To view our Covid 19 Policy click here http://sussexlawsolicitors.com/?p=475
Writing a will is something you should do at any time, however, the Coronavirus outbreak has served to concentrate minds with regards to this important issue.
Approximately 70% of us die intestate, that is, without a will. Even if you have a will, it is important to update it after a major life event such as buying a home, getting married or getting divorced.
Having an up to date will gives you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out and your loved ones will be looked after financially. If you die intestate, in many cases your property will not necessarily pass to the people you would have chosen. Your next of kin under the rules of intestacy
will inherit, just because they are nearest to you, even though they may not be your “dearest”.
● A will allows you to decide on how you leave your property on death rather than having this determined by the intestacy rules.
● A will is a flexible instrument, which permits the person making it to make more varied and complex provision than is offered under the intestacy rules.
● You may select your own Executors and Trustees.
● You can incorporate additional powers for your Executors and Trustees
which will facilitate the administration of your estate.
● You may appoint a Guardian for your minor children.
● There may be tax advantages resulting from a carefully drafted will where tax planning through wills is considered in conjunction with wider lifetime tax and financial planning.
● If you are at all concerned about the terms of your current will or the fact that you do not have a will or lasting power of attorney in place, please do get in touch and we can talk you through the next steps.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)
Lasting powers of attorney are legal documents registered with the Court of Protection enabling you to appoint representatives to act on your behalf. These documents ensure that decision making rests with those you trust if you are no longer able to make important decisions yourself. By making a lasting power of attorney, you are able to appoint nominated persons to act on your behalf, should the need arise. You may limit the power to suit your particular circumstances.
There are two different types of lasting power of attorney. One covers property and financial decisions (property and finance) and the other covers decisions about your well being (health and welfare). You are able to make just one or both and you can always make another if needed. Lasting powers of attorney and wills are more often that not regarded as one of life’s administration tasks which can often come at the bottom of the list of those things that we need to do. The current pandemic has brought the need to prioritise this task into “sharp focus”.
We have seen an increase in the number of people getting in contact to write a will or update an existing will.
During the Coronavirus outbreak, there are difficulties to overcome as this area of law is one which usually relies upon face to face meetings between legal advisors and clients. It is also important to have the will legally witnessed.
This may not be easy if you are self-isolating or observing social distancing rules. Wills must be signed by two independent witnesses who are not your beneficiaries or the spouses of your beneficiaries.
Given most of us are restricted to contact with those in our household, this can create some difficulty.
Sussex Law are committed to doing whatever we can to help you in this difficult time.
Our solution has been to take instructions from clients over the telephone or by Skype and then, to act as your witnesses, at your door or through your window observing social distancing measures at all times.
Further precautions include using your own pen, wearing gloves, and conducting the process quickly and washing hands and sanitising.
If you are concerned to get your affairs in order but you are unable or worried about leaving your home, we will do our utmost to help.
Reasons For Making a Will
Please contact our private client manager Sally Taylor or Linda Tomsett if you wish to discuss your Will or LPA’s and find out how we can help you.
Have peace of mind • Protect your assets
Please contact our helpful and friendly
team for more information on 01273 561312
Single Basic Will: £200+ VAT
Joint Basic Will: £350+ VAT
Living Will: £200+ VAT
Trust Wills: starting at £400+ VAT
LASTING POWERS OF ATTORNEY
For a single person
Health & welfare only: £275+ VAT
Property & Financial Affairs only: £275+ VAT
Both Types of LPA: £500+ VAT
The task of administering the Estate of a loved one can seem insurmountable, especially at a time when you may still be coming to terms with your loss. The procedures can be quite complex and there are a number of duties and responsibilities of an Executor you should be aware of.
If you have been appointed as an Executor we can provide assistance with as much or as little of the administration of the Estate as you feel you may require.
If you have acted as an Executor before you may be familiar with the Probate process and simply require assistance in completing the relevant tax returns to be submitted to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. Alternatively, you may be able to provide us with the majority of information in connection with the assets and simply require us to obtain the Grant of Probate on your behalf. We can also deal with the administration of an Estate from start to finish if you so wish.
