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Wills and LPA – Covid-19 Guidance

As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues, we have understandably seen an increase in enquiries from people worried about making their wills and powers of attorney.  Making a will is one way to take control and give yourself peace of mind that your wishes are properly recorded.

We would like to reassure you that our Wills and Probate team is here to help and support in these uncertain times and we are continuing to provide a high quality service to our clients, without the need for face to face contact, via telephone or video call.

You can visit our Wills and LPA section here>

To use our online Will writing service, please click here>

Here, we answer some commonly asked questions:

How can I make or update my Will ?

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many people to think about their financial affairs.  While we are now starting to book in a limited number of appointments in our offices for clients, our team of Wills & Probate solicitors is also able to set up a telephone or video call using FaceTime or Zoom to discuss your requirements. Once we have your instructions, your Will can be drafted by a member of our team. It will then be sent to you for your approval via email or post.

Although it is important to maintain an up-to-date will, we would caution against making any significant or rash changes during a time of distress. If you are unsure, seek our advice about whether your Will needs updating.  We offer a free Will review service and will not recommend changes unless they are necessary.

How quickly can you draft my Will?

Wills are usually prepared within 14 days of agreed instructions. We offer an emergency will service if there is a need to have the Will prepared in a shorter time frame.

How can I get my Will witnessed?

New rules making it legal for Wills to be witnessed remotely, via video link, will come into force in September in England and Wales.

The change to the law, which will be backdated to 31 January 2020, is designed to make it easier for people to record their final wishes whilst rules on social distancing and shielding remain in place.

However, it remains a ‘last resort’ option and people who are able to have their Wills physically witnessed are being urged still to do so.

Two witnesses, who are not beneficiaries, are still required.  You cannot be a witness if you stand to gain from the Will, for example if you are a close family member or married to a close family member.

To protect our clients and Wards employees, we are abiding by a strict social distancing policy.

Currently, we are suggesting to clients that they contact two suitable witnesses – e.g. friends or neighbours – and arrange a meeting in their street, driveway or garden. Each party should use their own pens, wear gloves and ensure they stand two metres apart.

The will should be placed on a flat surface, such as a table or car bonnet, then each person should step forward separately to sign the Will before retreating.

We can make arrangements for your will signing suitable for your individual circumstances, and we are exercising discretion on a case by case basis.  Our general policy is that we are not currently providing witnesses except where there is no alternative.  We would then arrange a meeting which would follow the above guidelines.

If I have not made a Will, what will happen to my estate if I die?

If you die without a valid will, your estate would be dealt with under the rules of intestacy. Exactly how the rules apply depends upon your family circumstances, as well as the value of your estate. In general terms, a spouse or civil partner and any children would take highest priority. After this, other members of your family could inherit, or your estate could end up being passed to the Crown. By making a will, you can ensure that your assets pass according to your wishes and not in accordance with predetermined law.

There is some comfort if a loved one dies without a Will and the rules of intestacy do not achieve what is needed. It is possible to vary the intestacy provided everyone who would benefit is able to agree and does agree the variation.  Wards can advise you about this.

Can I make or update a Will from a care home or hospital?

The answer depends on individual circumstances and the policy of the individual care home or hospital.  It is not possible for our team to visit homes or wards with a Covid-19 outbreak as we do not have the requisite protective equipment.  However, we are able to arrange appointments by phone or video call.  If we require capacity reports to ensure a person’s mental ability to make a will, we can work with third parties who can offer online assessment at this time.

I am thinking of using a will writing company as they are cheaper. Is this a good idea?

No, it isn’t.  Will writing is not, as yet, a regulated industry.   While many will writers are good at what they do, many are not.  By using a solicitor, you are safe in the knowledge that they have undergone years of training, that they are heavily regulated and they are insured.  For added reassurance, seek out members of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP), and Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).

You hold my loved one’s Will. How can I obtain a copy?

In the event of death of a client, we will need to see the death certificate and ID of the named executor requesting the will before we release the Will.  We will endeavour to obtain the Will from storage as soon as possible, so that we can provide information regarding any expression of funeral wishes.  The Will is then posted securely to those named as executors.

We offer a free half hour telephone advice session to executors about their duties and the process involved. We will also advice about inheritance tax and its potential mitigation.

To use our online Will service, please click here>

For Wills or LPA enquiries, please contact Jenny Pierce at jenny.pierce@wards.uk.com

Or click here to view the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team

 

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UPDATE October 2020

We have now re-opened our branches to clients but all appointments and visits must be pre-booked to comply with government guidance.

Availability for face-to- face meetings in branches will be limited and remote contact with teams – via phone, email or video call – is preferred wherever possible.  Our prime concern remains the safety of our clients and our staff.

Please note that all visitors to our offices must, by law, wear a face covering.

We cannot accept drop-in visits from clients without an appointment being made in advance. If you have documents for us, including for ID certification, please deliver them to our letterbox

How to get in touch:

  • Please email or telephone your usual lawyer or team, or
  • Please telephone the branch most convenient to you between 9am and 5:30pm, or email info@wards.uk.com at any time and we will respond to you as soon as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you.  A list of our 11 branches is available here.

Thank you.

Wards Solicitors LLP