People living under lockdown are turning their minds to their own mortality as legal firms report a rise in inquiries for wills.
Solicitors have reported a doubling of the number of people contacting them to arrange a will.
The coronavirus pandemic is thought to be the main impetus behind the surge as people seek to put their affairs in order.
Thorntons, which was founded in Dundee and now has offices across Scotland, is one firm dealing with the upsurge – reportedly as high as 50% in some areas.
Lorna Christine, a partner at the firm and a private client solicitor, said the rise in Tayside may not been a sharp as other firms are reporting.
She said: “There’s definitely been an increase, mostly from people who started one some time ago and left it incomplete.
“There has definitely been a lot more applications compared to the same time last year.
“It’s hard to say if it’s been a 50% increase, but we are definitely busy.”
Ms Christine suspects the nature of news across the world and people staying at home having more free time to think about things, has led clients to realise they should have a will in place.
She added: “There’s probably a feeling that people want to have things settled. This brings things into focus, we’re aware that we’re not all here forever.
“Usually, clients often leave it off, thinking ‘I don’t need to worry about that at the moment’ but it’s good to get it done and take it off your mind.”
Michael Knott, head of the wills team at Slater and Gordon, said: “We have seen a significant spike in inquiries from people wanting to either make or update their will, with more than double the usual number of calls this month.”
Meanwhile, financial advice company deVere Group, which has an online wills service, said it has also seen a surge in inquiries.
Chief executive Nigel Green said: “With more people with more time on their hands due to social distancing measures and lockdowns, the coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented, collective focusing-of-minds effect.”
Elspeth Neilson, private client partner at London law firm Osbornes Law, said: “It’s important to recognise that small mistakes in your will can cause significant problems for loved ones in the event of your death and could result in extra costs, or, you dying intestate.
“Even in these unprecedented times you should ensure that your will appoints executors, contains a clear and unambiguous disposal of your estate, and is executed correctly.”
No need to peek through doorways
Having a will signed in the age of social distancing has thrown up some interesting challenges for legal firms.
Some firms have reported having the signing of a will witnessed from a distance through an open doorway or window.
Lorna Christine said it is unlikely people will need to take any drastic measures to secure their will as computers are allowing the work to be done with little disruption.
She said: “We’re not having face to face meetings with clients following the government’s guidelines.
“We’re mainly having video meetings. They are working quite well so far. We’re sending links to clients that seems to be working well, helping us to get the work done.
“The Law Society guidance is to do things via video links for the time being.
“I see there has been mention of peeping through doorways to witness signings and things like that but I don’t think that is necessary.
“A will can still be sent to our office and the witnessing and signing can be done later.
“If people are not able to access the internet we can still do things.
“If the person has a witness available that’s fine but it has to be someone independent – it can’t be a partner, for example. I think the video way is working fully well at the moment.”
Michael Knott, of Slater and Gordon, said: “Our advice is that signatures will still be valid as long as each party can see the other sign – either, for example, by watching through a doorway or window or outside from a safe distance.
“That said, there is a strict process that still needs be followed with this and so, if they are at all unsure, it is important they seek legal advice.
“We recognise this isn’t ideal but at the moment it is necessary for the safety and well-being of everyone involved.”
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