I hope that this article explains some of the work that we do as a Private Client Solicitors in the award-winning Barrett & Co team.
It is a rainy Wednesday in November and in the main I am working from home. As a Will writer I have been given ‘key worker’ status, so I go into the office a few times a week.
During the morning I try to respond to my emails and post from the day before. We are very busy with Will drafting and probate work at the moment.
I meet virtually with a client over Zoom to take her Will instructions. Whilst the drafting of the Will itself is straightforward she has decided to exclude a close relative from her Will. I encourage her to write a letter to be kept with her Will explaining the reasons behind this. I hope that such letters will at least explain the reasons for such a decision. We have seen a big increase in challenges to Wills, so much so that we now have two solicitors in our team who specialise in this area.
We act as an Attorney for a number of clients who do not have any close family or friends who are fit and able to act as their Attorney for financial matters. Eighteen months ago, we were approached by social services to assist such an individual. As he had mental capacity at the time we asked him about his financial position and what sort of support he would like from us. He now lives in a care home and I try to visit him several times a year. We arrange personal shopping for him on a monthly basis. At the height of lockdown, no delivery slots were available so a colleague who lives close by took on the task of shopping for him. We are now selling his house on his behalf and that morning I finalise arrangements for a clearance company to clear his house ready for completion.
Just before lunch I ‘visit’ a client to oversee the execution of his Will. He is a long- standing client of Barrett & Co who has a major operation the following day. He contacted me a few days ago informing me that he wanted to update his Will before his operation. The drafting of his Will immediately goes to the top of my urgent list. We draft and agree the Will within the next 48 hours. My client is self-isolating so myself and a colleague (driving separately) arrange to meet at his property. We watch the client sign the Will through an open window before he posts the Will back through his letterbox for us to sign as his witnesses. Back in the office I dictate an attendance note explaining the circumstances of the Will signing. As a profession we are expecting an increase in challenges to the validity of Wills made in 2020.
After lunch I take another two calls from recently bereaved family members. These calls are so difficult. We cannot disclose the existence of a Will unless we see an official death certificate. Only then can we discuss the Will with the named executors once we have received their ID. I explain that we owe a duty of confidentiality to the deceased: it is hard as we want to help the family, but we must respect the deceased’s wishes. Many of the certificates have COVID recorded on the death certificate. We are also seeing an increase in the number of coroner enquiries in cases where someone has died alone at home.
Later on, in the afternoon I call the central probate telephone line to try to obtain an update on an application for another client. The application was made in August and part of the application has been sent by HM Revenue to a different probate office! I am on hold for 70 minutes before I get through to a member of staff to ask for an update and request that the applications be merged. My client has yet to receive the Grant of Probate which is needed to sell the deceased’s property. I understand that there are five other buyers/sellers in the chain, all waiting on the Grant of Probate. I update my client even though there is no positive news.
Reviewing this I see how much COVID has impacted my working life. It’s a rather typical day calling for resilience, empathy and diplomacy on top of the legal advice!
Get in Touch
Vanessa Ruparel offers a fixed fee initial meeting of one hour to discuss your personal circumstances, your options and your next steps, at a cost of £95 (inc VAT).
Vanessa will meet you in our Reading Berkshire office, alternatively meetings can occur by telephone. If you would like to meet with Vanessa please telephone the office so that an appointment can be arranged.
Vanessa is a Solicitor specialising in Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and the administration of estates.