If you have not yet made a will, recent events may have prompted you to think about getting one done. If this is the case, you’re not alone.
According to The Law Society, enquiries among British people about creating new wills has increased by 30 per cent following the outbreak of COVID-19. Which? reports that law firms in England are being ‘inundated’ with clients eager to get wills done.
Maybe it’s a task you’ve been meaning to tackle for some time and you’ve never quite got round to it. If the current situation has made you think more carefully about your health and mortality, then that’s got to be a good thing if it inspires you to get your affairs in order. Even if you are young and presently in good health, recent events have shown us that the unexpected can happen at anytime. Everyone should make a will, regardless of their age or health status. This is the only way to ensure that your loved ones will receive what you want them to have in the event of the worst happening to you. This is especially important for co-habiting couples because if you are not married, you have no automatic right of inheritance.
If you die without making a will (known as having ‘died intestate’), your estate will usually be administered by your next of kin. The person can’t just divide things up as they see fit – the government will set out rules which are known as ‘intestacy rules’ to establish who will benefit.
Co-habiting and your will
This means that your loved one may not automatically benefit. Co-habiting couples don’t have the same legal rights as married couples. Intestacy rules don’t currently allow unmarried partners, same-sex couples not in a civil partnership, relations by marriage, e.g. stepchildren, or carers to inherit. This could mean that your loved one might be left homeless or struggling to pay bills on their own if something were to happen to you.
Crucially, it is essential to make a will if you have children under the age of 18. Making a will is the only way you can appoint legal guardians for your children. In the event that something happens to both parents without wills, their children would be placed in local authority care while the long process of determining where they would be safe and who is best placed to look after them is concluded.
You may be wondering if it’s possible to get a will done at this time. Fortunately, wills can still be prepared during lockdown. Solicitors and will writers have found solutions and ways of adapting their normal working methods to ensure that their clients can have wills prepared or updated.
Give your will instructions by phone or video
If you would like to make a will during lockdown, you can give your instructions over the phone to a will writer and the will can then be drafted and sent to you for your approval by email or post. Some firms are also speaking to clients by video links.
By law, wills must be signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document. Neither of those witnesses can benefit from the will or be married to any of the beneficiaries.
This may sound like a challenging task during this time of social distancing. However, you could ask neighbours or friends to witness and sign the will in your garden, ensuring that they use different pens to sign the will, wear gloves and keep a safe two-metre distance from you and your loved ones. Ensure that the will is put into an envelope before you take your gloves off.
If you already have a will, you may want to consider checking that it remains up to date. There may have been births, deaths or marriages that have occurred since you made your will that may affect whether or not it is still relevant. The passage of time can affect your circumstances and things may have changed. We would recommend looking at updating your will every three to five years.
If you are concerned about cost, it is possible to make a will for just a few hundred pounds – this will give you peace of mind and ensure that you protect your family and loved ones’ futures.
If you would like more information on updating or making a will, we are here to help.