Does COVID-19 advice miss the mark?
A London law firm has suggested members of the public get their legal documents witnessed while they’re out shopping for essentials.
In a recent blog post, Axiom Stone Solicitors says the COVID-19 lockdown can be problematic for those looking to get important paperwork, such as wills, signed off — particularly “with the law on witnessing documents not permitting a video link to be a valid form”.
“So, how can we get around this?”, the blog asks. Well, according to Axiom Stone, you could always approach one of your local key workers, many of whom are risking their lives to continue serving the country. The post advises:
“When attending the local supermarket for your essential requirements — such as food — or when attending pharmacies for medication, request the workers there to witness your documents.”
No key workers to hand? No problem. The full-service law firm — which has offices in Mayfair, Edgware and Birmingham — also suggests getting two neighbours to act as witnesses “through windows”.
“Ensure that both you and your two neighbours wash your hands thoroughly,” the blog post advises. “Hand them the document through the window and watch them sign their names as witnesses. Ask them to hand the document back to you through the window and this will amount to valid execution.”
Stressing the blog post should not be taken as comprehensive legal advice, a spokesperson for Axiom Stone told Legal Cheek:
“If a client was arranging for a witness at a pharmacy or supermarket, the usual standard witnessing requirements and advice would still apply e.g. in relation to a witness to a deed, this would have to be in the presence of the signatory (2 metres should still be sufficient as long as the witness can still see the act of signing), the witness must know the signatory, the witness should be an independent adult, and it is advisable that the signatory takes photo ID with them.”
They continued: “Other specific witnessing advice will apply to each individual case e.g. in relation to wills or LPAs [Lasting Power of Attorney], or where remote witnessing is possible over video conferencing etc. We will be amending our article to clarify this position.”
The government advice at present is to stay at home other than for very limited reasons including essential work, one form of exercise a day and shopping for basic necessities.