Essential services; Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney in the time of Covid 19.
Margaret O’Connell gives an update on practical issues surrounding making and changing wills and signing Enduring Powers of Attorney during Covid 19.
The possibility of further restrictions being introduced again is looming and we have been working hard to ensure continuity of service for our clients, regardless of further restrictions in a way to ensure the safety of our clients and our staff.
We now offer remote meetings via Zoom and Skype, you simply need to have installed these apps on your home pc or phone, and we can set up and host a meeting with you. During the course of these remote meetings we can take full instructions for wills or Enduring Powers of Attorney- or other matters. Naturally, if you prefer these instructions can be taken by telephone.
We can also explain any issues surrounding these documents and give advice in the initial consultation.
After this initial consultation, we will send you a draft will or other document by post or by email, as you prefer. You then have the opportunity to read through it and to make any changes necessary.
We can then have a second meeting, again remotely where possible, and we will go through the document with you in full, explaining where necessary and ensuring it is exactly as per your instructions.
The final aspect is signing the Will or other document.
In relation to an Enduring Power of Attorney, you do not need to have a solicitor witness your signature and so we can facilitate sending out the document to you by post with clear explanations on where to sign or indeed, go through it with you via Zoom or Skype and witness remotely.
In relation to a will, although other countries have embraced new technology and are allowing wills to be witnessed remotely via Zoom or similar apps, in Ireland we are not yet allowed to do so.
The Succession Act of 1965 is the law that tells us how to make a valid Will in Ireland. That Act states, among other things, that a Will must be signed in the physical presence of two witnesses and each of the witnesses must then sign in the presence of the person making that Will. Unfortunately this is still the case, despite growing calls for change.
At the moment, our client can still come to our office and we will adhere to strict guidelines on how to sign and witness your will as safely as possible.
Because the Will has, at this stage, been fully agreed by our Client by telephone and has been read over to them, the actual signing will be as brief as possible. The Will will be placed on a desk in a designated large meeting room before your arrival. You will be directed, immediately upon your arrival, to that meeting room. We have set aside a particular meeting room where there is no contact with any other member of staff for this purpose.
You may bring your own pen, and gloves if you wish. You will be asked to sign your Will directly. We will have two witnesses who will remain in the room but maintain a social distance. Each witness will in turn, witness the Will. You may then leave the office immediately. The process should take an extremely short time to avoid any potential exposure to you or to our staff.
We will then send you a copy of the signed Will, either by post or by email for your records.
If you cannot attend, due to mobility or other issues, or you prefer not to attend our office, then you may drive to our office car park. We will direct you to our private Car Park, and we can hand the Will to you through the car window, witness your signature through the windscreen, witness your will and you may then leave directly.
We may also be able to arrange to do this at your home if necessary, again through your car window in your driveway or, again where necessary, through your house window ( the Will going through the letter box or your window).
Again with any of these options, you may decide to wear gloves, use your own pen and it will be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In rare circumstances, we may be able to post a Will to you and give you specific directions on how to sign and witness it independently of our staff, however this is our least preferred option as the potential for mistakes is heightened. If you do need to use this option, we will give very clear guidelines to you in writing and check the signed will after.
If you do need to make your Will urgently please do contact our office and we will do our best to assist you. We can also discuss Enduring Powers of Attorney under similar circumstances where necessary.
Meanwhile we hope you continue to stay safe and stay connected.
About the author: Margaret O'Connell is an Associate Solicitor and a qualified Trust and Estate Practitioner ( TEP) and is a member of STEP international.