BBC Report: UK / Coronavirus: Lawyers see ‘spike’ in will inquiries

The BBC reports today something that we are all aware of already

Solicitors in the UK are reporting a “spike” in the number of people seeking to make or update their wills amid the coronavirus pandemic.

One law firm has attributed the rise in part to people being “sadly confronted with their own mortality during these times of loss”.

Other practices said it could be a result of people having more time to “put their affairs in order”.

The UK has so far recorded more than 16,000 coronavirus deaths in hospital.

Dentons, which has legal offices in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, said it had seen an increase in will inquiries recently, from “medical service professionals”, among others.

‘Tackle some life admin’

London-based wealth management company Killik & Co, meanwhile, has reported a 50% increase in inquiries since the start of the virus outbreak.

The firm’s head of wealth planning, Svenja Keller, said: “We think it is due to people being sadly confronted with their own mortality during these times of loss, and people also have more time in lockdown to tackle some life admin that they have been putting off.”

Austin Lafferty, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s professional practice committee, said his own firm was seeing “a large spike” in the number of clients, mainly older couples, seeking to make or amend wills.

He added: “A large proportion of those coming forward to make or update wills are also instructing us to create powers of attorney so that financial and welfare matters can be managed for them if they do succumb to the virus, or indeed any severe illness or accident, and have to be hospitalised.”

‘Affairs in order’

Shepherd and Wedderburn, which has offices in Scotland and England, said it had also been handling more inquiries from both new and existing clients.

“I think it is fair to say that the outbreak has led to people wanting to put their affairs in order but for some people this is always a job they intended to do but having to spend more time at home has given them the time to attend to it,” Douglas Sinclair, a partner based in Edinburgh, said.

The rise in interest has come as legal firms north and south of the border look to change their working practices to cope with restrictions such as social-distancing rules.

Father on computerImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The Law Society of Scotland recently published new guidance for solicitors on providing advice and services.

Among other things, it has cleared Scottish lawyers to use video conferencing technology if clients are self-isolating.

The situation is more complicated in England and Wales, according to Roddy Harrison, a partner in Dentons’ Glasgow office.

‘Physical presence’

He said current law south of the border was “less flexible” than in Scotland because wills had to be signed with witnesses physically present.

He continued: “This has been reinforced by guidance from the Law Society of England and Wales that wills witnessed by video conference are not valid.

“In Scotland, the law does not require the physical presence of the witness at the signing.”

Mr Harrison added the Ministry of Justice was in discussions with the Law Society over legislation that would relax the rules around the witnessing of wills and possibly allow for electronic signatures.

Meanwhile, the National Will Register has reported an increase in people searching for wills after suffering a bereavement as a result of Covid-19.

On its website, it states: “Feedback from people searching is that they need to locate a will quickly in advance of a funeral to understand if the deceased’s will contained funeral wishes.

“In such cases, the people performing a will search are searching because they are either self-isolating, do not want to enter the home of others who may have or are suffering with the Covid-19 virus, or enter the home of a victim of the virus to look for evidence of a will.”