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Understandably a large number of people made the decision to get their legal affairs in order this year.

   

The coronavirus pandemic caused great concern for some people, keen to get their wills written or updated in fear of falling ill form the virus. Others had more time on their hands than usual during lockdown, to finally get around to making a will to protect their families.

   

At the beginning of the covid-19 restrictions in the UK it was tricky to finalise wills due to the processes being mainly face-to-face, with a will only being valid when signed and witnessed in front of two people.

   

Government quickly recognised the need for access to legal services and introduced new, temporary legislation to allow people to progress with their wills remotely. Solicitors and will-writers are now able to meet with their clients via video conference and watch on as witnesses see the testator sign their will making it legal and valid. These temporary measures apply to all wills made between 31 January 2020 and 31 January 2022.

   

Whilst the flexibility is great, and the changes have been welcomed by families and Solicitors alike (particularly for those clients with mobility issues, who are shielding or self-isolating) it does bring an increased risk of wills being contested in the future.

   

What Are The Risks?

 
  • It is important that those who are vulnerable or have capacity issues are not taken advantage of using video witnessing. They must fully understand what it is going on and this can be more difficult to check when not in the same room.
 
  • Viewers cannot see what is happening ‘off camera’ and whether someone else is in the room influencing the testator. When face to face you can be sure that no-one else is listening when asking questions of the testator where this is not possible through a video conference.
 
  • The video must be clear. Whilst technology is most of the time great, it is not infallible. A lost connection or unclear sound may raise concerns of the validity of the will. A recording of the video should be taken and stored safely.
 
  • Once signed the will needs to be promptly passed on to witnesses and returned, if witnesses take too long then there is a risk that the testator could die before the will is valid or beneficiaries could question why the will was held up and if it was tampered with.
 
  • Where possible, it is still best practice to follow the pre-existing processes and have wills witnessed in person. Solicitors will be vigilant to any ‘emergency’ drastic changes to wills that are made via video calls if they suspend the testator may be under duress.
 

virtual will signing legal meeting online lawyer

Contesting a Will

 

Sadly, it is quite common for family members to feel the need to challenge what they did (or did not in most cases) receive from the estate of a lost loved one. However, it is not a straightforward process and many grounds for making a claim are under strict time restrictions, so it is imperative to get good advice from a specialist solicitor in this field.

   

Coping with the loss of a family member and the added hurt of not being provided for or receiving something that had been promised to you can be incredibly stressful.

   

There are a number of grounds to make a claim, such as the deceased not having mental capacity or being unduly influenced. There could also be issues around the technical process not being followed correctly. Furthermore, there is also scope for dependents to claim if the will did not make reasonable financial provisions -for example, a spouse with mortgage responsibility and young children being left out of a will completely. These are just a few examples of potential grounds.

   

Getting Legal Advice

 

If you believe that you may have a claim to an estate or are a beneficiary of a will that you think is unfair, then please get in touch and speak to one of our Dispute Resolution Solicitors who have vast experience and successful track records in contested probate claims.

   

Call us on 01256 844888, email enquiries@lambbrooks.com or speak to our online chat assistant today.

   

Other Articles You May Be Interested in Reading:

Can You Challenge a Will?

6 Things to Think About When Making a Will

Taking Care of Aging Parents

   

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.