How do the new COVID-19 measures affect my estate planning?

Estate planning allows you to get ahead of your future and ensure all the appropriate documentation that divides your estate is in line with your wishes. Having a well-thought out plan will not only protect you should you lose mental capacity, but it will also support your family and causes close to your heart on your death.

A number of roadblocks have been put in place as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; from adapting your home into an office, to finding a suitable witness to your Will. Organising your affairs can feel near enough impossible while adhering to the current government guidelines, however, our team remains on hand to ensure that your estate planning is not impacted by the current crisis.  

In this guide, we will cover three main areas of estate planning along with steps you can take to ensure the documentation is valid:

1.     Will,

2.     Power of Attorney, and

3.     Trusts.

Should you need immediate legal advice, our team is available to help on
020 3962 0898 or via the online enquiry form.

Is this the right time to write a Will in England?

One of the most fundamental and crucial parts of successful estate planning is having a valid Will in place. By doing so, you can set out what you want to happen on your death, make decisions about which family members or loved ones will benefit from your estate, and ensure your assets are divided according to your wishes.

While this is not a conversation many of us like to give much thought to, there has never been a more crucial time to write or amend your Will. The governments’ decision to include Wills lawyers in the limited list of key workers only reinforces the significance of a Will at this time. The best thing that anyone can do to protect their estate and family is to create a Will.

If you are concerned that your Will is wrong or you do not have one in place, speak with a member of our team today.

I’m stuck in the house – how can I ensure my Will is valid?

There have been no changes announced as of yet that account for the current pandemic we are facing. While proposed ideas include witnesses watching the signing of Wills through electronic means (e.g. a video link), or witnesses being present but staying two metres apart, it is highly recommended to instruct the help of a qualified Wills lawyer to ensure you follow proper protocol.

For more details on the suggested ways in which Wills could be signed and witnessed during this time, refer to this guide here.

Power of Attorney in England

A strong estate plan is more than just writing a Will; it could also include a Power of Attorney. Setting up a Power of Attorney can be used to give you more control over what happens if you lose mental capacity, however, in times such as these, it may also help if you are in isolation.

Signing and witnessing a Power of Attorney follows a very similar process as Wills. In England, the person making the document (the donor) must be witnessed when signing and, as of yet, this requirement remains unchanged.

What has been proposed for executing a Power of Attorney during the crisis?

The government has initiated a lockdown which entails no social gatherings, remaining at least two metres away from people, and staying at home unless for specified reasons. Due to this, there are areas in which the execution of a Power of Attorney is now more challenging – especially with regards to signing the document.

If you are considering setting up a Power of Attorney during the lockdown, the process will need to be carefully planned to ensure you respect the social distancing measures. If you are concerned your Power of Attorney is not legally accurate, or would like to know more information about the suggested systems to witness a Power of Attorney amid the crisis, click here.

Trusts

Estate planning takes careful consideration into choosing trustworthy people to either benefit from or help with the distribution of your estate. Although this pandemic has restricted our movements outside our home, it has also given us the opportunity to consider such tasks we have delayed as a result of being too busy.

While estate planning provides a viable way to ensure your assets are preserved for family and loved ones, it can also help to reduce the inheritance tax liable on your estate. Assets put into Trusts do not form part of your estate and are therefore discounted when calculating the amount of inheritance tax owed. Wills and Power of Attorney are typically thought of when considering estate planning, however, setting up a Trust can also be a useful way to fully protect your estate.

The person setting up the Trust (also known as the settlor) transfers a portion of their estate to a trustee who will administer on behalf of the settlor to the selected person (the beneficiary). As such, Trusts are typically used to safeguard assets for young people who aren’t yet financially dependent or comfortable with large sums of money.

Whether you choose to set up a Trust separately, or would like to add a Trust into your Will, it must be signed and witnessed in line with the requirements for Wills and Power of Attorney. To ensure your estate is planned in the most tax-efficient way, it is vital to get the professional advice of a private client solicitor.

Is this the perfect opportunity for estate planning?

This guide initially asks if estate planning will be affected at this time, and the short answer is no. Setting up a Will, Power of Attorney or Trust is still very much possible; it is just the process of executing the documents that has changed. It is vital that we avoid panicking, but instead plan effectively. While the current crisis has impacted various decisions we usually make on our own, estate planning is one area that we are still in control of.

We typically do not have the opportunity to focus solely on ourselves as work and out-of-home commitments tend to fill any free time we have. Sorting your estate planning could allow you to come out of this pandemic prepared for all eventualities.

Speak with anEstate Planning Lawyer in London today

Despite the current restrictions, finalising your documentation is not impossible. By contacting one of our professional lawyers at Avadis & Co, we can provide you with the latest guidance on how to carry out your estate planning while sticking to government guidelines and legal requirements. We have adjusted our procedure to ensure you can continue to plan for the future and protect your family and loved ones from any problems with your estate on your death. Call us today on 020 3962 0898 or complete the online contact form today.

This guide does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only. If you require specific legal advice you should contact one of our lawyers who can advise you based on your own circumstances.

Please note this information is accurate as of 29/04/20 and is subject to change as official guidance is adapted to reflect the implications of the virus.