21st April 2020
Since we went into lockdown in March, we have seen huge changes in the way we live our lives and it is likely these changes will not return to “normal” for a long time yet. Society is working together as a whole by staying at home (for those who can) to protect our NHS and save lives. Battrick Clark Solicitors recognises the importance of supporting our community through these challenging times. Many of the people wishing to access Will writing services as well as other Private Client services at this time will be among the elderly and more vulnerable members of our community and we will do our best to protect these members of society whilst offering the support they require.
Our office at Battrick Clark in Bristol is open to all our new and current clients and we are following government guidelines with social distancing and working from home. If you would like to make a will, we ask that you call or email to make an appointment. We are able to take instructions from clients via telephone, Skype and Zoom instead of face to face meetings. Drafts can still be sent via email or via post. We can send you a questionnaire to help you think about any questions you might want to ask or help to ascertain the information required for the will in advance. Once approved and agreed, final copies can be sent to you for signature.
Social distancing can make it difficult to find witnesses to wills. The Wills Act 1837 states that to be valid, a will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses which means that the will maker and the two witnesses are present together. The crisis has pushed people to be creative in their arrangements. For example, wills can be witnessed by neighbours/solicitors through a window or from the garden gate as long as all three are present together and can see each other sign. The witnesses then add their signatures, names and address in case they need to be contacted later to prove the signing of the will. Everyone would need to use their own pen and wash their hands after touching the will. Our number one priority is the health and safety of our clients and staff and ‘Wills through a Window’ is a way our clients can have peace of mind that they have a valid Will in place but also that they are not putting themselves at risk.
The Ministry of Justice and the Law Society are pushing the government to pass emergency laws to relax the witnessing rules for wills. Government ministers have still not decided which option to put before Parliament – or whether to change the law at all. Soldiers on active service have long been able to make a will without witnesses and the law may be changed quickly to extend this privilege to all. Current laws around the signing of wills have been in place since 1837, and it is unclear whether new legislation would be revoked once the coronavirus crisis is over.
We are here for you…. Battrick Clark Solicitors are highly experienced in drafting wills and are member of the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS). We have accredited and associate members of Solicitors for the Elderly who can guide you through the process of making a will at these difficult times.