Going digital – witnessing of Wills and online Lasting Powers of Attorney

Posted on: September 11th, 2020

There is no doubt that the COVID pandemic has led to overwhelming demand for services to be provided online and legal services have been no exception. In March Coffin Mew introduced video calling for clients demonstrating how easy it is to keep in touch or give instructions online. Now the Government has announced two key digital developments to support people making a Will or acting under power of attorney.

Video-witnessed Wills

Wills witnessed remotely via video link will become legal in England and Wales to make it easier for people to record their final wishes during the pandemic.

Under the current law a Will must be made in the physical presence of at least two witnesses but social distancing measure have made this difficult.

The change to the law is expected in September but will be backdated to 31 January, the date of the first confirmed COVID case in the UK. The measure will remain in place until January 2022, although the time period could be extended or shortened if deemed necessary.

Digital Lasting Powers of Attorney

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has also announced a new digital service to help people acting as an attorney prove Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) status to banks, healthcare providers and other organisations.

An LPA is a document that legally allows a nominated person (called an ‘attorney’) to make decisions on the LPA holder’s behalf, should they lose the capacity to take care of these things themselves.

Replacing the current paper-based process, upon registration of an LPA, the online system will issue a secure digital access code allowing attorneys to instantly confirm their status, the power they hold – authorising them to act on behalf of their loved ones.

Although there are some concerns that the service will be open to fraud, the OPG stated “Crucially the new tool maintains existing checks, including to confirm whether someone has the legal right to act as an attorney and the powers they may be entitled to – protecting the vulnerable and elderly from abuse.”

The new service will be available to LPAs registered from 17 July although there are plans to extend the service to those registered before this date.

How can we help?

Coffin Mew has used video conferencing tools such as Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp to deliver services such as Will drafting and creating powers of attorney to very good effect, with one client commenting:

Full marks to Coffin Mew for embracing the use of technology. All the staff were a pleasure to deal with and I will certainly recommend them in the future.

If you’re considering making a Will or you want to discuss an LPA, please contact a member of our private client team or complete the enquiry form below.

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