Our charges will be discussed from the outset and if the Estate is not complex we can sometimes agree a fixed fee. We also offer a fixed fee if you only require assistance in obtaining the Grant.
Please contact our Probate Manager, Sally Taylor, if you wish to discuss the administration of an Estate and find out how we can help you.
What is Probate?
The validation of the Will by the Probate Registry confirms the appointment of Executors. The Probate Registry keeps the original Will and issues a sealed copy attached to the Grant of Probate (often called “the Probate”). It is this document which proves the rights of the Executors to deal with the deceased’s estate.
How is Probate obtained?
The Executors sign (and swear the truth of) an oath and pay a fee to the Registry. Solicitors deal with this through the post; you do not have to appear in Court or attend the registry. In some circumstances and for higher value estates the Executors have to complete an Account of Assets and Liabilities for HM Revenue and Customs. If there is Inheritance Tax to be paid the Executors will normally have to pay the tax first before Probate can be obtained. If there is no access to cash/bank, the Executors may have to take out a temporary loan at the expense of the deceased’s estate.
What if there is no Will?
There are rules to show who is the legal next of kin and thus who can deal with an estate. Provided they are over 18, they can apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant called “Letters of Administration”. Until this is done no-one has any authority to deal with the deceased’s estate.
Do I need a Solicitor?
When someone dies there are many decisions and arrangements to be made. The Executors or Administrators should see a Solicitor as soon as possible after getting the death registered. Occasionally it is wise to do this even before arranging the funeral or accepting custody of any possessions. For instance, if it is not clear whether the person has left a Will naming Executors; or there is likely to be a dispute about the Estate; or if there could be a claim for damages in connection with the death.
What do Solicitors charge?
A solicitor’s bill has to be fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. There is no set scale of charges because cases vary enormously in value and complexity. We can estimate these factors and give you a quotation. This will take into account the amount of time we would expect to spend on dealing with the matter. The value of the estate is also relevant.
Interim bills are submitted during the course of the matter and costs and disbursements are deducted from any funds we hold on behalf of the estate. Very occasionally it is necessary to ask for a deposit towards payment of initial expenses and fees.
Please do not hesitate to ask for further details.
What is the difference between Executors and Administrators?
Executors are named in the Will as the persons whom the deceased wishes to organise the funeral and deal with financial and property matters (the “estate”). Administrators do the same job but are authorised by the Probate Registry (a branch of the High Court) where there is no Will or where there are no executors named in the Will or they have already died. Grants of Administration are usually taken out by the deceased’s next of kin or, if a Will has been left, by a named beneficiary.
Is an Executor obliged to take on the Responsibility?
No. You can “renounce” and step aside (without losing the right to benefit under the Will) provided you have not interfered with the deceased’s estate or accepted liability.
What is involved in being an Executor or Administrator?
As the Executor or Administrator it is your job to:-
- make the funeral arrangements
- pay Inheritance Tax
- find out what assets and liabilities the deceased had
- collect any monies due and pay any outstanding bills
- transfer any assets to beneficiaries (if so directed in the Will) or convert the assets to cash and dispose of the estate in accordance with the Will or the Inheritance Rules.
Do Executors need to take the Will to Probate?
Not always. Some small accounts and personal possessions can be dealt with by showing a death certificate and a copy of the Will. This is particularly useful for National Savings investments or Building Society accounts with less than £5000 (or according to the limit set by a particular financial institution).
What about Trustees?
Executors or Administrators can become Trustees of money or property left by the deceased, either specifically in a Trust created by the Will or by virtue of Act of Parliament in some cases. An example would be where there was no Will and the deceased’s estate having to be shared between a surviving spouse or registered civil partner and children under 18.
Is this a heavy responsibility?
It can be and it is not always possible to cease acting as a Trustee once you have started acting as the Executor or Administrator. It is a position of trust where you are responsible for looking after what could amount to be a large sum of money. If you make a mistake you could be personally responsible to make up any loss.
