By Helen Nicholas, Solicitor
As we prepare to enter week eight of lockdown amongst the global Covid-19 pandemic, here at Lewis Nedas we have been advising an increasing number of clients following the renewed focus surrounding the importance of creating or updating your wills.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic, the UK government declared that solicitors preparing wills are considered to be key workers, so what is it that makes will and estate planning so important? And how can we help you?
In these uncertain times it can be reassuring to know that your affairs are in order, should the need arise. Irrespective of current affairs, all adults should consider making a will if they own assets, have children, have a business, are retiring or when their personal or financial circumstances change. Even if you already have a will, now is the time to ensure that it is up to date and valid.
Some of the key reasons, though not an exhaustive summary, are considered below.
Ensuring your wishes and/or intentions are recorded effectively
When preparing your will, you can choose not only to leave your estate to the beneficiaries of your choice, you can also leave legacies (fixed sums of money) or specific gifts or possessions (anything from jewellery to a sentimental book) to a variety of named beneficiaries. You can also name who you wish to deal with the administration of the estate, the executors, to act in accordance with the terms of your will.
If you die intestate (i.e. without a will), the UK intestacy rules will come into force and effectively decide who will benefit from your estate, and by how much. Should this occur, can you be sure that your assets or wishes will be dealt with as you intended?
The intestacy rules may also leave considerable costs and complications for those people left behind to deal with matters. This can be an incredibly difficult, expensive and drawn-out process, alongside what may often be an already difficult time of grieving. It is important to consider that the law may not make provisions for your loved ones in the way that you intend, therefore, formalising your intentions is particularly valuable.
By way of example, the intestacy rules could mean that a couple who live together may not necessarily inherit each other’s estate and the surviving party may not have any legal right to remain in the property, or even be involved in the funeral arrangements.
It is also important to consider those assets which pass independently of any will or the intestacy rules, for example, joint property held as ‘beneficial joint tenants’. We can discuss such assets with you during the course of your instructions.
Guardianship of children
Within your will you can appoint guardians for your minor children should the unfortunate situation arise that there be nobody at your death with parental responsibility. Such important and personal arrangements can be set out in your will rather than potentially leaving this for a court to decide.
If you have a business, executors appointed in a will have authority to deal with affairs from the date of death. If you die intestate, the administrators have no authority to deal until the Grant of Probate has been obtained which may have disastrous consequences on the running of the business.
Depending on your circumstances, your will can account for or take benefit of a number of tax-saving schemes or allowances.
Ensuring your will is valid
There are a number of matters to consider when writing a will, whether you want a relatively simple will or a more detailed testament, we can tailor your will accordingly. Our experienced and knowledgeable solicitors are on hand to prepare an effective, comprehensive will based on your individual requirements.
If your will is not prepared and executed correctly, it may ultimately be deemed invalid. At the very least this can result in the failure of a specific gift, however, there is also the risk of an individual’s wishes not being implemented on their death, or of unnecessary litigation if a will is not validly executed. So it is important to get it right.
The execution of a will can also deem a will invalid, even if the overall intention is seemingly clear. In England and Wales, failure to correctly sign a will in front of two independent, physically present witnesses, is likely to lead to a judge ruling the document, and any legacy in it, invalid.
In these unprecedented times, solicitors and other private client practitioners have had to consider innovative ways to ensure that this crucial requirement can be adhered to. Solutions such as witnessing in an open space (whilst observing the recommended social distance), witnessing through a window or even witnessing remotely via live video link, are some of the new ways being considered. Our firm’s motto, “modern lawyers for changing times”, has become particularly relevant in these current times and depending on your individual circumstances, we can assist you both remotely and effectively.
Administration of the estate and Trust advice
In addition to thorough and professional will writing, at Lewis Nedas we pride ourselves on our high standards of estate planning, administration and Trust advice. We offer a personal, sensitive service and can deal with the administration and distribution of any size and complexity of estate; lasting Powers of Attorney, can act as sole or joint executor and prepare the grant application and Revenue account.