Your Will and the coronavirus lockdown – FAQs

11 May 2020

Whilst a large proportion of those who catch COVID-19 will thankfully suffer only mild to moderate symptoms, and many of those unfortunate enough to thus far need hospital care are now recovering at home thanks to our incredible NHS, these are still, quite rightly, worrying times. 

Our individual mortality has had good reason to come to the forefront of our minds, and it is perhaps not therefore surprising that our Private Client Advisory team have experienced a rapid increase in enquiries over recent weeks.

In response to this, we thought it would be useful to outline answers to some of the most frequently asked questions for the benefit of all out clients and associates. No doubt you all will have thought about some of these things already, but perhaps have not found the time or the right avenue yet to seek out the answers.

Where is my current Will and what does it say?

If you made your Will with a professional, such as a solicitor, the original is likely to be stored with them. You may also have a photocopy at home. If you cannot locate your copy and the original is stored with Birketts LLP we can provide you with a further copy for review. If the original is with another firm, we can help you obtain it swiftly and store it safely for you going forward, free of charge.

If you need help understanding the provisions of your existing Will, or interpreting some of the technical language that can often be used, our team of solicitors are more than happy to assist you.

Do I need to update my Will?

This very much depends on your personal circumstances. If you have recently made or updated your Will it may be unlikely that you need to change it to ensure your wishes take effect on your death. However, if it has been some time since you last reviewed your Will, or your family circumstances have evolved, it would be sensible to at the very least remind yourself exactly what your Will currently says. You can then take a view as to whether or not anything needs amending.

Even if, on the face of it, your Will seems to do what you want it to, there may have been changes to the law, or more likely the tax system, that mean a review of your Will might nevertheless be beneficial. For example, there was a new Inheritance Tax (IHT) allowance brought in a few years ago which benefits people who own a home and intend to leave this home on death to their lineal descendants (their children, grandchildren etc.) Access to this allowance can result in an IHT saving of up to £70,000 for an individual or £140,000 for a married couple or civil partners. However, a Will needs to be carefully drafted to ensure full access to the allowance and there are some very simple ways existing Wills can fall foul of the requirements. A review just from this point of view is therefore often a very good idea!

What if I don’t have a valid Will?

If you die without a valid Will, a set of rules set by the Government, known as the intestacy rules, dictate what happens to your estate. Married couples often assume that their entire estate would pass to each other, but this is not always the case. An estate can end up being divided between different family members. This might not necessarily be what you want and, depending on the individuals involved, can cause problems. It can also give rise to avoidable tax consequences. If you are not married and do not have children, your estate is likely to end up in the hands of distant relatives with whom you might have no connection. If no such relatives exist, your estate could even end up passing to the Crown!

How can I make or update my Will during the coronavirus lockdown?

Whilst we would usually meet with our clients to discuss their wishes and undertake a capacity assessment, face-to-face meetings are clearly not possible within the current lockdown. In these unusual circumstances we are however able to offer our clients appointments via video conference or telephone, and are constantly adapting our methods to suit individual circumstances.

What are Lasting Powers of Attorney and why might I need them?

A Lasting Powers of Attorney is a legal document which appoints people you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you lose capacity to do so for yourself, either temporarily or permanently. There are two types, one for financial matters and one for medical and health care matters.  In the current climate it would be advisable to give some thought to how you would continue to access your funds, run your business or support your loved ones if you were to lose the ability to make decisions about financial matters for yourself. You may also wish to have someone close to you in a position of power with regards to your medical treatment and care. Making and registering Lasting Powers of Attorney is the quickest and cheapest way to ensure that these issues are covered.

If you would like to speak to someone about either your Will or Lasting Powers of Attorney, please contact Laura van Ree or a member of our Private Client Advisory team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at May 2020.