It may prove to be time consuming when dealing with an estate and usually you can only recover your out-of-pocket expenses. You cannot charge for your time and effort. However, obtaining the help of a Solicitor will remove much of the responsibility and worry. Legal fees and other expenses such as valuation fees can be paid out of the deceased’s estate.
What steps should I take with regard to property?
If the deceased owned any property the deeds will be required for checking. If they are currently being stored at our office they will be retrieved from our storage department. Alternatively, we may need to establish the whereabouts of the deeds. If there is a mortgage on the property then the deeds will be retained by the Lender. An application to the Land Registry can be made to check whether the title relating to the property has been registered (The cost of this application is currently £3).
Is it important to maintain the property insurance?
It is essential that the buildings/contents are insured. Details of any current Insurance Policy will need to be checked. The Insurance Company will have to be notified if the property is unoccupied as they may place certain restrictions on the Policy.
If the property is un-insured, it will have to be placed on cover immediately and we can arrange this on your behalf.
What should be done regarding the house contents if the property is unoccupied?
If the property is unoccupied, you must make sure that it is secure and that all valuables are removed and placed in a safe place. We can also advise about house clearance if necessary.
What should I do about obtaining valuations?
Whether or not there is Inheritance Tax to pay, you need to have accurate values for house, contents, car, shares, jewellery, etc. We can advise about obtaining valuations and recommend suitably qualified agents to assist in the sale of any assets. Alternatively, you can arrange the valuations and provide us with details.
How do I protect myself from personal liability in respect of claims being made against the estate?
TRUSTEE ACT NOTICES
Trustee Act advertisements can be inserted in the local newspaper and the official London Gazette. These require anyone who has a potential claim against the estate to make their claim known within two months of the date of the appearance of the notices. It is advisable that executors or administrators insert the notices as they will then be protected against personal liability in the event of a valid claim being made against the estate after payment has been made to the beneficiaries. The cost of the notices would be in the region of £200. Unless you are able to make payment personally, we will therefore have to wait until we are in funds from the estate assets.
INHERITANCE (PROVISION FOR FAMILY AND DEPENDANTS) ACT 1975
It is possible for an ex-spouse, family member, civil partner, co-habitee or other dependant to make a claim against the estate under the above Act if they consider that insufficient provision has been made for them in any Will or the Intestacy. Any such claim would have to be commenced within 6 months of the date of issue of the Grant of Representation. It may be wise therefore to delay making payments to beneficiaries until the expiry of the 6 month period. Where this firm are appointed as executors no distribution of the estate funds will be made prior to the said period.
What happens now?
There is information we need from you to be able to commence the administration of the estate. This is contained in our standard Questionnaire. Once you have completed this Questionnaire and we are in possession of any relevant documents we will be able commence work.Paragraph
How long will it take?
As each case is different it is difficult to say. In general terms, however, obtaining the Grant of Probate or Administration normally takes approximately 2 – 4 months. Sales of any properties owned by the deceased are subject to the general housing market restrictions. Where a Trust has been created administration is, of course, an ongoing process.
How do I get further information?
Please ask for further advice and assistance when worried or doubtful about what to do next.
Sussex Law specialise in Wills, Probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney
Sussex Law Covid-19 Workplace Policy and risk assessment
The physical and mental wellbeing of our people and our customers is our highest priority.
To manage this, and in line with government guidance on managing the risk of COVID-19, Sussex Law has carried out a full Covid-19 workplace risk assessment and implemented a Covid-19 Secure Workplace Policy.
Together, they show how seriously Sussex Law are considering all measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in our offices and to ensure that our workplace is as safe as possible for our employees and clients.
Sussex Law confirms we have followed the government’s guidance on managing the risks surrounding COVID-19.
We have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and shared the results with all employees.
We have cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures in place according to the government advice.
We have taken all reasonable steps to help people work from home where necessary and if possible.
We have taken all reasonable steps to maintain a 2m social distancing in the offices.
We have posters on our doors and within the offices giving clear instruction as to the policy we are operating.
