Wills, Trusts & Probate
Coronavirus COVID-19 Services Update – Wills, Trusts & Probate
Preparing and Signing of legal documents: Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Trusts
EMG Solicitors are actively monitoring and responding to the evolving COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation and are following all guidance and advice issued by the UK Government, NHS and Public Health England.
We place a huge value on family – our family at work, home and our wider communities and the wellbeing of our team and our clients is a priority. With this in mind, our offices are closed until further notice but rest assured we remain very much open for business for our clients and are on hand to support you with your Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Trusts advice.
As a digitally advanced, completely paperless law firm we are well equipped for this situation and we have the resource, systems and infrastructure to continue to support you with your lifetime planning during the Coronavirus outbreak.
If you are considering your Will at this time, we can offer:
• Telephone appointments
• Video appointments (via Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Microsoft Teams)
• Online/video ID checking and verification
• Ongoing legal advice and matter progression via telephone, email, video calls, conference calls and electronic file sharing
• Regular communication with your legal team
• Easy payment options so you can budget more easily. Payments can be made online or on the telephone with a member of our accounts team.
How we can help you to prepare your Will (s)
These are unprecedented times and official guidance is changing rapidly.
At this time, our specialist solicitors are currently classed as key workers by UK Government for the purposes of the execution of Wills. In these difficult times, we have strict measures in place and are observing all government guidelines.
All advice given with regards Wills, LPAs, & Trusts is now being conducted remotely and our advisers can offer telephone or video appointments depending upon your preference. Please contact our switchboard on 0191 500 6989 to arrange any advice you require.
All documentation prepared will be sent out to you via post (during the period Royal Mail services are in operation) or electronically, by email, for you to then print, review and sign at home.
Witnessing and signing your Wills
By law, your Will (s) must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses who must be aged 18 or over and must not be a beneficiary of your Will or the spouse of a beneficiary of your Will.
Once you received your Will(s) by post or electronically you will need to ensure your Will is signed in the presence of two independent witnesses and they will also need to sign to say they have physically witnessed (i.e. in person and not via video call) you signing the documents and must also enter their contact details where shown. Due to Government guidelines we will not be able to continue our usual practice of office appointments with our team members acting as witnesses. At this time, you will need to source your own witnesses and we can guide you through the process with our telephone advice. Please inform us if your matter is urgent. With the current situation regarding Coronavirus, the required two metres social distancing and other safe practice and hygiene regimes must be observed and with this in mind your witnesses may be able to witness your signature through a window at this time (although this cannot be guaranteed and remains reliant on official guidance). If this is an issue for you please contact your adviser to discuss options which are safe for you.
PLEASE NOTE: Until your legal documents are CORRECTLY SIGNED they are not legally valid, and so in the event of your death your estate will be distributed in accordance with the terms of any previous valid Will or if there is no such valid Will, then in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy. In the event of your mental incapacity, your affairs will be dealt with in accordance with the terms of any previous valid Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) or Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) you may have made or, if there is no such valid EPA or LPA, then in accordance with any Order of the Court of Protection in respect of your property and financial affairs, and your health and welfare.
Timescales & Payment
Ordinarily, in non-urgent cases, we aim to send out draft legal documents within two to four weeks of receipt of final instructions.
Ordinarily, in urgent cases, we aim to send out draft legal documents within 48 hours but if we are unable to comply with this timeframe we will contact you. We may also be able to prepare documentation more quickly and this can be discussed with your adviser. If your Will is urgent for any reason please inform us as soon as possible.
In the current circumstances, we will require payment on account for any Wills, LPAs, Trusts and advice given and your adviser will discuss this with you.
Depending on the nature of your instructions and circumstances, we may need to insist upon a virtual/video meeting before the legal documents can be signed. This could, for example, be where there is a risk of challenge to the content of the legal documents in the event of your death or mental incapacity. If official guidance and/or staffing levels do not allow for this then we will either need to refuse your instructions or proceed on the basis of ‘Document Production Only’ (that is, without being asked to confirm the presence of mental capacity and the absence of undue influence) which could adversely affect matters if there were a challenge to the validity of the legal documents.
Your adviser will assess and determine whether or not your situation is one that requires a virtual/video meeting (and so whether we need to refuse instructions or can proceed on a Document Production Only basis). This is likely to be determined by the likelihood of a claim being brought against your estate.
Fast Track Wills
In addition to the service highlighted above, in certain circumstances we may be able to offer:
• Urgent Basic Wills completed with a 48hr turnaround
• 20% discount for any existing clients coming back to review and update their Will to include any necessary inheritance tax planning and trust advice in 2020.
Please contact our Wills, Trusts & Probate Team on 0191 500 6989 for further information.
Details of the Newcastle District Probate Registry can be found here.
Information on Wills can be found on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website here.
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EMG Solicitors | Updated 15 May 2020