UK Estate Planning trends in the wake of the Coronavirus

01 May 2020

We talk to ZEDRA UK Managing Director, Stuart McLuckie about the key estate planning trends in the UK and the increase in interest around the preparation of Wills during these uncertain times.

Have you seen any new trends emerge in response to the Coronavirus?

Like ZEDRA’s other offices outside the UK, we are also seeing an increase in the number of clients who would like to discuss their succession planning needs. Often this relates to an individual or family who hasn’t previously formalised any plans but also those who would like to review any plans already in place. However, whilst this isn’t necessarily borne out of panic, the current circumstances surrounding Covid-19 are encouraging people to focus their minds and consider their plans as they find they have a lot more time on their hands.

Our clients are asking themselves new questions: is my planning still relevant and adequate? Do these plans still meet mine or my family’s objectives? If the answer is no then clients are using this time to make changes.

One area where we, and other professionals, are seeing a steep rise in demand is for our will writing services. Recent statistics indicate that just over 50% of adults in the U.K. have wills in place. Unfortunately, whilst having an up to date Will is important whatever ones age or situation, it is most often situations such as the current Covid-19 crisis that prompt people to consider what happens if they, or their loved ones, die. Therefore, this rise in demand is not misplaced.

We have also seen an increase in the demand for our Will writing services amongst the younger generation. At ZEDRA we have always recommended that clients put a Will in place as soon as possible, particularly when there is a significant change in circumstances, such as the birth of a child, a divorce, a marriage, or the purchase of a first home or additional property. Our experience previously was that people would leave making a Will until they were much older. It appears that the current situation has prompted people, especially those with a partner or children, to seriously consider making a Will or reviewing the relevance of an existing Will. Regardless of the situation the world is in at the moment, the idea of you, or someone you love, dying is not something that anybody wants to think about but, it is something that will eventually happen and a Will allows you to prepare for this.

We recently worked with a couple in their early forties with two young children. They had been successful in their respective careers and wanted to make Wills to clarify how their assets, including their house and other assets, should pass if one or both of them pass away. Most importantly, they wanted to ensure that they could appoint someone to care for their young children should they both unfortunately die.

Social distancing is making wills more complicated to witness. Can you tell us more about the current situation?

For a Will to be valid in England & Wales, it must be signed by the person making the Will (the testator or testatrix) in the presence of two independent adult witnesses who should be present at the time of signing. The witnesses should not be an executor or benefit under the Will, therefore it is best that family members do not witness the signing of the Will.

Unfortunately, with the country in lockdown and the Government’s advice concerning social distancing, self-isolation and to stay home, the ability to have someone witness you signing your Will is almost impossible. To date, there is no guidance to suggest that this requirement has relaxed. This is where a little bit more imagination may be necessary as this is not a time to delay signing your Will; such as witnessing the signing of a Will through a window or otherwise with line of sight. Alternatively, if the British summer allows, you could sign your Will outside with you and your witnesses appropriately spaced apart.

Due to the increase in demand for Wills and the importance that they be signed correctly, the Ministry of Justice may reconsider the rules with regards to there having to be two witnesses while social distancing is enforced and possibly allowing witnessing by video-link. However, in order to ensure vulnerable people are protected, we expect that measures would only be relaxed for a short period and, even then, with stringent rules to ensure validity. We are eagerly watching for any updates so watch this space!

ZEDRA UK provides Will drafting, estate administration, lasting powers of attorney and trustee services. Tell us more about these services.

We have a team of experienced lawyers based in our Cheshire offices who are involved in preparing Wills, lasting powers of attorney and trust deeds. We already have over 50,000 wills in our secure storage in which we are appointed as executor and well over 3,000 trusts which we manage.

Our team of over 65 staff in Cheshire, with an impressive average length of service of over 20 years, have a huge amount of experience in managing the administration of people’s estates and trusts or acting as executor, trustee or attorney. We can also assist other individuals appointed to act as executor or attorney.

We like to think that we can help our clients plan for their future needs, execute their plans and later assist with the management of their affairs. It is important to us that we do this in a professional but compassionate way, and at a reasonable price.

The current situation surrounding Covid-19 is allowing many people the opportunity to review their affairs and prepare for the future. We are enduring unprecedented and uncertain times, not only here in the UK but also globally. Here at Zedra, we want to help you achieve some certainty.

Wills, Probate, Estate Administration, Lasting Powers of Attorney Brochure

For more information please contact UK Managing Director, Stuart McLuckie or view our Wills, Probate, Estate Administration, Lasting Powers of Attorney brochure.

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