The number of people seeking to write a will in Scotland has increased by more than 30% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.
Covid-19 has made people think about future planning and what will happen to their estate should the unthinkable happen.
Many people don’t necessarily treat it as a priority, but it is never too soon to make a will and failing to have proper arrangements in place when you pass can leave your loved ones with an enormous legal headache at a very stressful time.
In fact, making a will is usually straightforward and inexpensive and the Scottish Government has introduced temporary measures that make it even easier, allowing the signing of wills to be witnessed via video calls rather than in person.
Solicitors working to prepare wills are designated as key workers, which means they are continuing with their responsibilities throughout the Covid outbreak.
If you’re thinking about making a will, or updating an existing will, there are a few simple questions you will be asked.
- Who do you want to leave your assets to when you die?
- If you intend to have several beneficiaries, how do you want your estate divided?
- Are you doing all you can to maximise the amount you leave, by taking advantage of legal tax exemptions and deductions?
- Do you intend to leave any of your estate to charities or as legacies to friends or family?
- If you have children or any other dependents, including pets, who do you want to look after them when you’re gone?
- Do you have any specific requests regarding the planning of your funeral?
- Who do you want to appoint as your Executors?
It is always best to seek the assistance of a specialist solicitor when making a will as ‘do it yourself’ wills or those by non-solicitor practitioners can often create more problems than they are worth.
For example, you may own property jointly with someone who is not your spouse or partner, or you may have children with more than one partner. In those circumstances, getting professional advice is essential and the same applies even if matters seem relatively simple to you.
Before contacting a solicitor, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Make a list of all your assets and look out relevant documents for them, including for your home and any other properties you own, savings and investments, life insurance policies, pensions, cars, furniture and valuables such as jewellery, antiques or collectibles.
You should also itemise your debts and outgoings, including for your mortgage, credit card bills, overdrafts, and loans, including for your cars.
You will have to name at least one person to act as the executor of your will. This can be a family member or close friend but remember, the job of executor can involve a lot of work and responsibility.
If dividing your assets is likely to prove contentious, you might want to think about appointing an independent executor.
Deciding on who gets what can be a thorny issue and it can often cause friction and resentment among loved ones.
Some people simply hand everything over to their partner or next of kin and leave them with the responsibility of dividing it up.
It is worth considering who, among your beneficiaries, you might outlive and to make contingencies.
Many people leave some money to charities – not least because it can reduce the Inheritance Tax rate on the remainder of their estate.
The final thing you need to consider is that, for your will to be legally valid, it must meet several criteria.
It has to be in writing, signed by you on each page and witnessed. In addition, you are required to have the mental capacity to make the will and to understand its effect and it must be made voluntarily, without pressure from anyone else.
For more information on making a will contact Purdie & Co Solicitors on 0131 346 7240 or visit www.purdiesolicitors.co.uk. We aim to make the process very simple and cost effective.