For many people, COVID-19 has thrown difficulties in their path when it comes to the execution of legal documents, particularly Wills. Until recently (see our article on Wills by Wifi), for a will to be valid, it requires two independent witnesses to be in the physical presence of the person making the will (known as the Testator) when they sign the will. Because of lockdown, followed by the two metre social distance rule, it has been impossible for some clients, particularly those who are most vulnerable, to be able to execute their will.
In a recent case study, Amy Lane, a Solicitor in our Tax Planning team was approached by an existing client who was sadly terminally ill. Amy explains the background:-
I was contacted by Mr X fairly soon after lockdown commenced. He was sadly terminally ill with asbestosis and concerned to ensure that his affairs were in order. He had a long-term partner who he had been with for over 20 years and no children. One of his concerns was Inheritance Tax (IHT) as his estate was worth significantly over the Nil Rate Band, which would have meant an IHT liability on his death, and his partner potentially having to sell the house (which he owned solely) in order to pay the IHT due.
I advised Mr X about the spouse exemption from IHT and how anything he left to his partner after their marriage would pass free of IHT. He then took some time to think this over, and got back in contact to say they had decided to form a Civil Partnership in a few weeks’ time. This resulted in another conversation about how forming the Civil Partnership would revoke his existing will, which left everything to his partner (other than a few pecuniary legacies, which he still wanted to give effect to). I therefore arranged to go and see Mr X at home in his garden in order to take his will instructions. Time was of the essence as he wanted to ensure his new will was in place before the Civil Partnership took place. Mr X and I sat at either end of his garden (which was made easier by the sunny weather!) to discuss his will, the legacies he would like to make and the devolution of his estate. I then drafted the will, and sent the will to him for signing (with his neighbours acting as the two witnesses) a couple of days later.
Mr X has now formed the Civil Partnership and the will has been finalised.
Despite the ongoing difficult times, our Tax Planning team has been working hard using technology and other alternative ways to meet our clients’ needs and support them through the process of making their wills keeping both the client and the team safe. If you would like any further information about wills, please read our wills and estate planning services or contact us using our live chat which is available 24/7.