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Coronavirus and your estate
14 Apr 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has focussed all our minds on our health and wellbeing. Figures from the Law Society reveal that the number of Britons seeking to write new wills has risen by at least 30% following the outbreak. But a combination of local lockdowns and self-isolation shouldn't mean this is more challenging than usual.
Michelle Monnes-Thomas, a Partner with FBC Manby Bowdler’s Wills, Trusts and Probate team, answers some of the most common questions being asked about managing your estate during the crisis.
Can I change my will even though some law offices may be closed because of the crisis?

 

Yes, of course. At FBC Manby Bowdler we reopened our offices on 1st June, after introducing new safe working measures, a social distancing policy and investments in a new desk booking system. 

However, following the recent announcements made by PM Boris Johnson at the beginning of January 2021, the doors to our offices are currently closed, but we are still continuing to offer appointments by video and telephone, and can facilitate face to face meetings if they are essential. We can advise on starting a new will, updating an existing one or all aspects of probate and make sure everything is finalised as quickly as possible.

How can I get a will witnessed if my local area is in lockdown?

It is a legal requirement that any will is signed by the will-maker in the presence of two witnesses, who themselves also have to sign the document. The witnesses must be over 18, people who will not benefit or inherit from the will or are not married to anyone who will do so. This means that close family members, for example, are likely to be ruled out.

The Government has now tweaked the law to allow the remote witnessing of wills until the end of January 2022. This temporary change also backdates to January 31 this year, covering anyone who has already taken the chance on completing wills in a modern way. Witnesses can use the likes of Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. 

We can provide advice on how to do this on a case-by-case basis.

Is there time for me to make a Lasting Power of Attorney to protect my wishes should I be hospitalised?
It usually takes between eight and ten weeks to register a Lasting Power of Attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian, at which time it comes into effect. A Health and Welfare LPA can only be used if you lack mental capacity. If you have concerns in this area it is certainly worth getting the process under way. But there are things you can do which take effect immediately.
An Advanced Decision – sometimes referred to as a Living Will – can spell out your wishes and comes into force the moment it is signed. And your financial interests can be protected through a general power of attorney, which lasts as long as you retain mental capacity and which does not require registration. 
We can advise the best course for you once we have considered your particular circumstances.
Why should I use a solicitor when online sites offer will-making services at a reduced cost?

A will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever need, so it is important that you entrust it to a qualified professional who can ensure it is drawn up correctly and will not be subject to dispute. A reputable solicitor will ensure your will takes into account all your circumstances and be able to advise on complicated financial and personal arrangements where necessary. 

DIY will-making kits and cut-price online offers can seem attractive, but they come with a greatly-increased risk that they will be subject to challenge because they do not meet all the necessary legal requirements or that they fail to take into account your individual circumstances.