- 26 Mar 2020
Yes: Simple: The valid signing of wills is particularly difficult, and e-signatures or video-witnessing of wills have not yet been officially sanctioned by the government. Practitioners must take heed of self-isolation and social distancing, measures that are especially important for the elderly or ill; a client group very likely to need wills or power of attorney services.
As delaying execution is risky for the already-ill, a STEP recommendation last week suggested that clients should have the option of meeting through digital means such as videoconferencing or telephone. Such a process can render assessment and recording of mental capacities difficult, whilst current stress on the NHS can also make obtaining a doctor’s report difficult.
In response some solicitors are adopting the practice of “signing off at the direction of a testator after going through the document with them through a window” but the virus may be able to be transferred simply by handling an infected document.
Witness attestation is also difficult if testators are in isolation; witnessing a will from the next room or through a window might not be considered as being formally in the testator’s presence, but old case law (Casson v Dade 1781) may yield a solution by rendering the line of sight sufficient.