It may be the worry of the outcome of the pandemic or it may be the case that we just have a little more time to think about what matters to us that is leading us all to think about finally getting around to making a Will or updating an existing Will. A lot of people are wondering if this is possible and how this can be done during lockdown?
Here at Stephensons we are able to provide you with a virtual face to face meeting to discuss your wishes and advise you on the best course of action for your Will. Thereafter we can provide you with a draft by sharing the document electronically during the virtual meeting or we can provide you with a PDF copy via email. We can then “meet” again or discuss over the telephone any amendments or additions you may wish to make. The finalised version can then be sent to you via email for you to print and sign at home. We are also able to send copies of the Will in the post for you to sign should you prefer.
But how do you sign your Will when we are being advised to stay in our houses and socially distance? Ancient laws not updated since the 1800’s state that the Will must be signed by the testator (the person making the Will) in the presence of two witnesses who are together at the same time. The witnesses must be over 18, have mental capacity and not be mentioned in the Will or closely related to anyone in the Will or the gift to them will fail.
At present the only way that we are able to witness Wills is at a distance. This means that you can sign your Will in the presence of your witnesses through a window, over a fence or at a distance as long as your witnesses can see you sign the document. The Will must then be passed to the witnesses for them to complete the signing formalities. You could ask your neighbours or friends as they are passing on their daily exercise to act as your witnesses. Old case law has shown that it is sufficient that you be in the “line of sight” of your witnesses so they may witness your Will. Therefore during the pandemic the advice we are offering is doing as much as we can to ensure that these important documents are still able to be put into place.
Why do I need a Will?
Pandemic aside it is important for everyone over the age of 18 to make a Will. They assist with guardianship provisions if you have children, deal with issues if you have children from a previous relationship, are on a second or third marriage, are unmarried, if you have a business, if you need to tax plan or just to make sure that your wishes are carried out after your death.
Your Will should be ever evolving and we recommend that you personally review your Will annually and sit down with your solicitor at least every 3 to 5 years. At present the pandemic is having an effect on global markets. Clients of ours who have worked hard and made good investments may now face a different financial outcome. This may have an impact on their Wills particularly if they have left specific investments or portfolios in their Wills to their beneficiaries. This could lead to someone not receiving what was intended. Similarly it may be the case that the estate is now not worth as much as it was previously and again a review may be needed to consider how this can be balanced. Expert advice is always recommended.
Can I make a Will if I am ill or have dementia?
Depending on your diagnosis it may be possible to make a Will. It would be for us to assess your capacity and where we are unable to we would ask for the assistance of your GP or specialist to prepare an assessment of capacity or eventually act as a witness to the Will.
Your capacity to make a Will is somewhat different to mental capacity though. The test for testamentary capacity (the capacity to make a Will) comes from ancient case law and says that you firstly need to understand that you are making a Will, secondly you must understand what your estate is made up of (so your property, savings, shares etc.) thirdly you must understand what claims could be made against your estate if you were to disappoint anyone who should have been a beneficiary and finally you should not suffer from any delusions of the mind.
If you have any difficulty with any of these requirements then you are still able to make a Will but this will be a Statutory Will through the Court of Protection. This process is quite complex and here at Stephensons we have a team of specialist solicitors who can advise on the process and assist throughout.
What if I have assets outside of the UK?
Your UK Will can still deal with your worldwide assets. Here at Stephensons our specialist Will drafting solicitors can advise you in relation to issues surrounding domicile, taxation and forced heirship if any of these are of concern to you.
What if I have a business?
Your Will can have effect over your business and business interests but it will be read in conjunction with any company documents and other agreements that are already in place. Our estate planning for business owners solicitors are able to advise on the effect of your Will and the continuation of your business after your death.
For a no obligation chat about making a Will please call our friendly team on 0161 696 6229 or complete our online enquiry form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.