Coronavirus: Important Bulletin
At The Society of Will Writers, we are keeping a close eye on how the situation with Coronavirus (Covid-19) develops and we understand the concern that this may cause to you, as well as the impact it is having with how businesses negotiate the ways in which they operate.
It is likely that many of our members will usually take instructions face-to-face, but with the unfolding situation there will most certainly be an unease of wishing to visit clients in their homes or clients visiting our places of work.
This article will assist with providing guidance upon taking instructions remotely in order to help maintain the business you currently receive.
When taking instructions remotely:
- As with all cases you must ensure that you carry out the relevant capacity checks before proceeding with taking the instructions and that this should be recorded on the instruction form.
- Consider putting provisions in place for the use of Skype or WhatsApp video calling – both are free services; this will enable you to confirm that the client is who they say they are. Where this is not possible, such as you are taking the instructions by telephone, you will need to be assured that you are speaking to the testator.
- Take into account undue influence. Record any other persons who may be present whilst taking the instructions – ask the client this question and record it on the instruction form.
- Ensure steps are in place to check the clients ID to prevent impersonation of the testator. Request that copies are sent to you by secure means.
- Give consideration to the clients completing a basic questionnaire prior to the instruction taking call as this will enable you to check the facts.
- When taking instructions for a couple, ensure you speak to both clients to ensure that the instructions are the wishes of both.
- Ensure that the clients are properly informed and understanding, particularly where trusts are involved.
- Also check to ensure that your terms of business reflect the way you are working.
- Use secure software such as WeTransfer when sending personally identifiable information to clients; or use the post.
- Ensure the testator signs the instruction form in ink which is always the preferred option or at the very least include a disclaimer on the instruction form for an electronic signature to be used with the reason for its use.
Remote attestation of Wills:
- Where you are not attending the attestation of the Will in person, you must provide full attestation instructions in a covering letter. The Society has a ‘Signing your Will’ leaflet with more information available to give to your clients.
- Put in place a procedure for monitoring the attestation of the Will and that this has been completed correctly – request that a copy of the Will is sent back to you or that a photo of the attestation page is taken for checking, and this will then provide you peace of mind. If the clients do not have a scanner, they could use their mobile phone to take photos of the document.
- Consider using software such as WeTransfer to enable information to be sent to the clients securely; or use post.
- Ask the testator/ witnesses to complete a Remote Attestation form and ensure that the original is returned to you.
You should record and retain all information, including file notes and the instructions as you normally would and for the same length of time as face-to-face meetings.
Whilst the outbreak of COVID-19 continues, if you do need to visit clients in person/ or they visit your place of work, our advice relating to this is as follows:
- Prior to visiting the client, check that they are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are self-isolating (or any other member of the household). Many clients will be aware of the situation so will not be offended as several firms are following this principle and will expect that you will be doing the same and not visiting clients should the same apply.
- Ensure that a strict hygiene routine is maintained, carry hand sanitisers and wash hands regularly.
- If clients will be visiting you in your office, display signs with regards to hand washing and ensure clients are aware that facilities/ sanitisers are available.
- Separate pens should be made available for clients to use, rather than yours – a main source for transposing infection.
- Avoid shaking hands – most people are aware of the current situation and the reasons why.
- Try to maintain some distance between you and the client throughout the meeting.
As always, we are grateful to our members for your loyalty and we will do all we can to help support you during these difficult and uncertain times.
Currently, the office remains open and we continue to work as normal. However, in the event the situation does change we will notify you immediately. We do have the means in place to work remotely so minimal disruption will be caused should this be the case.
If you have any questions, please contact the office.
Article content provided by WillPack, adapted for The Society of Will Writers.
18th March 2020 at 9:19 am
Thank you for your support and advice during this period.
18th March 2020 at 10:50 am
No problem Gillian – if there’s anything else we can help with just get in touch. Stay safe!
23rd March 2020 at 11:06 am
Thanks Anthony. Take care all of you.
19th March 2020 at 9:27 am
Thank you for this helpful guidance at this difficult time. It is much appreciated
19th March 2020 at 11:36 am
You’re welcome David. If we can be of any further assistance just let us know. Stay safe!
20th March 2020 at 4:19 pm
Extremely useful, many thanks.
Will someone be keeping an ear to the ground as regards what Financial Support is available from the government for those businesses that may be hit hard by this current situation? I know that one or two Will writers and introducers that I have spoken to are in quite a panic the way that their businesses have just gone totally dead these last few weeks.
I think that many members may need this kind of support, and depending on personal circumstances may need that kind of support quickly rather than later.
23rd March 2020 at 1:11 pm
Hi Steve, we’re monitoring everything as closely as we can and will send out information to members as it becomes available to us. We fully understand that this is likely to be a difficult time for members, and any who are encountering such difficulties should contact us right away so that we can look at what support and options are available.
23rd March 2020 at 9:35 am
Hi. I have been looking for the Attestation Form on the website and I can’t find where it is. Could you direct me to where it is?
23rd March 2020 at 1:09 pm
Hi Fred, this has just been added under the Member Resources section in the members area. If you need anything else, just let me know.
23rd March 2020 at 7:43 pm
Hi, wondering, in light of the possible lockdown and the local post office shutting, is there any other way we can send out Wills to clients? ie courier service?
24th March 2020 at 8:24 am
Hi Emma, Post Offices will remain open, as for courier services you’d likely have to check with them individually, but I’d imaging it’d be very much the same as the Royal Mail. You can read the full list of businesses that are exempt from closure here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874732/230320_-_Revised_guidance_note_-_finalVF.pdf
Hope this helps!
24th March 2020 at 12:43 pm
Thats Great thanks, I think once the virus is over everyone will be working in a different way and the way we all work will change dramatically and it will be a very positive step forward.
Just out of interest, does anyone use online signing programs for instruction taking, terms of business etc (not signing Wills obviously). Would be intersted to find good and bad bits of different ptograms if used already.
Many thanks, Keep safe
25th March 2020 at 8:14 am
Very helpful comments and replies in response to this article to help keep ourselves in check during this difficult time. Thank you.
27th March 2020 at 3:59 am
How is it possible to to use electronic signatures when signing the wills or have I misread your blog?
27th March 2020 at 1:06 pm
Hi Adrian, it’s not possible currently for an electronic signature to be used to sign a will, although the article does acknowledge that this could be possible at some point in the future. This is something that the Law Commission considered recently.
Also, since this article was published the Law Society and MOJ have announced they are looking into emergency measures to allow for electronic signatures or witnessing by video call. For more info on what emergency measures are being considered I’d recommend taking a look at this: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/coronavirus-talks-ongoing-over-wills-witness-requirements/5103625.article
27th March 2020 at 11:36 pm
Many thanks to the Society for the safety action taken for the staff and members. I am one of those persons in isolation, hopefully saving the NHS for the younger generations.
29th December 2021 at 9:46 pm
It’s over a year since I passed my last exams and after a fair bit of money leafleting , I have yet to draft a single will…came close ..then he changed his mind. Apparently, there has been a 38% increase in people making wills …