The legal profession has had to adapt quite drastically over the last few months, as have many others.  Some would say it’s not before time as some of the processes and procedures have been entrenched for many years and maybe needed to be dragged kicking and screaming to take advantage of modern day technology.

A couple of the most interesting updates are listed below:

Witnessing of wills during the pandemic has been problematic for many people as up until now the use of video was not accepted as being valid in this country.  However, video witnessing of wills during the COVID-19 pandemic will now comply with signing formalities and be upheld as valid.  This change in legislation will be backdated to apply to wills from 31 January 2020 and run until 31 January 2022, with the option for further extension.  There are still stipulations for this type of attestation to be compliant and I’m happy to discuss this in more detail with anyone who would like more information.

This change will allow for greater ability for wills to be put in place safely while the pandemic continues, particularly for those who are shielding.  Although use of video was never condoned as being appropriate up until now, this change may mean that some wills already signed will be at less risk of dispute where this type of method has been employed.

On Friday 17th July, the OPG announced that they have been working behind the scenes to modernise the Lasting Power of Attorney process and have launched a new online tool to make it quicker and easier for attorneys to use an LPA to support the donor.

Once an LPA is registered, attorneys and donors will be sent an activation key.  They are then able to create an online account and use the activation key to make an access code, which they are able to provide to organisations to view an online summary of an LPA. By allowing attorneys to submit the code to the online portal, this will nearly instantaneously confirm their status as an attorney and allow them to take actions on their loved one’s behalf.

Attorneys and donors with LPAs registered from 17 July 2020 will be able to use the online service.  The OPG also has plans to open up the service to LPAs registered earlier in 2020 and some from 2019, but have not yet released a date for this.

By replacing the paper-based process, which can take weeks due to documents being requested and copies needing to be posted, this means that the speed in which decisions can be made will be drastically quicker.

I’m happy to speak with anyone to offer guidance, or clear up any queries they may have about these points or any other estate planning related query.

Jan Cook