The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the Government’s definition of Key Workers involves solicitors who act in relation to the preparation of Wills. In an area of law which hasn’t changed in nearly two hundred years, how has the private client department adapted to the uncertainty of Covid 19 to find innovative solutions to continue making Wills for our clients whilst adhering to social distancing.
The demand to make a Will is now higher than ever as individual’s thoughts are turning to worries about their own mortality prompting them to get their affairs in order. This has been especially seen from news stories about NHS staff who have been encouraged to make a Will. Demand for Will writing has been seen to jump up by 76% as the pandemic forces people to think about that question we always put off “what happens when I die?”.
The social distancing restrictions have made it very challenging for solicitors to continue to have face-to-face meetings with Clients. More importantly, it has forced us to get creative to ensure the execution of the Will is compliant with legislation.
How are we adapting to deliver our Wills & Probate services whilst adhering to social distancing rules?
To ensure our service continues for our Clients, we have adopted telephone interviews and email correspondence when taking instructions. This means we are still able to offer our Clients the service they require, even whilst they are self-isolating and under the social distancing restrictions.
When it comes to the execution of Wills, we now offer our ‘garden signings’ to enable our service to still continue whilst above all complying with the Government social restriction guidelines together with The Wills Act 1837. Will signings are carried out within the social distancing restrictions via a kitchen window or garden! Whatever we can do to ensure that the Will is duly executed. If Clients can organise their own witnesses such as a neighbour, we can also send out their Wills with the appropriate guidance on how to execute these.
Although any changes in the current circumstances may be temporary, it has led to rethinking about the legislation for the future. There have been suggestions that Privileged Wills would solve this issue until the current circumstances revert to normal. This would enable anyone to dispose of their assets without the need to comply with Section 9 of the Wills Act. This would help those that are particularly at risk put their affairs in order i.e in life threatening circumstances.
Whilst the above can be used in extreme circumstances, having the lack of formalities in Wills extended to everyone would only leave Wills open to be challenged in particularly their intentions.
The importance of future planning
Future planning is so important yet many of us take the view that it can always wait for ‘another day’ or we will talk about it ‘another time’ but there is never a better time to consider this than the present.
There is a myth amongst many that estate planning is only for the rich and the wealthy and if we don’t fall into that category then this is a topic that doesn’t apply to us, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Without your plan in place this could result in an outcome for your family that you would never have wanted, with a potentially costly result.
So what does future planning involve and how does it apply to me? These are my top three points when people ask.
- Choosing who benefits from your estate
Probably the most logical point, but without making a Will you cannot guarantee that your loved ones benefit the way you wish if you do not make Will. Making a Will ensures your loved ones benefit the way you wish. If you don’t make a Will, you will have no control over what happens to your estate and cause unnecessary conflict and possibly expense.
This also works in reverse, people do not realise that you can also disinherit people who you do not wish to benefit from you estate who would otherwise have benefitted without a Will.
- Guardians for your children
Having a Will enables you to name guardians should there be no one around who has parental responsibility. This is particularly important if you have young children. Without doing this it will be the Courts who make this decision for you.
- Minimise tax implications
We can offer detailed tax advice on the implications of gifts you give away to family members etc.
We always advise our Clients to keep their Will under review.
What can we offer at Rothers?
Our Wills and Probate Team are available to take telephone appointments where we can discuss your needs and offer advice tailored to you. Initial instructions can be taken over the phone or email or a combination of these to meet your needs.
This enables us to ensure that particularly those that may be the most vulnerable are able to make a Will or changes to their existing Wills without being in close proximity of anyone. These can be signed by the Testator or by someone at the Testator’s direction.
At Rotheras we always pride ourselves in client care and despite the halt in face-to-face meetings we are still driven to maintain this.
No matter what stage of life you are at, we would always encourage you to draw up a Will. For advice on updating or drafting a new Will contact our Wills and Probate team on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 910 0600.