19 February 2021

As we continue to live with on-going restrictions in 2021, affecting what was our normal day-to-day life, private client specialist Sally Manning answers some frequently asked questions regarding how to make or update a Will in 2021 and the importance of having a valid, updated Will in place.

What is the process of making a Will during the pandemic and how a solicitor can help?

Don’t let a pandemic put you off! Although meeting clients face-to-face in a safe environment has diminished during the pandemic, most solicitors have conducted interviews over the phone, using email or via zoom or google meets. The most important thing is that both the client and solicitor are able to communicate all instructions clearly and that the same time and attention is paid to clients even though we may have lost the formal meeting room setting. Wills are still being prepared and being either posted or emailed out to clients and the signing of them is possible with some forward planning of how the witnesses can see the Testator or Testatrix signing and vice versa. We have managed to have some very successful ‘over the garden fence’ Will executions!

What could happen to your estate if you die without a valid Will in place?

If you die without a valid Will then a set of rules called the ‘Intestacy’ rules determine how the estate will be distributed between blood relatives. There is a strict order set out which is often demonstrated using a flow chart that works through the appropriate eligible relatives or you can work through a series of questions provided by

In limited circumstances, the rules of intestacy will suit the person that has died. However, unfortunately there are a lot of circumstances whereby the intestacy rules do not follow what the deceased would have put in their Will. For instance, if unmarried then a partner does not receive any of your estate. Or, you may have an estate worth £270,000 or less which would mean that your spouse or civil partner would receive everything. If the deceased had children from a previous marriage they would not be considered. Indeed, it may be that your estate may pass to family members that you have not spoken to (or had any relationship with) for many years.

The intestacy rules also ignore any personal items which the deceased may have wished to gift to certain members of the family for sentimental reasons. And charities that the deceased may have supported all their lives and would also have done so in their Will are not considered either. The reasons for avoiding intestacy rules are endless and even they the rules do suit your situation, without a Will you haven’t appointed executors to administer your estate which means additional work for your probate solicitor in determining who can act as administrator which may result in higher costs.

What are the risks of using a DIY Wills kit or an unregulated service?

Why would you choose to use an unregulated service to manage one of the most important documents you will ever write? People are often tempted by low fees (but watch hidden costs of storage or postage). If Solicitors fees are your main concern then there are many good schemes that we can utilise to assist with the cost of a Will. For example, Cancer Research UK or Julia’s House Hospice.

The problem with using DIY Will kits is that they do not provide you with the guidance that you need to make sure that your Will is clear and deals with all eventualities. Sometimes kits can also lead the Will maker to make specific gifts that leaves what is leftover, the ‘residue’, with no beneficiary. This means that they would be left with a partial intestacy as these rules would have to be applied to deal with the leftover assets.

Solicitors are experienced in dealing with all circumstances and can therefore tailor your Will specifically to your needs. They also have up to date training on the legal intricacies so that they can guide you in determining the best possible way of distributing your estate to take advantage of inheritance tax planning.

Solicitors also have the necessary insurance so that if Will instructions are not interpreted correctly then the beneficiaries have some recompense. Unregulated services and DIY kit companies do not have such assurances.

Why is it important for everyone, no matter their age, to consider making or updating their Will?

It is important for everyone to have a Will and keep it updated because we do not know what may happen today, tomorrow or any time in our future. Thinking that a Will is something that only the older generations need is incorrect and can lead to further upset due to lack of guidance at an already difficult time following a death.

Having a Will gives family and friends focus and makes it much easier to deal with your estate as you appoint Executors in your Will and give instructions on how your estate should be distributed. Upset and arguments can still occur between family members if a valid Will has been made but it often helps to minimise such emotions.

To that end, once you have made a Will you should update it if you have a change to your personal circumstances or indeed those mentioned in your Will; and it is recommended that your Will is reviewed every five years in any event just to make sure it still reflects what you wish to happen.

To get in contact with our private client team regarding call us on 0800 652 8373. We are able to offer telephone and video conference meetings as well as face-to-face where possible.