Can I still make a Will?
In light of the Covid-19 outbreak, more people than ever are looking into how to make a remote Will, without the need to leave their home. Lots of our clients are asking whether they are able to make changes to their Wills while in self isolation.
With over 125 years’ experience in looking after people and their property, we are used to finding creative solutions for remote clients, from expats who live abroad to people ill in hospital.
We understand that many people feel an urgency to make sure their affairs are in order. That’s why we’ve designed our Remote Wills Guide, completely free of charge for you to download. Our Remote Wills Guide provides a step by step guide to how we create Wills for clients who aren’t able to come into the office.
Should I make a Will at home?
We have rarely come across a DIY Will that didn’t result in costly difficulties for those left behind. The legal requirements of a Will are that it must be in writing, signed in the presence of two witnesses (who sign and date the Will to show they have witnessed your signature), and made by a person who is sound of mind and free from duress.
In theory, you could follow the steps above and scribble your Will down on the back of an envelope. As long as it was signed and witnessed, it could be considered legally valid, as many DIY Will kits proclaim. These kits can be purchased off the shelf, some for as little as £20. A person completes the forms, signs it and arranges witnesses themselves. They may seem uncomplicated – but this is an illusion.
As a Firm which has been doing business for over 125 years, we have never encountered a DIY Will that did not require our probate team to sort out serious problems associated with it.
An experienced solicitor will ask a number of questions about your situation and help you work out how to structure your affairs as a whole. You may wish to arrange your finances so you can make special provisions such as put your house into a trust, reduce the inheritance tax bill, or manage your holiday home abroad. You need to think about who you wish to benefit if your first choice beneficiaries die before you do. Second marriages and catering for children of the first marriage can cause particular difficulties.
These are just some of the circumstances where it is crucial to receive experienced legal advice to ensure that you and your loved ones’ interests are protected after your death.
If you are unmarried and your DIY Will is declared void, the laws of intestacy may prevent your partner from inheriting anything under your estate, even if you have been together for decades. If you have children, it is essential your Will properly dictates who should have guardianship of your children if you die, so that you can decide who should raise them.
I have a Lasting Power of Attorney. Can my attorney deal with my estate if I die?
Your attorney is not the same as your Executor. Attorneys only have authority to act (within the scope of the LPA) whilst you are alive. Their authority to act ceases upon your death. You can name the same people as your attorneys as your Executor if you wish, but you need to name your executor in your Will.
Your Executor is in charge of administrating your Will, and distributing your estate to the beneficiaries (those who benefit from the Will). If you die without a Will, or your Will is deemed invalid, the Probate process can become extremely complex and difficult for the named Executor to carry out. By leaving a valid Will with clear instructions, it is much more likely that your Executor will be able to carry out your wishes.
So what happens if I die without a Will?
If you die without leaving a valid Will (dying ‘intestate’), your assets will be handed out according to the Rules of Intestacy, which are very unlikely to match up to your own wishes. Your estate may be swallowed by the state, leaving your loved ones with little or nothing.
Making a Will allows you to specify who receives what and, by law, this must be carried out exactly as you wish. You can choose how you will provide financially for any children or appoint guardians for minors, state who will receive what, make charitable gifts and even detail your funeral wishes.
A professionally written Will can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax your executors pay on the estate. It will ensure the probate process is straightforward and can be dealt with quickly, helping to ease your loved ones’ stress at a difficult time.
A clearly written Will also helps eliminate disputes in your family – a more common problem than you might think.
Our first priority during the Covid-19 outbreak has been to ensure that we continue to provide first class support to our clients. We are able to hold your initial consultation over telephone, Skype, or facetime, and can advise you around any concerns you may have about making a Will while in self-isolation.