Coronavirus: Cork solicitors witness surge in people making out wills

Coronavirus: Cork solicitors witness surge in people making out wills
A Last Will and Testament.

Solicitors are witnessing a surge in the number of people enquiring about making a will as the Law Society notified its members throughout the country of new guidelines governing wills in light of Covid-19.

As older people are concerned about leaving property to loved ones, those with young children are trying to ensure the provision of future guardianship of their children.

Social distancing has created new protocols in offices throughout the country but the signing of a will does require the presence of the person making the will, the solicitor and a witness.

President of the Law Society, Michele O'Boyle, circularised solicitors today with new guidelines.

“Where possible, instructions should be taken over the phone and the draft will be sent to the client by e-mail for approval and amendment.

“It is not appropriate to take any prolonged instructions in a room with anyone and in particular an elderly person, as it would expose that person, as well as you and your employees. 

"The telephone will work fine and the client needs to understand that they have to be fully satisfied with the will as this will be the version they will sign. No last-minute codicils,” Ms Byrne said.

Michael Quinlan of Frank Buttimer & Co. said today, “There has been a large increase in enquiries in relation to making wills. 

"There are people who are 40-ish who have concerns about guardianship of children. It is not just from elderly people in relation to property.” 

On the issue of taking instructions over the phone, Mr Quinlan said solicitors needed to be vigilant: “You have to make a judgement call that a person is giving instructions under their own free will and not under any duress.” 

Deirdre Wilson of Edmund J. Burke & Co., who also noted an increase in the number of people enquiring about making wills, agreed, “I would be very reluctant to make a will (over the phone) for someone I did not know. 

"I would be happier to deal with someone I know so you can be sure they are not under pressure. I would not take a cold call on a will. The way it is at the moment it is ripe for this kind of thing. When I know them well I won’t be worried.” 

Eoin Tobin of Ronan Daly Jermyn, said, “We are getting queries (about wills) every day now and about related things like people who had put off giving a gift of a farm to a child.” 

On the issue of ensuring that a client giving instructions by phone is not under any pressure from a third party, the use of Skype or video conferencing “is an extra comfort,” Mr Tobin said.

The Law Society’s new guidelines even extend to extreme cases of going to the client’s house: “You should ask the client to have a desk or similar writing surface placed in front of a window, post the will through the letterbox, have the client execute the will, witnessed by you and the other witness through the window (if necessary the client can hold the will up to the window and sign it there) witnessed by you and the other witness. 

"You and the other witness can then sign the will in the visual presence of the testator. Alternatively if the client is sitting in their car when you arrive, they can sign on the dashboard of their car witnessed by you and the other witness. 

"You and the other witness can then sign on the bonnet of the car.”

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