Wills and LPAs during the coronavirus outbreak
Posted on 22nd April 2020 at 10:13
Many legal practices and Will writers are reporting increased demand for Wills as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
The Office of Public Guardian (OPG), which registers lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) in England and Wales, has also reported increased demand.
The OPG has warned that processing times for LPA applications could exceed its target of 40 days as the situation continues.
Who needs a Will?
Writing a Will allows you to make sure that the people you choose will benefit from your estate as you would wish. So, we all need a Will.
In many cases couples who live together expect their ‘common law marriage’ will mean their estate passes to their partner. However, there isn’t an automatic right of inheritance in this situation. In fact, if you die without a Will – known as intestacy – your next-of-kin will inherit, not your partner.
Marriage invalidates previous Wills for people in England and Wales. If you don’t write a new Will when you marry, your estate will also be passed on according to the rules of intestacy. You should also review your Will following other major life events like births or deaths.
Wills can be very important if your have a blended family, run a business, have assets overseas, or you intend to exclude someone who might expect to benefit.
Practical tips about making a Will while self-isolating
You can have telephone discussions, use FaceTime or Skype and can send electronic correspondence or post letters rather than visiting someone in person.
However, bear in mind that your Will must still be signed in person and with witneses. Your witnesses should be independent, so they shouldn’t be related to you or your executor. They should be over 18 years old and have mental capacity to understand what they are doing and its implications. Your witnesses should not be partially sighted or blind because they must be able to confirm that they saw your Will being signed. Beneficiaries of your Will won’t receive their inheritance if they act as witnesses.
While we are social distancing, you could consider signing your Will on one side of a window and then passing it through your letterbox to witnesses outside.
Alternatively, if your neighbours are willing and symptom free, you could place a table in the middle of your drive. They can watch you sign and then you can step away to a safe distance while they witness your Will. Using your own pens and washing your hands afterwards are sensible precuations.
Who needs lasting powers of attorney?
There are two types of LPA for your health and welfare and for your property and financial affairs. Ideally, everyone should have both types of LPA to appoint attorneys to act on their behlaf. Once they are in place they only need to be used of your are unable to make decisions yourself.
LPAs can’t be put in place after you have lost capacity to make decisions. This could mean, for example, that your partner can’t access your joint bank account or make decisions about your medical care. In these circumstances they would need to apply to the Court of Protection (COP) to appoint a deputy to act on your behalf.
Practical tips for making LPAs while self-isolating
As with Wills, signing and witnessing your LPAs will need to be planned but but it can be done properly while still following the rules on social distancing.
You have to sign your LPAs and they must be witnessed. They must also be sigend by a certificate provider who can confirm that you understand what your LPAs mean, that have not been put under pressure to make them, and that they have not been completed fraudulently. Certificate providers must have known you for at least two years, or have the skill or knowledge to give a professional judgement about your understanding, such as your doctor.
The person receiving the powers of attorney and their witness don’t have to be present when your LPAs are signed and witnessed. You can send the documents by post.
Finally, your LPAs must be registered at the Office of Public Guardian to be valid. In the current situation this could take 12 weeks or more.
Please get in touch if you would like to arrange your Will or LPAs.
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