Rachel Roche, the award winning Yorkshire based solicitor, is backing Government moves to change the way wills are drawn up in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen a 30 per cent increase in requests for help.
More than 30m people in the UK do not have a will and with the Law Society revealing a significant increase in demand for legal services, a major overhaul of probate legislation is on the agenda as the country deals with unprecedented restrictions on movement.
The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are urgently looking to change the rules for making a will which at present must be signed by the testator and two independent witnesses. They are also aiming to make the process quicker to register for lasting powers of attorney, which allows others to make decisions for you in specific circumstances.
Rachel Roche, whose Roche Legal team has offices in York and Harrogate, has developed and introduced her own online will writing and LPA programme and specialises in helping the elderly and vulnerable. Rachel acknowledges changes will need to be made to the current regulations and COVID-19 crisis is focussing attention on the current system. Rachel said: “It is vital to bring the legal profession into the modern era because it is still, in many ways, archaic and the Wills Act was introduced in 1837 and we need to be more flexible.
“The situation we are currently in is a good opportunity for law makers to think about practical ways to ensure that people who need to have their wishes documented are able to do so quickly. It is possible for multiple people to sign electronic documents and that is why the whole system needs to be looked at. There may by a method where you can keep the current rules but also introduce another way that runs in parallel and I do prefer an electronic option.
“I expect an electronic system for signing all documents, including will and deeds, will be available in the future using Blockchain, which is used by the banks, and is secure. In the rest of Europe you do not need two witnesses and there are different types of will you can make either with a notary or by signing it yourself and that is called a holographic will. Our will writing and LPA programme gives clients the convenience of online use and it’s a shame we cannot offer the opportunity to sign as well. That would be the next logical step.
“We have been dealing with requests for copies of LPA’s for clients who are in hospital or are concerned they will have to be admitted and they want to ensure their relatives can manage their affairs while they are incapacitated. “
Current laws around the signing of wills have been in place since 1837. It has yet to be established if any new legislation will be invoked either during or once the coronavirus crisis is over.