A plea from a probate practitioner…

22 May 2020

Why make a will?

This question is often asked and the same answers given, to name a few:

  • Reduce Inheritance Tax(IHT) or Capital Gains Tax (CGT)
  • Protect family wealth
  • Stipulate who should benefit from your estate;
  • React to changes in the law.

So why ask the question again, surely the many articles written previously on this subject have covered everything, what is different now?

I am a probate solicitor and have been dealing with estate administrations for over 16 years. As probate solicitors, we do not just apply for grants (to deal with someone else's assets when they die) liaise with HM Revenue and Customs over IHT and distribute funds to beneficiaries. Our work is more than that. We meet clients at the beginning of the estate administration journey and travel with them, sometimes for many years, until the administration is completed. This is an article about why I feel, as a probate solicitor, who has covered many miles with clients, we should all be asking ourselves this question now, in the current coronavirus pandemic.

Our first contact with our client is a result of their immediate loss of a loved one. Their grief is raw.  We all need help, support and guidance at this time. That guidance can come from your will.

Whilst many of us have wills and have given some thought as to what should happen should we die, many of us have not. Perhaps some suffer from the fear many of us do when it comes to wills. My husband and I do have wills. I am therefore living proof that you are not signing your life away simply by signing one. We have had discussions about death and what should happen to us if we were to die. Given both the nature of our work, the subject of death inevitably crops up, but for very different reasons. My husband knows what I want and I him. I have never found talking about death a daunting subject and feel it should be encouraged.

In the current coronavirus pandemic, I like many others are shopping for my 70+ year-old parents and encouraging them to reduce risk as much as possible. The fear of catching the virus, or one of my family members or friends catching the virus, does not worry me. I cannot eliminate that risk and have no control over it.

What scares me the most is not being able to hold the hand of loved one, should they become ill.

My father in January of this year was admitted to hospital with pneumonia. The care he received from our local hospital was excellent. We as a family all took comfort in the fact that, as difficult as the situation was, we could see for ourselves how he was improving over time with the care he was receiving. He in turn, actively looked forward to our visits. With the care he received, his determination and support from family and friends, I'm grateful he made a full recovery. For the people suffering with coronavirus, that personal physical contact with family and friends is not an option.

So the time is now. Actually, if you prefer, call it a plea from a probate practitioner's point of view. Please review your will or prepare one if you do not have one. At the very least, discuss what you want with the people you care about and those that care about you. This includes funeral wishes.

The 'it won't happen to me attitude' should be confronted. It might not. But if it does and you have not prepared for the scenario it will be your loved ones who are in the dark, trying to do their best for you. They may not be able to discuss your wishes with you. Give them that guidance now, whilst you still can. As probate practitioners we can help you and your loved ones with the legal work that may lie ahead but only you can help them to make that journey easier when you are gone.

For any will or estate planning queries please contact Rupert Wilkinson.

For any estate administration related queries please contact Kathryn Anderson.

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