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.