Policy brief & purpose
This policy shows measures Sussex Law are actively taking to mitigate the spread of Covid 19 in our offices and to ensure that your return to the workplace is safe. You are kindly requested to follow all the rules diligently, to sustain a healthy and safe workplace in this unprecedented environment. It is important that we all respond responsibly and transparently to these risk precautions.
Sussex Laws’ approach is that if you can work safely then we will do so. The desk layout is such that you can practice social distancing in the workplace. Your desk should be sanitised at the end of your shift especially if another member of staff will be using the desk for the next days shift.
In order to keep the number of staff attending the office at one time to a minimum, there will be no half day handovers and the rostering of staff will be adjusted accordingly to keep the working environment as safe as possible.
If you need to attend the workplace then you may do so only on your allocated days as identified in the department roster.
This COVID-19 Secure Workplace policy is susceptible to changes with the introduction of additional governmental guidelines. If any changes are made, we will update you as and when necessary.
This policy applies to all employees who physically work in our office and those who are required to work remotely.
All employees must read through the risk assessment/action plan, to ensure we collectively and uniformly respond to the ongoing challenges.
Actions employees should take to protect themselves and their colleagues to ensure a safe and secure working environment.
Return to work Questionnaire:
• Prior to returning to the office the questionnaire must be completed and returned to the Practice Manager.
• We assure you that we will always treat your private health and personal data with high confidentiality and sensitivity.
• If you have any concerns and would like to discuss these please contact the Practice Manager or your direct line manager or whichever manager you feel most comfortable with.
Sick leave arrangements:
● If you have any Covid 19 symptoms, such as a cough/sneezing; fever; loss of sense of smell or taste, or otherwise feel unwell, you must bring this to the attention of the Practice Manager or your direct manager.
You will either be requested to return home and self isolate for 14 days and may be set up to work from home whilst in isolation. You will then return to the office only if you are fully asymptomatic.
● If you have a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, you can return to the office only after you have self isolated for 14 days and are fully recovered, with a doctor’s note confirming your recovery.
Work from home:
● You may be requested to work from home if you are able to do so and should only attend the office to carry out tasks that you are unable to do from home.
● If you are experiencing any Covid 19 symptoms, but you are able to work, you should work from home if possible.
● If you’ve been in close contact with someone infected by COVID-19, with high chances of being infected yourself, you should work from home if possible. You will also be asked not to come into physical contact with any colleagues during this time.
● If you need to provide care to a family member infected by COVID-19, please discuss this with the Practice Manager.
● You’ll only be permitted to return to the office 14 calendar days after your family member has fully recovered, provided that you’ve recovered or you have a doctor’s note confirming you don’t have the virus. You will also be asked not to come into physical contact with any colleagues during this time.
● All work events will be cancelled/postponed until further notice.
● Face to Face client meetings should be done virtually where possible.
● If you normally commute to the office by public transportation and do not have other alternatives, we can look to change your working hours to avoid busy commuter times.
General hygiene rules:
● Wash your hands regularly and on all occasions after using the toilet, before and after eating, and if you cough/sneeze into your hands (follow the 20-second hand-washing rule). You can also use the sanitizers you will find around the office.
● Cough/sneeze into your sleeve, preferably into your elbow. If you use a tissue, discard it properly and clean/sanitize your hands immediately.
● Open the windows regularly to ensure open ventilation.
● Avoid touching your face, particularly eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands to prevent from getting infected.
● If you are in the office and find yourself coughing/sneezing on a regular basis or suffering any possible Covid-19 symptoms you should avoid close physical contact with your co-workers and report to a member of management who will send you home immediately and thereafter follow the instructions for self isolating- such as working from home or requesting sick leave.
● There is no smoking or vaping allowed anywhere within the offices. All smoking and vaping must be conducted outside with doors closed so that smoke or vape cannot infect any indoor space.
If you smoke or vape this must not take place in groups this practice must take place on a singular basis to avoid any possible spread of the virus from worker to worker. Exhaled vapour can contain droplets. Keep a distance of 2 metres from others when smoking or vaping outside to reduce this possible risk.
