By Sorcha Duffy, Solicitor at Gibson & Associates Solicitors
During uncertain times, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, people may be left feeling unsettled and concerned about how their lives and those of their loved ones might be affected in the long term. For this reason, it seems only right to take practical steps to plan for your and your family’s future. This might include estate planning to ensure that your wishes are met and your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your death.
Research carried out by Gibson & Associates into Google search trends shows that there has been a 339% increase in searches for terms related to ‘will making’ over the past 90 days, compared to the same period in 2019. As a result, law firms across the country are increasingly being inundated with requests to review existing wills, draft new ones or put in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.
The experienced wills and probate solicitors at Gibson & Associates Solicitors are on hand with practical advice to ensure that you are able to make a will safely and securely.
Why you should make a will
Many people of varying ages are looking to draft a will as soon as possible. This is often something they have put off for many years and now feel is the right time to get it done.
Having a will is a way of providing clarity on how your estate should be administered in the event of your death, reducing stress for those who are dealing with the estate. Without a will, you are said to have ‘died intestate’, meaning your assets will be shared in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This can result in those who you wish to pass assets on to not having any right to them, and should be avoided at all costs.
Using a solicitor to make a will is crucial, and you should never attempt to make a homemade will. Solicitors can ensure a will is legally valid, check for mistakes and ensure that nothing is left open to interpretation, as any grey areas could result in your will being contested.
The importance of reviewing an existing will
You should regularly review your will to ensure that your estate will be handled properly and with your wishes in mind. This is vitally important after any significant life event, such as marriage, the birth of children, bereavement or a windfall.
Furthermore, your assets may have changed since your will was initially drafted, meaning you might be able to benefit from inheritance tax planning advice.
Making an Enduring Power of Attorney
An Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) allows you to appoint ‘attorneys’ to handle financial or health decisions on your behalf if you lose the capacity to do so. Putting an EPA in place while you still have mental capacity will ensure you have control over who is appointed and gives you the chance to make them aware of your wishes, so they can act in your best interest should the need arise.
Employing wills services in self-isolation
Many law firms have developed options to allow you to create a will while social distancing, ensuring there is no risk or delay to you securing your and your family’s future. Here is an example of how Gibson & Associates Solicitors has adapted their procedures to accommodate will service enquiries:
- Initial meetings will take place via telephone or video conferencing through Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp.
- Once initial instructions are understood, a meeting will be arranged in the largest boardroom to ensure all parties practice safe social distancing. There will be no more than three people in the room at one time and clients can wear their own gloves and bring their own pen.
- If preferred, a meeting can take place outside of the office, for instance, if a client is in their car, solicitors will meet them outside, pass the will to them through the window and ask them to execute it in the presence of two witnesses from the law firm. The will is then passed out of the window and witnessed on either the car bonnet or a window by the witnesses. All members of the law firm will wear protective gloves and masks during this exercise.
- If a client is unable to attend the office, solicitors are able to meet at their home in certain circumstances, but will follow strict social distancing procedures.
It is important that people consider making a will, but should not be put under pressure to do so by others, given the current situation. Think carefully about what you would want to happen in the event of your death to ensure you make the right decisions. Solicitors are here to help and provide impartial advice at this stressful time. Should you have any concerns, you should call a solicitor for advice.
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