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Ian Macdonald

Published by
Ian Macdonald

24th April 2020

Scots should use the lockdown period to get their legal affairs in order

Ian Macdonald, Partner and Head of Private Client, says measures are being taken to ensure members of the public can still liaise with legal professionals and instruct on important matters like wills and power of attorneys, without having to leave their homes.

Ian said: “While this is a completely unprecedented situation, we want people to realise that there are still steps they can take right now to ensure their legal affairs are in order despite the strict rules around staying at home.

“Many people tend to put off writing their will, or if they have already done so, they rarely review it. We always advise our clients to regularly revisit these documents to ensure they’re up to date and in line with their current situation.

“People might think now isn’t the right time to look at these things as they can’t physically come into a solicitors’ office and talk things over, but in actual fact, now could be the perfect time to sit down and sort through those matters you’ve been avoiding.

“There’s a lot of talk of people using this period of lockdown to finish the DIY tasks they’ve been putting off, or getting round to doing work in their gardens and spring cleaning, and I’d advise people to do the same with their legal matters.

“While we’re unable to meet clients face to face, we’re lucky to have so much technology at our fingertips nowadays, which makes it possible to communicate. We can of course speak to clients over the phone, and for those who have the ability, we can also video call which may be preferable to some, so they’re still getting the face to face contact.

“Thankfully the Royal Mail is still in operation, so we can also post letters and legal documents to clients who may not have access to email or the ability to scan and print in their own homes.”

Ian also spoke of new guidance recently issued by the Law Society of Scotland around the signing and witnessing of documents during the pandemic.

He continued: “While there hasn’t been a specific change to the law, the guidance dictates that as a solicitor, I could watch a client sign a document using a videoconferencing platform, then the client could scan and email or post the document to me, and I could witness it. So even if you’re self-isolating and live alone, there are still ways and means to ensure documents are validated.

“There is some concern around whether people could take advantage of this situation to pressure family members into making wills that they’re not entirely happy with or don’t fully understand. However, as solicitors, it’s our job to be vigilant when it comes to this type of thing. We always do our best to ensure the client is capable of agreeing to the terms set out in their will, and that they’re not under any pressure. That won’t change in the current circumstances. We can still use all the means available to us to do our due diligence and get a feel for the clients’ circumstances and their reasons for making the will the way they have. That won’t change just because we’re not meeting clients face to face.”

The information contained in this newsletter is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of relevant law and practice as at April 2020. Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP cannot be held responsible for any action taken or not taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be taken on any individual matter. Transmissions to or from our email system and calls to or from our offices may be monitored and/or recorded for regulatory purposes. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 302 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RZ. A limited liability partnership registered in Scotland, number SO 300336.