Staff exhibiting any Covid-19 symptoms and potential high-risk circumstances
Staff are not permitted to attend Sussex Law offices under the following conditions:
If they are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms
If they have been in close contact with someone infected by Covid-19
If they have tested positive for Covid-19
If they have had 3 adverse temperature readings
In the event of any of the above scenarios, then staff are only permitted to return to the office after 14 days isolation, provided they are asymptomatic or they have a doctor’s note confirming they don’t have the virus.
If anyone becomes unwell with a new continuous cough or a high temperature in the office they will be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance of self-isolation.
Social distancing in the workplace
Sussex Law Covid-19 Policy provides guidance on social distancing within the workplace and aims to keep staff numbers to a level where they can to comply with the 2-metre rule
Signage – Clear signage on front doors and throughout the offices to inform clients of our policy and to ensure employees maintain a safe and secure environment.
Meetings – Meetings should be done virtually whenever possible including internal meetings with colleagues and especially with clients. Only where the use of video conferencing for meetings is not practical, can face to face meetings be arranged.
All meeting rooms have been closed until further notice and may be used as office space.
Desks and workstations – Staff are not permitted to share desks or workstations on the same day and have been specifically allocated their own permanent workstations, ensuring 2m distancing from other colleagues. If a desk is used by another user the next day then it must be sanitised at the end of the shift allowing 16 hours before another user attends that workstation.
Supplies of individual items such as stationery orders need to be notified to the practice manager so that deliveries can be kept to a minimum.
Personal deliveries – Personal deliveries for staff members such as items from online shopping providers are not permitted at Sussex law offices without permission from the Directors.
Track and Trace – staff are encouraged to follow the track and trace guidelines set out by the government. If an employee tests positive they will be required to follow the self-isolation guidance.
Signage – Clear signage throughout our offices has been implemented to help guide people on general hygiene best practice and to act as a reminder of their responsibilities to maintain a safe and secure workplace.
Hand-washing – Staff are reminded to wash their hands regularly and on all occasions after using the toilet, entering the offices and before and after eating.
Gel sanitisers – Gel sanitisers are available in all areas.
Surface cleaning – Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, particularly in areas of high use such as door handles, light switches, IT hardware such as printers and reception areas – using appropriate cleaning products that have been provided to staff.
Reducing cross-contamination – All internal doors that are not fire doors should remain in an open position. Where possible, printing and handling of paperwork should be kept to a minimum and all correspondence where possible should be electronic such as emails.
Ventilation – staff are reminded to open windows regularly to ensure open ventilation. Where a fan is being used it should be directed away from any colleagues. If this is not possible then the fan should not be used.
Travelling and commuting
The firm’s approach is that if employees can work from home then they should continue to do so. This approach helps to reduce any unnecessary commuting and any unnecessary use of public transport. In addition:
Staff using car parking facilities should ensure that social distancing is adhered to when entering and leaving car park spaces
All staff work trips and events, have been postponed until further notice.
Meetings outside of the workplace
Vulnerable clients – With specific reference to vulnerable clients and where there is no alternative other than a home-visit, staff should practice strict social distancing measures. If you cannot be safe then you cannot meet.
Awareness needs to heightened as to where the meeting takes place. Any meeting needs to be outside or in isolation of all others that are not attending the meeting. I.e. busy rest home environment cannot be entered as this would not be a safe environment.
Mental Health and well-being
Sussex Law considers the mental health and well-being of all staff as a priority. All staff are required to complete a Return To Work Questionnaire to establish any concerns on their return and how they can be addressed. The firm will continue to promote the dedicated mental health & well-being resources available to all staff.
With social distancing, self-isolation and the key threat of Coronavirus, it is a deeply worrying and potentially lonely time for all of us. It has been heartening to see many examples of the country continuing to soldier on regardless creating solutions to deal with the restrictions.
This creativity and spirit has also been needed in the workplace and particularly in the area of Wills. This area of law is one which relies on face-to-face meetings between legal advisors and their clients, such as in needing the physical presence of the Will-maker and two witnesses to put the document in place at the end of the process. As you can imagine, the current climate has seen a sharp increase in those wanting to ensure that their affairs are in order, but many of you who have requested our help are elderly, vulnerable or self-isolating. So, how do you put a Will in place but ensure that you are not at risk in doing so?
