Probate lawyers are urging the government to introduce reforms to make it easier for families to access the ‘digital assets’ of deceased relatives. A new report carried out by STEP – the professional body for inheritance planning advisers – highlights the extent of the distress caused by being cut off from digital assets when family members
Making a will is crucial to ensure your assets pass to those you choose when you die. And yet, research consistently finds that over half of UK adults do not have a will.
Talk to one of our friendly and experienced team on 01582 514000
Our specialist lawyers will guide you through the process to understand your particular wishes and find the most practical way to reflect them in your will.
Your will doesn’t have to be complicated but there are many legal and practical considerations to be aware of and the consequences can be significant if things go wrong. Modern family structures tend to be more complex and this may require specialist knowledge to achieve your wishes in a tax-efficient way.
How we can help with will writing
We particularly recommend seeking our assistance if, for example:
- You have started a new relationship and have children from a previous relationship.
- You are unmarried and have children.
- You wish to provide for your spouse or partner whilst protecting your estate for other beneficiaries (eg, your children) in the event that your spouse/partner remarries or requires care.
- You wish to provide for young or vulnerable beneficiaries.
- You have business or agricultural assets.
We will be pleased to store your will free of charge and can also help you record key information to assist your executors when the time comes.
“That was painless!” – People sometimes worry that it will be complicated or expensive but are often surprised to find how straightforward it can be with our support and guidance.
If you already have a will, it’s important to review it regularly to ensure it still meets with your wishes. Circumstances or your wishes may change unexpectedly which may affect your estate or how you choose to dispose of it in your will.
When you should review your will
It’s important to review your will regularly in case your wishes have changed or circumstances have changed. There is no exact rule on how frequently you should review it but we recommend reviewing it at least every couple of years and upon a key change in circumstances.
In particular, you should contact us if:
- You marry or form a civil partnership
- You divorce, separate or dissolve a civil partnership
- You make a new will
- You acquire assets abroad
- An executor dies or becomes unsuitable
- A beneficiary dies
- If you dispose of an asset you have specifically gifted in your will
- Your estate changes in value significantly
Not all changes will require a formal change to your will. If a person mentioned in your will changes their name or moves address, it may only be necessary to send us a note of their new details. If a formal change is necessary, you can either make a new will or make a codicil. A codicil is a separate document which goes with your will and adds or revokes the desired clauses. Codicils are only appropriate for simple, uncontroversial changes because the original provisions remain visible and as a separate document there is the risk of it becoming separated from the will. It is sometimes better to make a fresh will, especially if your will is more complex.
If, for example, you have remarried and have children from a previous relationship [a ‘standard’ will may not adequately provide for your family if you have remarried and have children from a previous relationship].
Remote witnessing of wills
New rules brought in as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic have changed how people may have their wills witnessed. Although Coronavirus restrictions may be being lifted, these changes remain in effect.
For all wills, two witnesses must be in the “presence” of the person executing the will. Where previously this meant the witnesses would be in the physical presence of the will maker, the new rules mean that, for wills made between 31 January 2020 and 31 January 2022, “presence” will include presence by way of videoconference or other visual transmission.
Whilst the new changes address the problem of individuals in self isolation being able to execute wills, they also present various practical and technical issues, some of which mean they are unsuitable for wills being made in certain situations (such as end of life wills). There are concerns that the changes may result in an increase in the number of challenges to wills in the coming years.
Our advice is that the witnessing of wills should continue to be carried out in the physical presence of the witnesses. We would also advise that, even when the current situation means that it may not be as easy as it once was, anybody who is drafting or amending their will should seek the guidance of a solicitor.
A will is a legal document so it is wise to use a solicitor with specialist knowledge and experience of preparing wills and administering estates to avoid problems for those you care about after your death.
Related Resources (View more resources)
Presentation slides from the webinar ‘Understanding inheritance and property – how to avoid disputes and claims’ which took place on Wednesday 7th July 2021.
Learn why you should write a will with Edward Gill and Radha Chauhan.
Presentation slides from the webinar ‘Wills and inheritance tax planning – putting the right protection in place’ which took place on Wednesday 2nd June 2021