It’s a whole new digital world

  • Posted

As I sit in my new ‘office’, I realise we are entering the third week of our ‘lockdown’. It’s remarkable how the world has changed in such a short space of time and the impact this pandemic has had on all our lives, from shopping to socialising. My ideal job, or so I thought, would be working from home, Labradors at my feet. That ideal is now tarnished – never before have I longed for the company of my colleagues and to feel that human presence.

As a Probate lawyer, my work involves helping those who have lost a loved one and find themselves alone not knowing what to do next. My job is to sit with you and listen to your concerns, explain processes and guide you through what is a very difficult and emotional time, offer you much needed support, and yes that often involves holding a hand or putting an arm around you. Well, that was until now and the new situation that we are all finding ourselves in. Gone are the face to face meetings with me or your bank manager, financial adviser or even your family funeral director. Everyone in our industry is finding out just how difficult, and sometimes lonely, imposed isolation is.

Lawyers, professionals, carers and funeral directors are all having to adapt the way in which we work to meet your needs. So how are the professions involved trying to help and make an already distressing time a little easier?

Is there a Will and can I get a copy?

We are changing the way we work; and we understand it’s important right now to be flexible.  Although we are classed as ‘key workers’, we are not allowing clients to collect a Will or bring in a Death Certificate or ID.  Instead, we’re using email, telephone and mobile to deal with initial enquiries.  We’re happy to email copies of documents once we have carried out our checks as far as we can. And whilst we may not be there in person, we’re on the end of a phone to talk through and advise on any process.

Registering the death

When your loved one passes away, the first step is to collect the necessary forms to be able to register the death and arrange the funeral. Ordinarily, you would go to your GP or hospital and collect what is commonly called the ‘white’ form. You would then take this to your chosen funeral director and arrange a meeting at your registrars – but not anymore. With no appointments allowed, we have to do things differently to protect you and us. So, what now? How do we do all these things whilst staying safe and adhering to social distancing? It will rather depend on the circumstances which are unique to you, your own health, and whether you fit into an ‘at risk’ category.

A  recent example which demonstrates how we have changed our working practice is an elderly client lost their spouse. They too were vulnerable and in an ‘at risk category’. Having been contacted by the client, the local funeral director arranged to collect the forms on the client’s behalf. They arranged the funeral over the telephone and emailed the various options available. They also assisted in registering the death and collecting the death certificates.

Following a change in legislation, registering a death is now done either by telephone or online at all registrars but one. There will be no face-to-face appointments until further notice. Be warned that there may be a long wait if you are telephoning, due to the sad increase in deaths and the reduced workforce.

The following table lists how registrars local to the Buckles offices are handling matters during this crisis. You can find your local register office here: https://www.gov.uk/register-offices

Location

Marriages/civil partnership ceremonies

Register a death

Register a birthCitizenship ceremonies

Peterborough

More info

Postponed, no fee to rescheduleTelephone only

Postponed

Can still claim for child benefit or universal credit. No 42 day deadline

Cancelled

Nottingham

More info

PostponedTelephone only

Postponed

Can still claim for child benefit/universal credit. No 42 day deadline

Cancelled. 3 month deadline has extended to 6 months

Stamford

More info

PostponedIn person, 2 people max, unless displaying symptoms or self-isolating in which case other people can register on your behalf

Postponed

Can still claim for child benefit/universal credit. No 42 day deadline

London

More info

Location-dependant Most are postponed/cancelled

Location-dependant Most are offering online service. Check your local register office

Location-dependant Most are postponedLocation-dependant Most are postponed

Cambridge

More info

PostponedTelephone only

Postponed

Can still claim for child benefit/universal credit. No 42 day deadline

Cancelled. 3 month deadline extended to 6 months

The ‘Tell us once’ service allows you to report a death to most government organisations in one action. For more about this service, visit: https://www.gov.uk/after-a-death/organisations-you-need-to-contact-and-tell-us-once

What happens next?

The next step would be to arrange a meeting with us (usually once the funeral has taken place but again this is very much a personal thing). As stated, we are no longer holding face-to-face meetings, but we have adapted, thanks to modern working practices.  We are always on the end of the telephone or can be contacted by email and we’re also offering video calls, Skype calls and WhatsApp messaging.  In doing so, we hope that there will be little or few delays. We too have relaxed our requirements and will accept emailed, scanned and photocopies of documents until it is possible to either post or bring them in again. We will conduct our ‘virtual’ meetings in the same way as if we were face-to-face. We will carry out your instructions in the same way; the only difference is that we won’t be physically present.

For us, it’s still very much that we are here for you no matter what. We may take a little longer due to restrictions (you may even hear the odd bark of our dogs or cry of our children) but we are still here for you.