It will happen to you…

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided an awkward reminder for many people of things they prefer to ignore.

Key workers have become much more prominent during the coronavirus crisis. Surprisingly – until you stop to think about it ­– this list also included solicitors “acting in connection with the execution of wills”.

Some firms of solicitors saw double the normal number of enquiries about will writing in the second half of March, just as the lockdown started, according to the Law Society. However, difficulties with last minute solutions are a reminder of why it is much better to prepare in advance. For example, in England and Wales, the Wills Act 1837 requires the signature of the person making the will to be witnessed by two people who are physically present at the signing – a complication in times of social distancing. Northern Ireland follows suit, but in Scotland a single witness and video witnessing are allowed.

Over half of the British adult population currently do not have a will. If you are in that majority, then the rules of intestacy will determine how your estate will be distributed on your death. These vary between the four regions of the UK, but do not automatically pass everything to a surviving spouse or civil partner where there are children, nor do they make any provision for unmarried partners.

Having a will lets you decide who receives what from your estate and can also control when and how benefits are distributed if you use a trust. For example, you may not want your children to inherit outright at the age of 18. Ideally your will should form the cornerstone of your estate planning.

Even if you do have a will, don’t file and forget it. A will, like any other piece of financial planning, needs to be reviewed regularly, to reflect both changes in your circumstances and to tax rules.   

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing, trusts and some forms of estate planning

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax advice, and tax laws can change.