In a word, yes.
It is an unprecedented time, but it is still important that you feel able to continue to manage your personal legal affairs as normally as possible.
Solicitors and law firms in Scotland together with Law Society of Scotland have been fast-reacting to manage ways in which Deeds can be finalised whilst complying with social distancing rules amidst the global backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Law Society of Scotland have set up new guidance and rules to enable this to happen as it is rarely appropriate to delay complete fulfillment of an instruction to have a Will or Power of Attorney prepared.
At Neilsons, we are prioritising the processing of Wills and Powers of Attorney and have set aside extra staff resource in order to enable us to assist the increased demand from existing and new clients effectively and efficiently.
In addition, we will be offering substantial discounts on these services to anyone who works for the NHS.
Let us turn our attention to how this can be managed in the current situation…
Firstly, we recommend a telephone or video consultation with us so that we can advise you according to your own individual needs and circumstances.
We offer free initial consultations.
Once we have your instructions, we will complete a Draft Will which we will email or post to you. You can then advise us of any further amendments – or anything that you would like to be clarified.
Once any amendments have been made, and you are happy to proceed, we will finalise your Will for signing and send the copy out to you in the post or – if you have print at home facilities – by email PDF for printing.
Under normal circumstances, Wills in Scotland must be signed at the foot of every page in the presence of an independent adult witness. The witness should watch the person making the Will sign and then the witness signs on the final page of the Will with signing details (the place and town it is signed and the date of signing).
Given the social distancing rules, it is not always possible for an independent witness to be present for this unless of course you live with someone to whom you are not related and who is not a beneficiary of a Will e.g. a friend.
If you cannot get someone to witness, then it may be possible for us to arrange a video link with you.
The Solicitor or Legal Executive can witness you signing each page via video (Facetime, Skype or Zoom are just a few free and accessible options).
The Solicitor or Legal Executive using professional judgement will also be able to assess your capacity, and can establish that no undue influence is being exerted on the you.
The Will can then be returned to us by post at an address we specify to you.
If you are self-isolating and there is no witness available or video facilities (it is important to attempt both options first), it is still best that you have something in place and you should go ahead and sign your will for now, we would try our upmost to prove that this was your wishes should something happen to you. We can then replace the Will with a formally executed version when the current conditions no longer prevail.
Powers of Attorney
A Will only comes into effect when you die, so we also recommend that you have a Power of Attorney. Should you become incapacitated for whatever reason, it enables someone you trust, known as an attorney, to handle your medical and financial affairs. It will only come into effect should you lose the capacity to make your own decisions.
Without a Power of Attorney in place, it is a very costly and time-consuming process through the Courts to appoint someone, known as a Guardian, to manage your affairs. In today’s climate, we recommend avoiding this route not least due to the cost and time involved, but due to the facts the Courts have also been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown.
Following our free consultation, if you would like to proceed, we would prepare your Power of Attorney in draft and email or post it to you for any amendments or to discuss anything you wish to be clarified.
Once the final copy is ready for signing, we will post or email this to you for printing at home.
You must not sign the document in advance of the interview.
You must show us via the video method referred to above that the document is unsigned prior to the interview. The interview would then take place and all the normal requirements fulfilled.
Once we are satisfied that it can be properly certified, we will request that you sign the document and the witness should sign as appropriate. If you cannot obtain a suitable witness given social distancing restrictions, it is fine to leave this blank. The document will become self-proving at the point of registration. The witness cannot be the attorney or one of the proposed attorneys.
Unfortunately, an interview over the phone would not comply with the requirements so you would really need video call options to enable a Power of Attorney to be completed.
We will then request the hard copy is returned to us by post at an address we confirm. A photocopy or scanned copy will not suffice.