East Anglian’s look to get affairs in order following pandemic

Demand for Wills has risen exponentially following the uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic, latest figures show.

Ellisons Solicitors, which has offices across Essex and Suffolk, has revealed its Wills, Trusts and Probate team created 57% more Wills for clients in 2021 compared with 2020. [1]

Nicola Weldon, Partner and Head of the Wills, Trusts and Probate team at Ellisons Solicitors, said: “We have seen a big rise in the creation of Wills, with people being incredibly motivated to make sure everything is legally correct and in place because of the pandemic.

“People are more aware about making sure their affairs are in order and their final wishes are known. It is good to see that the conversation around what happens to your estate after you die is continuing, as there are still many people who don’t have a Will.”

While Wills are not regulated themselves, solicitors who make them are and can ensure the client’s wishes are properly carried out – unfortunately, difficulties can arise when individuals seek to rely on homemade Wills.

Nicola said typical errors made when people created a homemade Will were; 1. Not getting it properly signed and witnessed, resulting in the Will being invalid 2. Invalidating gifts in the Will by asking a beneficiary to also act as a witness to the Will 3. Trying to be too controlling by putting unworkable conditions on beneficiaries and gifts and 4. Forgetting to deal with vital parts of their estate.

Nicola said: “I have seen homemade Wills in the past, seeking to dispose of everything down to the tools in the garden shed, but omitting to deal with vital items like that individual’s savings.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see with homemade Wills is that they have not been properly signed and witnessed.  Generally speaking, Wills must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, who are both over the age of 18, who themselves must witness the client’s and one another’s signature in the presence of one another and the client.  This has been further complicated by interim rules allowing Wills to be signed and witnessed virtually during the Pandemic.

“We also see people trying to control their beneficiaries by putting conditions on their inheritance. Whilst control can be incorporated into Wills through the use of trusts, some conditions included in homemade Wills can be unworkable or inadvertently create a trust, which can have unintended tax consequences.”

Ellisons Solicitors has outlined its top five reasons for ensuring you have a will in 2022 as, despite the increase in people getting them, it was recently estimated as many as half of people still don’t have one. [2]

  1. Peace of mind – Knowing you are taking care of those closest to you means you can relax from as soon as your Will is signed.
  2. Choose your own executors – Set down exactly who will carry out your directions and final wishes.
  3. Specify your final wishes – Ensuring your plans for your estate are legally written down in a Will means they will be followed after your death, rather than leaving it to chance.
  4. Appoint guardians for minors – Knowing your children will be cared for in the event of you not being able to any longer, and deciding who will, is one of the essential benefits of having a Will.
  5. Ensure you are properly complying with the various inheritance tax reliefs and exemptions – Don’t assume how much tax your estate may or may not have to pay.  Solicitors are best placed to advise you, and you may well find you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Image: Nicola Weldon

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