Blog by Clare Rogers, Head of Private Client

The Coronavirus has brought about huge changes to how we go about our daily lives, and it has certainly created a huge challenge when it comes to executing important documents such as Wills. As a private client solicitor I firmly believe that a Will is the most important legal document you will ever sign, which is one of the reasons why it has to be witnessed by not only one but two independent witnesses who must be present together at the time of signing the Will. This means that for now the answer to my question is ‘no’, it is not possible to witness a Will by video link. The Law Society, the Ministry of Justice and the Solicitors Regulation Authority are all currently working together to try and find a solution, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with. The authorities in Scotland have already recently issued guidance to say a solicitor may witness a Will via video link, but they must retain a recording of it in case of future disputes.

At Southerns we are already offering a variety of alternatives to our usual face to face appointments. We can advise by telephone, email and through online appointments using platforms such as Skype and Zoom.  When it comes to witnessing documents, we are working hard to ensure the social distancing rules are followed. For example, we can send documents out to clients for signing along with clear guidance notes, and all documents are thoroughly checked upon being returned to the office. We are still able to accommodate Will signings in the office for those clients who are not self-isolating, we have set up our boardroom with designated seating areas for clients and witnesses and all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned before and after appointments. We can also visit clients at home when this is not possible and witness the signing from a safe distance, for example through the window.

You can be assured that we really have thought of everything, and I would urge anyone who has not yet found the time to make a Will (or review an existing Will) to not let current circumstances put them off. In fact, now may be the perfect time to make a Will if you are finding yourself with a bit more time on your hands!

If you would like any advice about Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney, please contact our Private Client team on 01282 422711, or email crogers@southernslaw.co.uk.