Lawyers are ready to tackle a rising demand for emergency wills during the coronavirus crisis.
Firms across the country report a rising demand from worried clients who have put off making or updating wills.
Some have set up innovative online services to work around a ban on all but essential travel and social isolation which makes witnessing the documents a challenge.
Goughs, solicitors based in Wiltshire are offering a Wills Through A Window service to local customers.
Instructions for writing the will are taken by phone or an online video link, using software like FaceTime, WhatsApp or Skype.
Advice for lawyers
A lawyer then drafts the will and takes the document to the client’s home for signing and witnessing through a window.
Emma Taylor, head of the Goughs private client department, said: “Our priority is the health and safety of clients and staff. Wills through a window is already making a positive impact on clients who can have peace of mind that they have a valid will in place but not putting themselves at risk doing so.”
Meanwhile the Law Society, which regulates how lawyers operate, says solicitors can decline making an emergency will without flouting rules that stop them offering an unreasonable refusal of service.
“No one can be forced to give legal advice in such circumstances. If a solicitor believes that following the government’s advice on good hand and general hygiene and social distancing is impractical due to the location of the prospective client then they are free to decline instructions,” said a spokesman.
“They should, however, act reasonably and assess the measures in place rather than adopt a blanket ban. Keep a clear and detailed record of reasons for declining to act, including any distancing and hygiene restrictions difficulties or personal circumstances such as self-isolation which apply.
“We would also recommend putting operating arrangements online, so potential customers will have notice when they enquire.”
House sales fall through
The coronavirus lockdown is also affecting house sales due to complete, with lawyers advised to postpone competition or to pass the case to another lawyer who may still be at work.
Complications include sellers self-isolating, difficulties with removal men entering homes and calls from buyers to have properties deep-cleaned before completion.
“If completion does not take place after contracts have been exchanged due to coronavirus, the parties not completing will be in default and may face a financial penalty,” said a Law Society spokesman.
“The contract provisions relating to default will apply unless the non-defaulting party takes a ‘good faith’ view.”