Writing a will: Looking after your family during the COVID pandemic

In Drafting a will

If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that life comes at us fast.

At the start of 2020, few of us could’ve predicted just how strange and frightening life would become. As we welcomed in the New Year, how could we know we were waving goodbye to all the things we’d taken for granted (whether it’s visiting our loved ones or just buying toilet roll!).

Don’t let 2021 catch you off guard.


Coronavirus affects us all – little wonder, then, that since it began sweeping the country, solicitors have noticed an increase in the number of people making a will.

It’s not a nice topic to think about, especially during a global pandemic. But there’s no better time to consider getting your affairs in order.

A will offers two things that we’ve all missed over the last year: peace of mind and stability.  
 

Why write a will during the coronavirus pandemic

Perhaps the virus stole a friend or relative. And the constant barrage of COVID news has you fearing for your family’s safety.

Already our daily routines and sleeping patterns have been shattered, without staying up all night worrying about providing for your family. Taking care of our emotional wellness and mental health is essential in these weird and trying times, and focusing on the future can help relieve this strain.

If the worst happens (as you cross your fingers that it won’t), have you made provisions for your family?

Making a will lets you divide your assets and estate between beneficiaries. You might want to make sure your partner gets the house or gift a treasured heirloom to your relative. It provides an opportunity to set up a trust for your children.

A will puts you in control – a rarity, it feels, these days.

So long as you’re 18 or over, and still have your faculties, you can make a will, and it’s not as complicated as you might think.

 

What to include in a will

Preparing a will can be simple, depending on the size of your estate.

You should include:
  • Properties
  • Money, stocks and shares
  • Personal possessions
  • Businesses
  • Provisions for childcare (if you have children)

 You’ll also want to choose:
  • Beneficiaries – those who benefit from your will
  • Executors – at least two people who carry out your final wishes
  • Witnesses – those who sign the will to say everything’s above board
 

How to make a will during COVID

There are three ways to make a will. You can either write it yourself, use a professional will-writer, or have a solicitor draw up your will.

While a DIY will might make sense – how better to socially distance, after all? – it’s not generally the best option, as the law is a fickle beast, and one wrong word can lead to disputes among beneficiaries.

If you can, use a solicitor or will-writer, as they’ll make sure the proper process is followed. Despite government restrictions, most will-writers and solicitors continue to operate both online and in the office, meaning you can still make a will during lockdown.

A valid will is:
  • Written by someone 18 or over
  • Made voluntarily and in writing
  • Signed by you and two witnesses

In the days before coronavirus – remember those? – both you and the witnesses had to be present in the same room. This was to make sure you made the will freely, with no outside influence/pressure, should anyone later call the contents of the will into question. Witnesses and their spouses can’t benefit from any will, making them a sort of independent referee.

Since the pandemic, though, witnesses can now legally (and temporarily) witness a document through video-streaming. Your solicitor or will-writer will be able to set this up.

Alternatively, for a fee, solicitors and another employee will act as witnesses.

 

What happens when you don’t have a will?

If the virus strikes and you don’t have a will, your assets and estate will be subject to the rule of intestate. This allows the state to share out your assets and estate in the event of your death.

In most cases, your partner will benefit – but only if you’re married or in a civil partnership. So-called ‘common law’ partners aren’t actually recognised in law, and are not automatically entitled to receive anything.

Alternatively, you’ve separated from your partner, but are still married, they’ll be able to gain from your estate, whether you like it or not.
 
  • Partners (married or in civil partnership)

If your estate is worth £270,000 or more and you have children or grandchildren, then your partner will receive all your personal property, the first £270,000 of the estate, and half of the remaining estate.

If you don’t have children or grandchildren, then your partner gets all personal property and the entire estate.
 
  • Children

When there’s no surviving partner, your children will inherit, with the estate equally shared between them. However, they must be ‘of age’, as intestacy even includes rules for who looks after minors, if both parents have passed away.
 
  • Relatives

Other relatives may inherit, depending on the circumstances. At that point, though, it can become a serious burden for them to navigate the legal process.

When you have no surviving relatives whatsoever, then everything you own goes to the Crown.


So, while your family can still receive an inheritance, it may not go to those you’d like to see benefit or divided up as you see fit.

 

Why make a will during COVID

We never know what’s around the corner. Now, with the pandemic raging through the country, our lives are even less predictable.

 

A will offers security for your loved ones. Whether you decide to make a will now, or you’ve just started thinking about it, it’s worth having the conversation with your family and loved ones about your wishes. Working out your will can be a way to take back a little control during what can feel like a powerless time.

With The Law Superstore, you can explore what having a will means for you and your family, and compare and connect with legal experts to get the advice you need.

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