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Get supermarket staff to witness your legal docs during lockdown, says law firm

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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.”

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

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.

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13 Comments

Anon

Repellent.

(5)(0)

Anon

So is your mum

(2)(1)

Director duly authorised to sign on behalf of X LLP

Completely unworkable in practice.

I queued up outside a Tesco Express in Belgravia last night and, after 50 minutes of waiting in line, was able to ask the cashier witness my signature on three counterparts of an amendment and restatement deed for a CHF850m revolving credit facility agreement.

She told me that customers were limited to two Swiss Rolls per person and promptly called security when I tried to retrieve the third counterpart from behind the till.

(65)(4)

Anon

On the property side, getting 1954 Act statutory declarations sworn at the moment is a nightmare. Have to hope you know someone who happens to live with a lawyer at an independent law firm

(11)(0)

Anonymous

In the US most of the photocopying shops and parcel services locations, such as Fedex, have a notary in the store.

(5)(1)

A A

I hope they’re not in store now. Any job less “key” than being a notary is hard to imagine.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

How frightfully vulgar…

Don’t think it would catch on in this country somehow, unless there is some law in England and Wales which says that a solicitor’s or a notary’s signature is absolutely essential on certain documents (such as Wills) for it to have ANY sort of legal validity at all.

(0)(0)

-

a number of people in this stressful time need urgent things done – house sales, wills, powers of attorney, re-mortgages (to name a few) – this seems a practical approach in keeping with the government guidance on “social distancing”.

Obviously, common sense must prevail reading some of the comments above.

(2)(2)

Smitherson

Ah the “partners” of Axiom Stone solicitors have found the comments page.

(7)(0)

Saba

I agree we all need to try and keep going with our normal day to day life things. At times like this you have to be sensible and look at suitable alternative solutions.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

To any conveyancing solicitor acting for the vendor (seller) since 21/22.03.2020:

“Keeping the profession free of money laundering is in everyone’s interest. It is a key way of disrupting serious crime – crime that funds everything from terrorists to people traffickers. It is not a victimless crime.”

“Money laundering is a priority risk for us. The credibility of law firms make them an obvious target for criminals. The overwhelming majority of solicitors want to do the right thing. Yet that alone is not enough. Weak processes or undertrained staff can leave the door open for criminals.”

(0)(0)

Popeye

someone correct me, but I was under the impression the law as it currently is theoretically allows for witnessing under video link etc., its just that no one has the bollocks to actually do it and become the test case.

(1)(0)

Sarah Gillbe

this is absollute nonsense. keyworkers have enough to do! We have always had difficulty in care homes, hospitals etc asking for witnesses for obvious reasons – I cannot imagine Tescos will now want to take on that risk!

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

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