Wills and EPAs During COVID-19
Without getting too dark, the current outbreak of COVID-19 is a reminder to us all that we really should all have our affairs in order.
We strongly believe that everyone over the age of 18 should have a will that lays out their wishes in the event of their death. Equally as important is an Enduring Power of Attorney ("EPA"), which allows for someone you trust to manage your affairs, should poor health or an accident affect your capacity.
Can I make a Will or EPA during lock-down?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is a little more complicated.
At both Level 3 and 4 lawyers are working from home and should not meet with clients in person. We’ve been using audio-visual technology and electronic signatures to meet with clients and enable documents to be signed. However, wills and EPAs are very formal documents that we would usually need to witness in person.
There have been recent law changes and guidance from the Law Society that aim to allow us to continue to complete these documents, while maintaining a safe physical distance.
For a will to be valid it must be witnessed, in person, by two independent adults. If there are two adults in your bubble that would not benefit from your will, they are able to witness you sign your will in person and you have a valid will. However, in lock-down this could be difficult for many people, as the people who you want to benefit from your will might be the only people in your bubble! If a beneficiary of your will is one of the witnesses, they will automatically lose their entitlement.
To combat this the government has made an order amending the Wills Act to allow people to witness a will from a different location via audio-visual link. This means that you could sign your will at your own home while we witness via an audio-visual link. You would then send us a scanned copy for us to sign as witness.
An EPA must be signed by you and witnessed by a lawyer. Each attorney must then also sign with a witness. Unlike a will, this doesn’t all have to happen at the same time, but witnesses would still need to be in the presence of the signer. The Law Society has received advice that during lock-down, if a person wishes to make an EPA the lawyer can give the required advice and witness the signature by audio-visual technology, as long as strict protocols are adhered to.
This advice is not binding like the government order for wills, but it is likely to hold up if challenged.
We would strongly suggest that if you sign either of these documents by these methods that you come in to see us to complete a traditional, in person, hard copy version of the document as soon as the restrictions on meetings are lifted. This will both ensure that there is no argument about the validity of the document, and allow us to catch up with all our clients who we have missed!
To discuss making a will or Enduring Power of Attorney, please get in touch by phone (04 390 2123) or email (email@example.com).
Katherine, Sam, Jordan, Maria and Madi— Convex Legal
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