InsightsInsight - Wills and Probate - POSTED: April 14 2020
Making a Will in the age of coronavirus
Understandably, the current global health crisis has caused people to question the adequacy of their Will.
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In the last few weeks we have seen an increase in enquiries from people asking to amend or make a new Will, and concern around how to go about making a Will during lockdown and self-isolation.
For peace of mind, we would always recommend seeking professional legal advice if you are unsure about the effects of your current Will, if you would like to make changes to your Will or if you would like to make a new Will.
Below are some of the more common questions and concerns which we have been receiving on the issue of making a Will in the age of coronavirus.
My Will is very out of date, is it still legal?
As long as your Will has been correctly executed (in accordance with the statutory requirements set out in the Wills Act 1837) the assumption is that it remains valid, unless it has been revoked. If some time has passed since you made your Will, it is advisable to review it to ensure that it still reflects your current wishes for the distribution of your estate and takes into account any changes in your family circumstances (for example, marriage, children or grandchildren, or divorce).
Have there been any changes in legislation which might affect my current Will?
Quite possibly. Much depends on when you made your Will. As a general rule, you should review your Will every three to five years to ensure that it is up to date and that your estate is as tax efficient as possible. Inheritance Tax is currently charged at 40% of the value of the estate (subject to any exemptions or allowances). A properly drafted Will is an essential tool in mitigating Inheritance Tax in your estate.
I’m self-isolating and want to update my Will. I have written my amendments on the Will itself. If I die, would these changes be valid?
We would not advise making manuscript amendments to a Will as this can lead to ambiguity on the interpretation of the Will on your death. There are also strict requirements about how to validly make such amendments. If not validly made, both the amendments and the original wording in the Will could be disregarded. Any queries as to the validity of how and when the manuscript amendments were made, will be raised by the Probate Registry upon the executors’ application for probate, which could lead to delays in obtaining the grant and moving forward with the estate administration.
We would instead advise making a new Will to avoid any uncertainty. We are still taking instructions from clients via video and telephone appointments so we can assist you with the changes you wish to make.
I’m in the ‘at risk’ group and can’t leave the house. Can I still update my Will?
Yes. We are working hard to be adaptable in the current climate and can take your Will instructions over the telephone or by video call. Once you have approved your draft Will, instructions for the valid execution of your Will can be discussed with you, even if you are currently self-isolating.
I just don’t have time to make a Will during office hours.
We understand that usual office hours are just not suitable for everyone, particularly for those in key worker roles. As such, we offer out of hours appointments over the phone or by video chat and can fit these in around your timetable. We also offer a discount for key workers.
If I die without a valid Will who will inherit my estate?
If you die without a valid Will, the law applies a statutory framework called the intestacy rules. However, the people who inherit your estate under these rules may not necessarily be who you would have chosen yourself. If your estate is distributed under the intestacy rules, you will have had no say in the appointment of guardians of minor children, gifting specific chattels to specific people, making legacies or expressing your wishes regarding the rehoming of pets – it could also cause more Inheritance Tax to be paid. It is always preferable to leave a valid Will so that your wishes can be carried out and your estate is as tax efficient as possible.
This content is correct at time of publication
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