Our personal legal needs expert, Alasdair Johnstone, provides a compendium of steps to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on personal life here in Scotland and how we at Anderson Strathern can help you through the easing of lockdown and beyond.
You and your family
The pandemic is first and foremost a medical emergency. It is affecting all of us and our families. Despite most aspects of our daily life being interrupted initially during the period of lockdown and now as we begin to navigate the ‘new normal’, we’re here for new and existing clients.
Get a will or review your old one
Although it is often something which lingers at bottom of the domestic ‘to do’ list, now would be a good time to catch-up with making or reviewing your will. There is undeniably a sense of comfort to be had from knowing that you’ve got your domestic admin straightened out.
If you already have a will in place, when was the last time you reviewed it? Does it still benefit the correct people in your life, or have your wishes or financial position changed over time? Major career changes, as well as birth, marriage, death or divorce are often appropriate times revisit an existing will and think about any changes that may be required.
We’re available to take instructions to create new or amend existing wills over the phone, via video call or through email. We are also able to send out wills for signing via post or by email for printing and signing to ensure that your wishes are recorded and correctly put in place. We can advise on how best to have witnessing and signing requirements dealt with.
And if you own a family business you may also want to consider putting a succession plan in place for the next generation, and read our great expectations article for some useful information on transition planning for a business.
Do I need a Power of Attorney?
The enforced separation created by lockdown, which continues for some who are shielding, in addition to the health issues that Covid-19 poses, are highlighting questions about what will happen if you or a loved one are unable to look after things or make decisions for yourselves.
Unfortunately, there is no automatic right for family members or even a spouse to step in and act on behalf of someone who is no longer able to make decisions for themselves or otherwise prevented from dealing some of their personal matters (for example when self-isolating).
Putting a power of attorney in place in advance ensures that the right help is available for your own welfare and financial affairs should you need it.
We can advise on how best to have witnessing and signing requirements dealt with. Read our article Now is the right time to grant a Power of Attorney.
To discuss granting a power of attorney, please contact one of our Private Client team.
Coping with births, deaths and marriages through Covid-19
Due to the closure of venues and limits on social gatherings, most weddings seem to have been rearranged for later. Our article Contract terms and Force Majeure provides some insight on consumer contracts.
The Scottish Government has now clarified that partners are allowed to attend births and that immediate family can visit terminally ill relatives. In both instances, suitable precautions should be taken.
Local Council registrars are now working remotely, with births and deaths being registered by phone and official extracts posted afterwards.
Bereavement is a difficult time even under normal circumstances. Current restrictions mean that only a limited number of members of immediate family (or in the absence of such, close friends) can attend a funeral. The undertaker arranging the funeral will provide further details on what is currently permitted.
While the Scottish Courts have only just restarted the processing of the applications for the grant of formal ‘Confirmation’ to estates, our Private Client team can assist executors in preparing the necessary application. It is important to let home buildings and content insurers know that an owner has died promptly in order to keep the insurance cover in place.
Family law issues
These are difficult and stressful times for all of us. Our article on Self isolation, separation and school closures picks up on some of the particular questions which families have had to grapple with in recent weeks.
Our Family Law team has launched an online free law clinic. We’ll arrange a 20 minute Zoom/FaceTime or other online video/telephone appointment to discuss your family law needs. There is no obligation to take things further and there is no fee for the initial online appointment.
For the NHS, keyworkers and busy parents, we understand that it may well be difficult to have available time to speak to a solicitor during business hours and taking account of this, we are offering keyworkers appointments out with usual business hours.
Most estate agencies have details of properties on the market on their websites and many have made provision for virtual viewings. You can research available properties and, though multiple viewings are not encouraged, you can create an online shortlist and narrow down your top choices before arranging a physical visit.
If you’re finding you’ve got time on your hands at the moment, and are planning a move, this could be ideal opportunity to take a fresh look at your existing property and think about how you can make it more appealing to prospective purchasers – perhaps with some decluttering or cosmetic DIY?
Our estate agency team are still undertaking marketing appraisals and registering properties for sale. We can arrange video ‘walk-throughs’ and FaceTime viewings, to help prospective purchasers refine their search. For more information please contact Graham White in our residential team.
Privately rented housing
Tenants in privately rented housing have been given a number of additional protections.
All mandatory grounds of terminating a residential lease have become discretionary grounds; this includes the ‘no fault’ ground to terminate a Short Assured Tenancy on the basis it has reached its expiry date.
The notice periods for Notices to Leave have been extended. The periods are:
- 28 days if the ground is the tenant is not occupying a let property as the tenant’s home;
- 3 months for certain grounds, including anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour or the house is required by the landlord or their family for their own use;
- 6 months for grounds including rent arrears, the landlord or lender wants to sell, change of use or major refurbishment or the tenant is no longer an employee.
Rent arrears must now have existed for 3 or more consecutive months and a full 3 months’ rent is unpaid. The First Tier Tribunal must be satisfied it is reasonable to issue an eviction order. In considering whether to do so the Tribunal must consider the extent to which any delay or failure is a consequence of delay or failure in the payment of housing benefit or universal credit.
We have prepared a rented housing landlords and tenants Questions & Answers sheet
We're here to help
We’re here to help through the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond and we also have a round up article What you need to know for your business through the Covid-19 pandemic, which gives business owners and the third sector useful information to help them navigate their organisation through challenging times.
We are offering pro-bono 20 minute assessments for clients and new customers who would like to speak to one of our private client lawyers. You can contact us here or speak to one of our Private Client Team.