Sussex Law, are committed to doing whatever we can to help you in this difficult time and to give you peace of mind. Our solution to this dilemma has been to take instructions from you over the telephone or by Skype and, then, to act as your witnesses….at your door or through your window.
We have already been visiting you around the Brighton standing at back doors and in gardens to witness the signing of your Wills and are happy to keep helping you in this way for as long as this crisis needs.
If you are concerned to get your affairs in order in a Will but are unable or are worried about leaving your home, please contact us. We will do our utmost to help.
Powers of Attorney
Lasting Powers of Attorney, are legal documents registered with the Court of Protection enabling you to appoint representatives to act on your behalf.
Registering a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a way of giving someone you trust, known as your attorney, the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. This could be because you no longer wish to make decisions for yourself, or in future you are not able to make those decisions.
No one automatically has the right to deal with your bank accounts and pensions, or to make decisions about your health and social care should you lose the capacity and are unable to make these decisions for yourself.
By making Lasting Powers of Attorney you are able to appoint nominated persons to act on your behalf, should the need arise.
Whilst you still have capacity, you are able to appoint nominated persons to act on your behalf if the need arose. You may limit the power to suit your particular circumstances.
There are two different types of LPA, one covering Property and Financial decisions, and one covering decisions about your wellbeing. You are able to make just one or both, and you can always make another if needed.
Property and Financial Affairs
Lasting Powers of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs, allow your attorneys to make financial decisions for you. This can be whilst you still have capacity, but are struggling to deal with day to day running of your property or financial affairs.
Circumstances where the document could be used are:
- Selling or purchasing property on your behalf
- Opening, closing or managing bank accounts
- Paying your bills and expenses
- Dealing with tax issues
- Claiming benefits
You are able to specify the scope of your Attorneys involvement, and you can specify that the document only be used once you have lost capacity.
Health and Welfare
Lasting Powers of Attorney for Health and Welfare, allow your attorneys to make decisions about your wellbeing only when you do not have the capacity to do so. This also covers when you are ill, or you are in a medical situation (such as being unconscious) where you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
This power can also extend to decisions about Life Sustaining Treatment if you wish.
Types of decisions that can be made are:
- Consent to give/refuse medical treatments.
- Where you live, and who you have contact with
- Your daily care, to include diet and dress
It is important to note, Attorneys will not be able to act for you if you did still have capacity to make these decisions for yourself.
Single Basic Will: £200+ VAT
Joint Basic Will: £350+ VAT
Living Will: £200+ VAT
Trust Wills: starting at £400+ VAT
LASTING POWERS OF ATTORNEY
For a single person
Health & Welfare only: £275+ VAT
Property & Financial Affairs only: £275+ VAT
Both Types of LPA: £500+ VAT
Have peace of mind • Protect your assets
Please Contact our helpful and friendly
team for more information
01273 561 312 www.sussexlawsolicitors.com
Ensuring your wishes are followed is vital and getting the right person to prepare your Will gives you the peace of mind.
At Sussex Law, our expert team take all circumstances into consideration and provide advice to meet your needs.
Sussex Law also specialises in Estate Administration
and Conveyancing matters.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
Lasting Powers of Attorney, are legal documents registered with the Court of Protection enabling you to appoint representatives to act on your behalf. (more…)
The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) are extremely well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases. The NHS has put in place measures to ensure the safety of all patients and NHS staff while also ensuring services are available to the public as normal. (more…)
ADVICE IN RESPECT OF CONVEYANCING MATTERS IN LIGHT OF COVID 19 VIRUS
A number of our conveyancing clients are making enquiries due to the uncertainties surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty with regards to exchange and completion.
The Law Society have now published guidance in relation to COVID 19 and full details can be found on the link as set out below:-
There are currently no new conveyancing procedures available to deal with any issues arising as a result of the Coronavirus and the terms of your Contract will continue to prevail. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep up to date with the Government’s and Law Society’s advice.
