Wills: Social Distancing & COVID-19

In these worrying times, many people are thinking about making a will or updating an existing will.

The current law around the signing of wills has been in place since 1837 and this provides that a will must be signed by the testator and two independent witnesses to be valid. The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice have been examining the difficulties faced by members of the public regarding the making of wills during the coronavirus epidemic, particularly in view of the government guidance on social distancing. It is recognised that this will be a particular issue for those who are aged 70 and over and individuals with any underlying health conditions who have been advised to self-isolate.

Traditionally, we would take instructions from you in person and then arrange for the testator and the witnesses to be in a room together where the will would be properly signed by all the parties. Although this is no longer possible, the Wills and Probate team here at Baron Grey are still able to assist you. We can take your instructions by a variety of means, including offering client meetings using video conference calls. Once we have taken your instructions, we can send your will to your home with detailed instructions to ensure that the will is signed correctly and is valid.

Clearly, when arranging for your Will to be witnessed, it is important to follow the social distancing advice at all times. In most cases, it will not be possible to have members of your household witness your will as these are likely to be family members and beneficiaries of your will or a close relative of a beneficiary. Depending on how isolated you are required to be, we are able to make arrangements for members of our staff to witness your will. Alternatively, you could ask adjacent neighbours to witness and sign the will from the safety of their own garden. As long as you and each witness can see each other sign the Will, this would form valid execution. Opposite sides of the same room would also be a possibility, but this of course depends on the size of the room and the vulnerability of the individuals involved.

It is important that if you are going to make a will, you ensure it is valid. If you would like support and guidance, please do not hesitate to contact Baron Grey’s Wills and Probate Team, who are continuing to write wills for people during these uncertain times.

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James Atkins

Associate Solicitor

James is a private client solicitor specialising in wills, trusts, powers of attorney and estate administration. He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in English Literature in 2013 and went on to complete his law conversion course at BPP University. 

James trained at Baron Grey and after a sabbatical in Russia has recently re-joined the firm. James has a very friendly and approachable manner and is an asset to Baron Grey.

Lara Symons

Solicitor

Lara Symons qualified as a solicitor in 1997 and has specialised in all aspects of Immigration Law since then. Lara was formally the head of the Immigration Appeals Team at White Ryland Solicitors in Shepherds Bush, before moving to Spain for four years with her family.

Lara joined Baron Grey in 2013 and now works for the firm dealing with a wide range of immigration and probate matters.

Minnie Waite

Conveyancer

Minnie Waite joined Baron Grey in 2017 as a conveyancer having worked in the City for many years.

She has over 20 years’ experience in dealing with all aspects of conveyancing transactions and has studied the License Conveyancing course. Minnie specialises in freehold/leasehold, enfranchisement, has some commercial experience and advises on mortgages.

She is extremely approachable and friendly and a great addition to the Baron Grey team.

Ben Hall

Solicitor Advocate

Ben Hall is an experienced solicitor who re-joined Baron Grey solicitors in early 2018, having originally trained under Vincent in 2006.

Ben specialises in criminal defence work and regularly represents clients from the investigatory stage all the way through to the Crown Court and Court of Appeal, where he has had notable success.

Ben has expanded his practice into civil litigation with a particular emphasis on commercial and probate disputes.

Emma Faulkner

Solicitor

After being awarded a 2:1 degree in Law from the University of Reading, Emma joined Baron Grey in 2012. Since then, she has successfully completed the Legal Practice Course part-time obtaining a Distinction, and qualifying as a solicitor in February 2016.

Emma assists the litigation team and specialises in Family Law, including divorce and financial proceedings. Emma also deals with the niche area of Private Client Law concerning Lasting Powers of Attorney. She follows the footsteps of her grandfather who worked for Baron Grey as a senior legal assistant.

Vincent Hambleton-Grey

Principal

After graduating in Law in London, Vincent joined the firm in 1990 as a newly qualified solicitor. He specialises in litigation and company commercial work as well as employment and matrimonial matters. 

He is passionate about representing those who do not always have a fair voice in the community and his clients vary from local people to many small businesses in the area. Whenever possible, Vincent’s aim is always to meet and discuss matters with all new clients personally first. 

Born in Swansea, South Wales, he moved to London as an undergraduate and has lived in Twickenham since 1994. He is married with two daughters.