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A criticism which the legal sphere often has levelled at it is that we are slow to move with the ever advancing technological world. We are to be confined to the single office space with the physical files and papers piled high around us. We continue to utilise the trusty feather quill pen and ink set for executing all important documents. The reality, however, is that whilst we can retain an appreciation for the traditional, we are ready and able to make full use of alternative means of communication.
In the light of the recent announcements made by the UK and Scottish Governments to COVID-19, solicitors are finding new ways of ensuring that clients are having their legal needs met. As one Partner at the firm has remarked: there are no problems, only opportunities.
We have taken the opportunity to ensure clients can put their affairs in order in such uncertain times. This includes having a properly drafted Will to deal with their estates once they have passed away. Having this will ensure that the people and/or organisations (eg. charities) you wish to benefit do. In addition, and often overlooked or put into the category of “I’ll do that later in life”, is that of a Power of Attorney. It is a document that allows a person or persons to deal with your finances and/or welfare. It can be used as a matter of convenience if, for example, you are taken into hospital and you need your family to continue to deal with your affairs. To use the same example, if you subsequently lose capacity and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, it allows your family to decide what medical treatment you will receive in line with your known wishes. There is a common misconception that your next of kin can deal with your affairs but this is simply not true.
But how do you put in place a Will and Power of Attorney when you cannot go in to see your Solicitor? The answer lies with our willingness to adapt.
The Law Society of Scotland has just issued its updated guidance on how Solicitors can continue to offer their services to clients when current restrictions prevent meetings in person. To take each in turn….
If you have already given instructions to us prior to the government call to ‘stay at home’, the final Will can either be posted out or emailed across to you. In order to have a self-proving Will in Scotland (which just means that there are no extra steps to go through with the court when you die), it requires to be signed on each page in the presence of, preferably, an independent witness (ie. not someone benefitting under the Will or being named as an Executor to deal with the estate). This will be difficult for some people as they often live with parties named in the Will. On top of this, the call for ‘social distancing’ means that asking your neighbour to pop over to act as a witness would not be suitable. In these circumstances, we at Blackadders can arrange to set up a video call with you and act as a witness to your signing. This can be through, for example, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, to name but a few. I have heard recently of a number of children setting their parents and grandparents up for Facetime in light of the recent news. If you have no suitable witness and no access to video facilities, we are on hand to offer alternative stop-gap solutions until the restrictions have been lifted.
If, on the other hand, you are looking to give instructions on your Will now, and you are an existing client, we continue to be able to meet your needs. This can be as simple as confirming your existing Will is still up-to-date and in line with your wishes, or putting in place an entirely new Will. We are happy to receive written instructions followed up by a telephone or, preferably, video call to confirm these. We may also require up-to-date ID for you which can be effected without ever leaving your house. Signing the Will shall be carried out in accordance with the above. If you are not an existing client, please still feel free to call us to run through your options here.
Power of Attorney
Again, we are making use of video calls to ensure that Powers of Attorney can continue to be put in place to cover your affairs. The Power of Attorney document can either be posted or emailed to you in advance of the video call. Solicitors are required to interview the granter (the person appointing an attorney or attorneys) immediately before the document is signed. Therefore, the Solicitor will provide you with the relevant information and guidance before the Power of Attorney is signed. Unlike a Will, it is not strictly necessary that a Power of Attorney document is witnessed but if you do have access to an independent person this is to be preferred.
Overall, the key point to take away from this is that we in the Private Client Team are here to help with any questions or queries you may have regarding your personal affairs.
I do hope this can provide you with some comfort in such uncertain times. I am optimistic that if we all pull together in times like this, we will come out the other end stronger than ever. Please stay safe and take care.
Robyn Lee, Solicitor
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