How do I make a Will while I am self-isolating?
Your lawyers can take your instructions by telephone, Skype, Zoom or a similar tool. However, the formal requirement to make a valid Will requires two witnesses to be present with you when you sign the Will and they must then add their signatures. The witnesses or their spouse cannot be beneficiaries or they will forfeit their inheritance.
The main challenge is how to have your witnesses with you at a time when we are being advised to socially distance. One option would be for the witnesses to stand outside your window or at a safe distance from you where they have a clear line of sight. The witnesses can watch you sign and then you could post your Will through your letterbox or leave it on a surface for them to pick up so that they can then sign their names too. If the witnesses live together then they do not need to keep two meters apart from each other.
The Wills Act 1837 requires that your witnesses must be physically present when you sign your Will and therefore it is not possible to do this by Skype, Zoom or similar video conferencing means. You may however want to video record the process by which you and your witnesses signed your Will so that you have a record of what was done, particularly if you are worried that someone might challenge the validity of your Will in due course. You can of course re-execute your Will once social distancing has been relaxed if you are particularly concerned.
Be aware that the virus can remain on documents for more than 24 hours so it would be sensible for everyone to wear disposable gloves and in any event to wash hands thoroughly after handling the Will.
Emergency legislation may be passed regarding the requirement to make a valid Will but you must follow the current rules unless or until new legislation is passed.
The majority of hearings are taking place by video or phone.
Court guidance has been issued on telephone and video hearings during the coronavirus outbreak:
Where a Judge orders “teleconferencing”, it will take place using BTMeetMe, or video conferencing using Skype for Business or Cloud Video Platform.
All hearings are subject to the relevant jurisdictional rules and practice directions and usual court etiquette, including wearing appropriate attire and not eating or drinking during a hearing.
Electronic bundles of documents and authorities (if required) need to be prepared, indexed and paginated and sent to the Court well in advance of any hearing.
The key factors for determining status for employment and tax purposes are generally the same. However there are some cases that highlight the different approaches taken by employment tribunals and HMRC when determining status. The important thing to consider for IR35 purposes is that being deemed employed for tax purposes does not mean a contractor is ’employed’. PSC’s can still be used in moving forward but there are likely to be discussions on the commercial aspects of the contractor arrangement. Employment status for tax purposes is likely to come at a cost for both parties.
If you don’t want to make redundancies, or if you can’t reduce employee resource, either in a particular department or across the workforce as a whole, then you need to think about alternatives to redundancy.
Equally, you may want to flex the resource you have available to you – without making drastic changes. For example you may want to consider:
- unpaid leave and sabbaticals
- retraining and redeploying
- forcing annual leave
- flexible working
- capability issues
- lay off
- short time working
- reductions in salary
- reductions in working hours
- changing to shift working
The national broadcaster’s collated content surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic:
and with regards to business:
In the event that the worst happens and contractor insolvency occurs, there are a number of steps which the employer should take immediately:
- Confirm that insolvency has actually occurred and the type of insolvency (for example liquidation or adjudication) – actions taken based on rumours can have adverse consequences
- Secure the site and carry out an audit of the plant, equipment and materials present – this may extend to changing the locks on site in order to prevent overzealous contractors and sub-contractors seeking to return and take what they see as their possessions. The building contract may contain a provision that these are the employer’s property, but they can be difficult to recover if they are not within the employer’s possession – possession is 9/10ths of the law!
- Ensure that there are adequate insurance and health and safety arrangements in place for the site – these would usually be dealt with by the contractor and therefore may no longer be in place, so alternative arrangements may be required
- Ensure that any further payments to the contractor are stopped pending a more detailed review
- Consider whether any off-site materials have already been paid for and can be secured. This can however be difficult in practice where the materials are not physically within the employer’s possession
In addition, there are also a number of further actions which the employer should consider in the slightly longer term:
- Investigate the options available and ascertain the cost of completing the works to assist in deciding how best to proceed
- Consider whether termination of the contractor’s employment under the building contract is required, and if so take the necessary steps in accordance with the building contract
- Consider whether there are any bonds or guarantees in place upon which the employer can rely, and if so assess their terms as to whether and how to make a claim
- Make arrangements to complete the works – as a general rule of thumb the cost of completing the works may increase by around 30% if it is necessary to get a replacement contractor
- Consider whether direct payment to subcontractors is possible or desirable
- Although we would say this(!) we would strongly recommend taking legal advice, as insolvency and its implications are complex and it is easy to inadvertently fall foul of the various different requirements