it to you, together with a letter explaining the clauses in it. At the time of writing our offices are still open, although most of our lawyers are working remotely. Once you have confirmed that you are happy with the terms of the Will the staff who remain in the office will post your Will to you for signing. If, as the situation develops, our offices are forced to close, we will send your Will by email together with detailed signing instructions. You can print the Will and sign it in the presence of two witnesses. Your witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the Will. We will send you a copy for your records, and store the original in our secure deeds store.
If you are self-isolating and are concerned that you may not be able to find witnesses for your Will then we can discuss ways around this. For example it may be possible for you to sign your Will with witnesses on the other side of a window, though please discuss this with your solicitor before doing so. Alternatively it is possible to put a clause in your Will allowing someone else to sign it at your direction.
Before we can begin work for a client we need to establish that we have satisfactory identification documents on file. When meeting clients in person we ask them to bring their passport or driving licence with them, together with a recent utility bill.
In these uncertain times we are trialling new ways of establishing your identity without meeting you. We will ask you to use your smart phone to:
Please then email the three photographs to us so that we can open our file.
If you already have a Will, consider whether your estate would devolve as you wish if you were to die now.
For more information about making a Will please see our Will Writing page.
For more on this topic please see our blog, 'Do You Know Where Your Money Will Go When You Die?'.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document whereby you appoint one or more people, known as "attorneys" to act for you if you lose the capacity to make decisions yourself. This can include temporary loss of capacity, for example if you are ill in hospital.
There are two types of LPA, one for your financial decisions, and the other for health and care.
A financial decisions LPA deals with decisions about such things as selling your house and paying bills. When you make your LPA you can decide whether to give your attorneys the power to act on your behalf immediately (while you still have capacity) or only when you have lost the capacity to make decisions.
A health and care LPA deals with decisions relating to medical treatment, moving into a care home and end-of-life decisions. Decisions can only be taken by your attorney when you lack the capacity to make such decisions yourself.
We are able to take your instructions for LPAs remotely. We will email you the forms to check and, once you have approved them, we will then submit them to the Office of the Public Guardian, for registration.
For more information please see our Lasting Powers of Attorney page.
Child Arrangement Orders made by Court and other, more informal agreements made between separated or divorced parents cover issues such as who a child lives with, and how often they stay with the non-resident parent.
In these unprecedented times with schools closed and families forced to stay at home, it may be difficult to follow usual arrangements. The welfare of your child is paramount, and should always be the first consideration.
For more on this topic please see our article 'Coronavirus and Child Arrangements'.
Being forced to spend virtually all of your time at home with your spouse, is likely to have a detrimental impact on many relationships.
If the marriage was already in difficulty, then many months of enforced togetherness is only likely to make matters worse, particularly if the individuals have very different ways of coping with the crisis.
In the Chinese city of Wuhan there are already reports of a "divorce spike" after couples forced to self-isolate together have decided they can't take any more.
An online counselling service may make the time in quarantine easier to bear, and this is something you can either do together, or separately.
For more information on this, or about divorce in general please see our Divorce page.
If someone close to you has died, and has left you out of their Will, then in certain cases you can challenge it. The grounds are as follows:
If a Will has not been executed correctly, ie it has not been signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, both present at the same time, then it will be automatically invalid.
Before a disappointed beneficiary takes steps to challenge the validity a Will, they should consider the effect on the entitlement to the estate, should the challenge succeed. If the challenge is successful and there was an earlier will, the estate will be distributed in accordance with it. If there is no earlier will, then the rules of intestacy will apply. Depending on the situation the disappointed beneficiary may not have a greater entitlement even if the challenge is successful.
Certain categories of individual may bring a claim against an estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 even if they believe the Will to be valid. This can include a spouse, certain categories of cohabitant, children, and those who were financially dependent on the deceased.
For more information please see our Contentious Probate page.