In these uncertain times, our key advice regarding Wills and Powers of Attorney remains the same as it was before lockdown- it is vitally important that you have up to date documents in place.
Having a Will is the only way to be certain that your money and belongings will go to the people and charities you care about. As well as helping your family and friends in the future, writing a Will gives you peace of mind today.
A Power of Attorney is a document which appoints one person (or more than one person) to make decisions about your money and property and/or your health and personal welfare. For example, this may be more important during Covid-19 if you need to self-isolate or you fall within the vulnerable group and cannot leave your home.
There are two types of Power of Attorney:
- a Continuing Power of Attorney which covers all financial matters, for example dealing with your house, your bank accounts, investments, payment of bills, or taking business decisions. It can be used before the granter loses capacity if need be – for example to cover absence abroad.
- A Welfare Power of Attorney, in contrast, only operates once you lose capacity and deals with personal welfare issues, for example authorising medical treatment or deciding on suitable accommodation for you if you are no longer able to live at home.
We can assure you that although the process of putting Wills and Powers of Attorney in place is slightly different because of current restrictions, we have systems in place to make sure that we can still provide you with the best service we can during lockdown and beyond.
We are continuing to follow the guidance given by the UK and Scottish Governments and – in line with this – our offices are currently closed and therefore face-to-face meetings cannot take place, but using technology such as video-calls via platforms like Microsoft teams or Zoom, we can discuss your needs and provide advice. Alternatively, this initial step can be done by telephone. Following this, we will then send you the draft documents for approval and adjustment if required and the final version for you to sign. If you are unable to print at home, copies can be sent in the post.
With current restrictions witnessing documents can be slightly more challenging. However, the Law Society of Scotland and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) have issued new guidance on witnessing the signing of a Will or POA to allow a solicitor to act as the witness via video conference, so long as they are not appointed as ‘executor’ (the person who sorts out the ‘estate’ (money, property and possessions) of the person who's died). We can talk you through the signing process and ensure this is done correctly.
Covid-19 has changed many things in our lives but the team at Blackwood & Smith are dedicated to helping clients whatever the circumstances. If video conferencing or electronic approval isn’t something you have used before, we can step you through the process.
Fiona Fleming, Partner