At the outbreak of covid-19, there was some surprise that the government included solicitors specialising in wills on the list of key workers, but in those early months we were inundated with people wanting to make wills. We worked flat out to keep up with demand, dealing with some very anxious people and being creative about how to have the wills properly executed. Meetings in gardens and car parks weren’t uncommon as we witnessed the signing of wills through windows.
It’s completely understandable that a pandemic would make people more conscious of their own mortality, and very sensible that they would want to get their affairs in order “just in case”, to avoid leaving a mess. What is more difficult to understand is why it takes a global pandemic for us to seriously contemplate our mortality.
There have always been those whose superstitions led them to believe that by making a will they would hasten their demise. Yet the statistics show that whether or not we have a will, 100% of us do in fact die. Even when there isn’t a pandemic.
Talking about death is hard. Most people want to live long and live well, but given the inevitability of death at some stage, we perhaps need to think about making that ending, whenever it might be, easier for our loved ones. Family fall outs after a death are, unfortunately common and could usually be avoided by planning and communication. It’s the things left undone, the reasoning not explained that cause shock and anger that can lead to disputes. This human side to a lack of planning can be very distressing, and then there’s the financial side – tax to pay before you can get a grant of probate, reliefs to claim, assets to locate and value. All of this can be made easier on those left behind by two things.
First, talk to a solicitor and discuss what you want to achieve and what might be the most effective way of doing it, particularly if you have business interests, property abroad or a blended family. Second, talk to your loved ones. If this is difficult, because your family circumstances are complicated or because you want to keep financial details private, a good solicitor can help with ways of managing expectations and encouraging harmony without giving too much detail.
Hopefully we can learn from the focus the pandemic has given us and get better at talking about death. What a blessing that would be for the next generation. For more information contact Rachel Tunnicliffe, Head of Trusts, Wills and Estates at Raworths.
Published on 13 October 2020