The recent outbreak of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom has impacted almost every aspect of daily life. This period of uncertainty has led many to cast an eye to the future, and for some, this has meant considering their Will arrangements.

Streathers has received an increase in Will enquiries in recent weeks in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of the questions posed have concerned whether or not our clients need a Will, and if so, how they can go about making one whilst they are self-isolating or social distancing.

We’ve set out some of the most commonly asked questions below and collated all the necessary information so you can make an informed decision as to whether or not this is something you need to consider further.

Why make a Will?

A Will gives you control over what will happen to your money, property and possessions after you die. It allows you to ensure that your dependents are properly provided for, that you have appointed legal guardians for your children, and can potentially save tax.

No matter the size or extent of your estate or the type of property you own it is important to have a properly drafted Will, for if nothing else, it provides some certainty to your loved ones in what is a highly emotional and stressful time. 

What happens if I die without leaving a valid Will?

If you die without leaving a valid Will, you are said to have died “intestate” and everything you own will be distributed in accordance with the “laws of intestacy”. This is a statutory framework of rules that sets out who should inherit your estate in the absence of a Will.

The impact of these rules varies depending on an individual’s circumstances.

For instance, if you die intestate leaving a spouse (or civil partner) and children, then under the intestacy rules a percentage of your property will go to your spouse (or civil partner) and the remainder would be split between your children.

There are however some glaringly obvious omissions in the intestacy rules. For example, the intestacy rules do not recognise co-habiting individuals who are unmarried or not in a civil partnership. Therefore, if you live with your partner and die intestate then your partner will not automatically inherit anything from your estate.

The key point here is one of choice and control. Without a Will, the choice is taken away from you and you may find your estate is inherited in a way that you never wanted and with unintended consequences leading to disputes.

What type of information can be included in my Will?

Wills should be tailored to each individual, reflecting their personal wishes and circumstances and putting in place the best structure for dealing with their estate when they die. However, for reference,  a Will usually covers the following points:

  • What your funeral wishes are.
  • Who you would like to be responsible for administering your estate.
  • Who should be the legal guardians of any minor children.
  • Who should inherit your estate and how, whether that be your family, friends, or charities you support.
  • How to deal with any business or partnership you may leave behind; and
  • How to deal with property that you own, including property located abroad.

I am social distancing. How can I make a Will? Do I need to see you?

We need some information from you about your personal circumstances and wishes in order to prepare your draft Wills.

You do not need to come in to see us to do this. We can take instructions from you over the phone or by video conference, or if you would prefer to do this in writing, we can provide you with a Will Questionnaire to complete and send back to us by email.

We will then prepare and send you a draft of your Will along with explanatory notes that set out the current effects of your Will as drawn. If necessary, we will also advise on any potential pitfalls of your draft Will and/or points you might like to consider further.

Once you are happy with your draft Will, we will finalise it for signature. This can be printed at home or sent out to you in the post.

How do I sign my new Will?

To be valid and enforceable, a Will must be signed by you in the presence of two independent adult witnesses.

The social distancing measures enacted by the government present difficulties in arranging independent witnesses to be present when the Will is signed.

However, the role of the witness is not to review the contents of the Will but to simply confirm that you have signed it, and so, there are many practical ways that this can be achieved whilst complying with the social distancing guidelines (such as a neighbour witnessing through the window or from across your garden, etc).

We can assist you throughout this process by preparing detailed guidance on how you can ensure your Will is executed validly, whilst complying with social distancing guidelines. We are also available on the phone to talk through any issues at the Will signing as they arise. 

How much do you charge? 

Streathers’ fees vary depending on the complexity of your Wills.

Once we have gathered a little information in from you about your circumstances and your intentions we will give you a fee estimate for preparing your Wills. You’ll have a full opportunity to raise any questions on this before we undertake any substantive work so you are informed of and in control of the costs throughout. 

I already have a Will do I need to do anything? 

Even if you have already made a Will, it is important to review it regularly. Your family circumstances and the relevant tax law may have changed since your Will was signed.

Again, we do not need to see you in person to advise on any issues surrounding existing Wills. You can send us a scan or picture of your Will and we can follow up with advice on the phone or by email where necessary.

If you would like to find out more about Streathers’ Will services then please contact a member of our Private Client team. We would be pleased to assist you with the process.

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