More people in Ireland seeking advice on Will writing in light of the pandemic

The pandemic has spurred on more people than ever to seek advice on writing Wills and having their Wills witnessed, according to an article in the Irish Times.

Solicitor Fiona Kirkpatrick writes that ‘emergency planning’ has kicked in, with increasing numbers of clients giving instructions for ‘holding Wills’ – a simple Will that sets out basic instructions in case the worst should happen. The holding Will is created in the belief that a Will ‘proper’ can be updated at some point when people can do more detailed planning for what they want done with their estate.

As of 19 February 2021, there have now been some 213,400 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and 4,109 deaths.

Witnesses through windows

The lockdowns triggered by the global pandemic have led to inventive ways of ensuring the Will is executed, such as documents being passed between cars or witnessed through windows or screens. In other cases, Wills have been passed through letterboxes for signatures.

In Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and Jersey where different legal rules apply, some measures have been brought in that relax some of the formalities around executing Wills. In England and Wales, new legislation allowed for them to be witnessed via video cam. This came into force in September last year.

This legislation, however, does not apply in Northern Ireland.

Advice to have Wills re-executed

Ms Kirkpatrick advises that anyone who is in doubt over the proper execution of their Will or any other personal legal documents should consider having the Will re-executed in the presence of a solicitor.

Even if a Will does not require updating, it can help give peace of mind to people if they know that the validity of their Will cannot be questioned. In addition, anyone who has business or commercial interests Will require more careful planning around the eventual distribution of their estate—the establishment of trusts or other legal structures, for instance.

A holding Will cannot be relied on indefinitely, and Ms Kirkpatrick urges that the proper discussions/planning take place. As the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Inheritance and Inter-generational Fairness recently produced recommendations for wide-reaching reforms of inheritance tax, it is likely that major overhauls to capital taxes (and inheritance tax) are on their way, and individuals need to be prepared.

The recommendations include abolishing the “potentially exempt transfers” for the gifting of assets and replacing it with an annual gifting allowance and a flat rate tax on all lifetime and death transfers.

Finders Ireland can help solicitors trace former clients for whom they hold money or, if they have died, their personal representatives in a cost effective and quick way, helping solicitors to dispose of account balances and fulfil their obligations. Feel free to contact us for a no-obligation quote.