The legal sector in Scotland is currently experiencing an unprecedented time but despite this, you should be aware that systems have been put in place to ensure that your personal legal affairs can continue to be managed.
One of the matters that this recent crisis has drawn people’s attention to is the benefit of having a Will in place. If you are wishing to prepare a Will or update an already existing Will, there is no need to delay matters until the lockdown has ended as The Law Society of Scotland have now issued guidelines around the signing of Wills to avoid any unnecessary delays and allow these to be finalised in the current circumstances.
In Scotland, the general rule for signing Wills is that the document has to be signed on every page in the presence of an independent witness, who signs on the last page only. Due to the social distancing rules currently in place, it may obviously be difficult to arrange for an independent witness to be present unless your household contains someone who is not named in your Will.
The Law Society guidance has introduced the possibility of video calls, which would allow a solicitor to witness the signing during the call. The solicitor could only act as the witness if they themselves are not appointed as Executor in the Will, either individually or through a trust company. Once the Will has been signed, this is posted back and the solicitor would sign as the witness and complete the necessary details. Our solicitors are all now working from home and have the facilities available to conduct video calls with clients as required.
It may be the case that some clients are not able to conduct video calls. There are other options available regarding the signing of these Wills so this should not be a deterrent to anyone wishing to prepare or update a Will during this time. It is possible to sign a Will without a witness being present but extra steps would be required by way of affidavit evidence before the court would accept the Will as valid. Once the lockdown has ended, a replacement Will could be signed and witnessed to remove the necessity for this.
The other option which has been suggested is to arrange for a witness to be present but ensure that they observe the social distancing measures in place and remain 2 metres from you at all times. There is the risk with this option, however, that the Coronavirus could be transferred between people handling the Will as the virus can potentially survive on paper for up to twelve hours.
The Law Society guidelines around video calls also include the signing of Powers of Attorney, so if this is something you wish to put in place at this time, we are able to assist.
If you would like to discuss Wills/Powers of Attorney or have any questions about the issues covered here, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Private client team.