Royds Withy King dials up WhatsApp to help Covid-19 sufferers with their Wills

May 28, 2020

Law firm Royds Withy King is helping seriously ill people with Covid-19 create or update a Will while remaining in strict isolation – via WhatsApp.

The firm, which has an office in Swindon, has turned to the mobile video call platform to overcome the difficult – and unprecedented – legal issues around changing Wills without the parties being physically together. 

A partner in its Wills and probate team, Amanda Noyce, pictured, said the firm has taken “extraordinary steps” to ensure that it can continue to service clients affected.

“We have seen a significant interest from individuals wanting to either create or update their Wills, but the strict lockdown regime has made the physical witnessing of them all but impossible,” she said.

“We are having to think creatively to ensure that their final wishes are recorded.”

She said the firm had recently acted for a very ill individual with Covid-19, taking instructions from him via a WhatsApp video call.

“We were able to check that he was alone in the room to ensure he was not being coerced and then recorded his wishes. A draft Will was emailed to him. The signing of the Will was witnessed by his solicitor via a second WhatsApp video call and the solicitor’s wife. Both the solicitor and his wife signed the Will as witnesses.”

She said received wisdom in legal circles was that this may not be a truly valid Will as the witnesses were arguable not ‘in the presence’ of the individual when signed, as stipulated by the Wills Act 1837.

But added: “Unfortunately, whilst photography was proving very popular in the 1830s, law makers at the time did not envisage film and video calls let alone a worldwide pandemic.

“The Law Commission, when reviewing the legislation in 2017, also did not take into account highly contagious individuals and the making of a Will via video technology.

“We believe that many families will choose to accept Wills witnessed by video as being valid, reflecting the true last wishes of a family member.

“However, there will inevitably be those who would wish to challenge the terms of such a Will. There will probably have to be a test case after lockdown eases to assess whether the judiciary believes that ‘presence’ can mean ‘via video link’.”

Royds Withy King’s private client team has also been using other online and mobile video platforms such Zoom and Skype to talk with clients about wills during the coronavirus crisis.

This has enabled the firm’s lawyers to offer initial interviews and take instructions while clients remain within the safety of their own home throughout the process. 

Once drafted, Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney are sent via email or, if necessary, by post for clients to review.

Royds Withy King employs 520 people in its offices network, which stretches along the M4 from Bristol to London. The firm provides a comprehensive range of legal services from corporate and commercial to family and private client.




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