Making a Will during COVID-19

Thinking about how well we are prepared for our futures

As coronavirus (COVID-19) leaves many of us working from home surrounded by our families and loved ones, it is inevitable that we start to think about how well we are prepared for our futures.

Wills and estate planning more broadly is a sensitive subject for households across the UK, and is often thought of as a bit of a taboo subject. However, the global pandemic has focused minds and given us space to think.

Property, financial and other assets
And it seems that it’s prompted more people to take action, from making changes to existing Wills to encouraging them to think about writing one for the first time. But worryingly, three in five (59%) UK adults have not written a Will, new research[1] reveals. This equates to 31 million people, whose property, financial and other assets could be left to someone they have not chosen when they die.
Of those who have not written a Will yet, 22% are over the age of 75 and 39% are aged 65-74. Worryingly, a third (32%) of those aged 75+ haven’t even started thinking about writing a Will yet.

Started thinking about writing a Will
Since the start of lockdown, those aged between 25-34 have, however, started the Will writing process or made changes to their existing one. During this period, a fifth (21%) of 25-34-year-olds started thinking about writing a Will for the first time and one in ten (12%) wrote one. A further 30% updated an existing Will.

Respondents were also asked if they had a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place yet, finding that just 12% of UK adults had an LPA in place before the COVID-19 lockdown. However, 6% said they had engaged a legal professional or the Office of the Public Guardian during the pandemic to put an LPA in place.

Types of Lasting Power of Attorney

Health and Welfare LPAs
A Health and Welfare LPA allows you to appoint an Attorney to make decisions about matters such as:

Your medical care
Where you live
Your daily routine, such as what you eat and what you wear
Who you have contact with
Whether you have life-sustaining treatment – although only if you have given express permission

Property and Financial Affairs LPAs
A property and financial affairs LPA gives your Attorney the power to do things such as:

Buy and sell your property
Pay your bills
Collect your pension or benefits
Manage your bank accounts

Emotional and financial pressure
Only 13% of UK adults have written a living Will, which is used to provide advanced decisions on refusing medical treatments if you become terminally ill or lose the ability to make decisions around medical treatment yourself. A further 6% said they had made a living Will, now more commonly called an advance decision, during lockdown.

While no one likes to think about their own mortality, getting your house in order by having the right legal instructions can take away much of the emotional and financial pressure at a very difficult time.

Peace of mind during difficult times
Taking the first step is always the most difficult but puts you as the benefactor in the driving seat. A Will can not only provide peace of mind that the correct beneficiaries benefit from any estate distribution, but also that it is done as efficiently as possible.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced on 25 July that they were easing the requirements regarding witnessing a Will. Normally this has to be done by two people who are present when the Will is being signed but this has caused some difficultly given the lockdowns.

Especially important if you have children
As a temporary measure the MoJ has legalised the remote witnessing of a Will. Legislation enables this to be backdated to January 2020 with the intention of leaving it in place until at least January 2022. This will make completing a Will easier in these difficult times.

A Will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that might be payable on the value of the property and money you leave behind. Writing a Will is especially important if you have children or other family who depend on you financially, or if you want to leave something to people outside your immediate family. ν

Source data:
[1] Research from Canada Life 25/09/20

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