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The need for a Will – sadly more relevant than ever

22nd April 2020

It is unsurprising perhaps that there should be a surge in interest in Will writing during the current COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when stories emerge of apparently healthy individuals being struck down.

It is difficult for legal professionals to strike the right balance which avoids insensitively marketing their services at a time of crisis but at the same time makes people aware of the need not just to have a Will, but a Will that is drafted correctly to ensure a person’s wishes are realised.

Ansons Solicitors remain open for business, and our Wills, Probate and Trusts team are on hand remotely to serve the needs of clients looking to make or amend a Will.

If you’re going to do it, do it right

The loss of a loved one is traumatic, and the uncertainty associated with dying without a Will can add unnecessary complications at a difficult time.

Without having anything set down at all, known as dying ‘intestate’, means your estate will be dealt with under strict legal conditions which may not necessarily reflect your wishes.  It is also likely to delay the process of your estate being divided, and typically risks a higher amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) being paid than needed.

With time on their hands in the lockdown many people are tempted to draft their own Will, often with an online platform, but a simple mistake can have serious consequences.

How the Will has been dated, witnessed or signed, or changes made to reflect a change in your circumstances, could leave the Will open to legal challenges.  This would add further delay to the process of dividing your estate, and incur more stress for your loved ones.

Your Will must appoint executors, contain a clear unequivocal disposal of your estate and must be executed correctly.  It must be in writing, signed and dated by you and it must also be signed by two or more witnesses, present at the same time.

Writing your Will with help from a solicitor will significantly reduce the risk of your wishes not being realised and the first step will involve making a list of your assets and the most recent valuation given for each of them.

These assets could include property, insurance policies, savings, pensions, stocks and shares and personal belongings, many of which will be forgotten without an experienced professional prompting you for information.

An experienced legal professional will also help you choose someone to be the executor of your Will, who will be responsible for carrying out your instructions.

The more complex your estate, the more challenging it can be for the executor; having to deal with property sales, paying IHT, resolving income tax and capital gains tax matters. For this reason, many people appoint a solicitor as their executor, often working in partnership with a close relative.

Review, revise and relax

If you have already written a Will, now could be a good time to review and revise it. This is particularly true if your circumstances have changed, such as a change of job, different pension, new marriage, new children, new property, etc.

Many people marry more than once and this could mean that their Will is now out of date or invalid if the Will was not prepared in contemplation of that marriage.

Changing a Will is not a simple process however, and mistakes are easy. Erasing an original section and adding something to cover the new circumstances, even with a signature and date could render the Will invalid.  Changes involve writing a separate codicil to the original Will, which then has to be signed, dated and witnessed.

Seeking professional advice to assist with any amendments to a Will can give you the peace of mind that changes have been properly incorporated, and that your updated wishes will be carried out.

We are here to help

Given the potential for expensive errors, both in drafting your first Will or updating an existing one, it makes sense to engage a professional, who will still be able to undertake your instruction despite the present lockdown difficulties.

We are providing advice remotely, by email, call or video-conference to provide complete peace of mind that whatever happens, you have taken care of your Will and ensured your wishes will be followed should the worst happen.

If you wish to write a Will or amend an existing one, please get in touch with the team here at Ansons, who will talk you through the process and help you draft a Will that not only reflects your wishes for the disposal of your estate, but one that stands up to future scrutiny.

Please contact Tracey Lane of our Wills, Probate and Trusts team, on 01543 431932 or email tlane@ansonssolicitors.com for further information and assistance.