What to do if you’re not mobile enough to visit a solicitor

Michael Culver, Bolt Burdon

Increasingly, many private client firms are looking at how to provide a more user-friendly service for their clients seeking help with their Wills, trusts and probate matters.

Increasingly, many private client firms are looking at how to provide a more user-friendly service for their clients seeking help with their Wills, trusts and probate matters. You’ll probably hear firms cite, expertise, their leadership status in certain specialisms, their location, and the technologies they are using to provide faster turnaround times at less cost to the client. But what really matters to the elderly, infirm, mentally incapacitated, or clients who are supported by care workers?

Here, Bolt Burdon explains the importance of the home visit to the elderly, or infirm, or where clients simply cannot leave their caring responsibilities, or find an office visit impractical and potentially overwhelming, but still require legal advice.

The advice given in the article will help you to know what to expect from a home visit and how to be prepared for it in order to get the most from your legal adviser.

A home visit at a time that suits you, can be a welcome service that sets one firm of solicitors apart from others. Showing compassion, and empathy and ensuring that you do not feel overwhelmed but comfortable within your own surroundings, is an invaluable service benefit that many of you will welcome.

Providing legal services with a ‘human touch’ especially, for the elderly will become ever more important as we continue to be an ageing population, with an increasing number of us suffering from dementia and the statistics show that this is just set to grow year on year.

That’s why here at The National Will Register, we continue to develop a robust and trusted National Will Register which ensures that once your Will has been written and registered, it can be located and your wishes honoured, both in life, should the worst happen and mental capacity becomes an issue, as well as in death.

Not everyone is able to visit a solicitor, whether owing to ill mental or physical health, or because it simply isn’t practical to do so as you have other commitments (such as looking after someone else).

This should not however be a reason for not getting the legal advice or assistance you need. Or indeed for looking for a short-cut (such as on online Will-writing service, where it is inappropriate for you as you actually need advice).

Most solicitors will be happy to visit you whether at home or indeed a hospital, although you should note that they will usually charge you for the travel time.

You should discuss your mobility issues with a solicitor before you make an appointment: it could be that their offices have been adapted to make an office visit relatively easy for you.

The following is aimed specifically at home visits from a solicitor where you are making a Will; however much of it will be applicable to home visits generally.

What else do I need to consider?

Each firm and solicitor will also have its own policy with regard as to making home visits. The following may be obvious, and others less so:

1. Two people from the law firm you instruct may be required to attend, for security reasons: just as you do not know the people attending, they also will not know you (if it is their first time visiting you) or indeed those who live with you.

Equally, you should ask any home visitor to confirm who they are – although it is unlikely that someone else will arrive, claiming to be your solicitor, you should not assume that that visitor is your solicitor.

2. Two solicitors may be required to attend the meeting with you where they consider it necessary/wise to check that you have capacity to understand what you are doing, i.e. entering into a Will and its effect.

The reason for this is because, if a challenge is brought that you had insufficient capacity to enter into the Will, that Will may be declared unenforceable or ‘void’ by a Court.

Wills are frequently challenged on this basis, by people who have not been named as a beneficiary when they think they should have been. Having 2 solicitors who record that they think you have sufficient capacity will therefore assist in defending any such potential claim.

It may be that they decide that a medical report is obtained from a doctor, to confirm their findings.

Please note that just because the firm of solicitors suggests that 2 solicitors attend, or a medical report may be necessary, it does not mean that they do not think you have sufficient mental capacity. Solicitors are paid to consider and address any issues which may arise, as well as those which have already arisen.

3. The solicitor(s) attending may ask any other people (usually family members) who are present during the visit to leave the room or building to give you and the solicitor(s) privacy to discuss your wishes; this is so the solicitor(s) can ensure that you are not being influenced by any other person to enter into your Will. The solicitor(s) may advise that this is for part or all of the meeting.

Again, this will assist in defending a future claim that someone present was unduly influencing you.

It might be helpful for you to let your family/friends know about this in advance of the meeting.

4. Think about the time which will suit you best: is there a time of day when you are most receptive/alert?

Are you a ‘morning or an evening person’ for example, or are you better before or after a meal?

If you have carers, it might be better for the meeting to be at a time when they are not present. Which room are you most comfortable in?

The more alert and comfortable you are, the more likely you are to make the most out of the meeting.

5. Is there anyone who you would like to be present, for example a close friend or a particular family member? Your solicitors will not judge you, no matter who you choose.

You should however discuss this in advance with your solicitor, who may advise that it would be more appropriate for someone else to be present.

Having only one of your children present, who you intend to be the only beneficiary under your Will, could potentially create problems/potential grounds for legal challenge later (see above).

What should happen once the Will has been signed?

We advise that the original Will is held by the solicitor. The reason for this is that if a Will goes missing while in the possession of the person to whom it relates (“the Testator”), it is presumed that the Testator has destroyed it.

Under English law, one way of revoking a Will is to destroy it, and so keeping it secure is very important.

We also recommend that the Will is registered on The National Will Register once it has been signed. Your executors can then, following your death, check The National Will Register to see whether the copy they have seen is the latest Will, or indeed locate your Will if your executors have not seen it or were not aware that you had one in place.

For further information on Bolt Burdon, please visit www.boltburdon.co.uk.

This article was written by Michael Culver, Partner and Head of the Wealth and Estate Planning at Bolt Burdon, member of The National Will Register.