Our offices remain open at the present time. Whilst we are open, we will be safeguarding the well being of our clients and our staff. We have put a number of steps in place to ensure that we help keep our staff, clients and the wider community as safe as possible during these uncertain times.
Going forward, we have systems in place and staff are able to work remotely from home if necessary.
We have a general policy that is being implemented with regards to clients’ appointments.
All pre-arranged visits will be kept to a minimum and we will have “distancing” measures in place. Where possible, we would prefer to carry out any appointments that do not require “face to face meetings” by “Skype”.
In addition, we would ask that all clients make an appointment if they wish to attend the office for any reason. In line with other companies we have also implemented a “no handshaking” policy to avoid any unnecessary personal contact.
If you do attend the office, we will be seeking confirmation as to whether you have within the last 14 days been in self-isolation due to suspected symptoms or Coronavirus or have self-isolated due to contact with someone with suspected symptoms of Coronavirus. We will also require confirmation as to whether you have travelled abroad within the last 14 days including details as to where you have travelled to/from.
A person’s Will may be the single most important legal document they ever prepare. But, they will not be alive to see it come into effect.
A Will deals with what someone owns, who is to get it, wishes for funeral arrangements, requests in relation to guardianship of any minor children, and the people trusted to bring that all into effect. The importance of the document really can’t be overstated, but statistics show that many people are in the dark about the important function a Will performs, or do not wish to face up to their own mortality by contemplating their death.
Recent research by Royal London and Macmillan Cancer Support has found that:
• As many as 54% of adults do not have a Will;
• 1.5 million people who did have a Will in place may have accidentally voided it by getting married since making that Will; and
• 5.4 million adults have no idea how to go about making their Will.
Making a Will is not the end of the story however. A Will is only of use if the original can be located after the Will maker has died. Sadly, finding the original Will is not always easy.
Most clients are advised by their solicitors to leave the original Will with the firm, and to let their family and executors know where the original is held. In that way, the firm can keep the document securely and ensure that it is only released to the correct executors after the Will maker’s death. The firm is also then able to advise the executors on the process of administration. The difficulty with this arrangement is that the firm may move, merge or close making it difficult to track down the Will years later (although the Solicitors Regulation Authority should be able to help to identify what has happened to a firm).
Not all clients choose to leave their original Will with solicitors though – sometimes preferring to keep the original at home, or with their bank. These arrangements can be risky as people often misplace the document, accidentally throw it away, or change banks without claiming the documents held. This can make administration of the deceased’s estate much more complicated, as the executors will have to try to locate the original document. If it cannot be found, this might leave open questions about whether it was intentionally destroyed or simply lost – and if the latter, then the executors may have to try to admit a draft or reconstructed copy to the Probate Registry for approval. These applications can involve a lot of additional cost and time delays which could otherwise have been avoided.
Recent headlines about the great Aretha Franklin’s estate have shown how easily documents can be lost. Ms Franklin had been involved in litigation in her later years, and apparently the relationship with her legal advisers had broken down. Possibly as a result of this poor relationship, Ms Franklin chose to prepare handwritten documents herself instead of a final single professionally drafted Will. When she died, her family and solicitors found three different documents. Two of the documents were found locked away in a safe at Ms Franklin’s home, with a further document hidden in the home under a pile of cushions. The documents themselves are now likely to be subject to scrutiny in order to determine whether they are valid Wills, but at least being able to find them at all means Ms Franklin’s last wishes can be known and considered.
The simplest method to make sure a Will is secure is to leave it with the solicitor who prepared it, and to notify family and executors where it is. It may be worth providing a photocopy to the executors directly. Registration of the Will using Certainty the National Will Register is also a great idea to ensure the will can be found. Certainty the National Will Register is the Law Society of England Wales endorsed provider of a National Will Register where Will makers record that they have made a Will, and where the original Will is located. Family and executors can request a search of the National Will Register and easily find the document. The costs of such a search would ordinarily be treated as an estate expense, and so paid from the estate funds rather than by the executors personally.
Preparing a Will is an important step in the estate planning process. Registering the document and notifying the relevant parties is the best way to ensure that the effort of preparing the Will is not wasted.
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