Wills In The Time Of Coronavirus

Publication Date27 Apr 2021
SubjectFamily and Matrimonial, Coronavirus (COVID-19), Wills/ Intestacy/ Estate Planning, Operational Impacts and Strategy
Law FirmCleaver Fulton Rankin
AuthorMr Michael Graham

It has been a difficult time for everyone since Coronavirus disrupted life dramatically back in March 2020. Even so, with the New Year upon us there will still be the usual talk of resolutions and we are often bombarded with messages about the importance of making a will. The main target of this kind of marketing are people who have never made a will, and this makes sense as only around one third of people in Northern Ireland have actually done so, but even if you have already put something in place it is always worth reviewing your arrangements from time to time to ensure that they are in order. It goes without saying that if you experience a significant change in your personal circumstances, such as the death of an intended beneficiary, or if you become aware of a change to the relevant tax rules, you may need to update whatever arrangements you have in place.

There are significant risks if you die intestate, that is, without a will. In that case then you (and your beneficiaries) are relying on the law to decide how your assets should pass on death and this could produce some unexpected results. For example, you might assume that if you die all your assets will pass to your husband or wife absolutely but in fact this is not always the case. Only a proportion of your estate may do so and any balance over the applicable threshold will be shared between your spouse and your children, even if they are young children. If you have no children then your parents or siblings may have an entitlement. Clearly, this is unlikely to reflect your wishes. Many people also intend to leave specific gifts or sums of money to friends or charities and such legacies can only be incorporated by will. Making a will also allows you to choose executors to deal with your estate, and to appoint guardians to take care of your children if you should die whilst they are still minors.

For those with larger or more complex estates, making (and regularly reviewing) a...

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