Where IHT is charged, it is paid at 40 percent on the parts of the estate valued over the £325,000 threshold. Having a Will in place can ensure there is no confusion in how an estate is managed following someone’s death and without one, in some rare cases, an estate can end up in the hands of the Crown.
As coronavirus emerged, it forced many people to evaluate their estate affairs, especially as older people were more at risk of the virus. Unfortunately, while the pandemic prompted effective planning, it also led to difficulty in managing certain stringent rules.
Debra Burton, a Partner at Lime Solicitors, explained: “So called ‘Covid Wills’ have led to an increase in Will challenges. We are seeing more will validity challenges based on the will not being properly witnessed.
“The rules on how to make a Will are complicated for lay people to understand, particularly around witnessing. Lockdown made the problem worse as it could prove very difficult to find one witness, never mind two. There is also still a lot of myths around Wills, particularly online e.g. Wills can be signed electronically (they can’t – it still needs a wet signature) or only one witness is now needed.
“Disgruntled beneficiaries are now focussing more on how the Will was witnessed and testing the evidence of the witnesses where previously they may not have bothered if it looked fine on its face. Challenging a will based on lack of proper witnessing can be an easier claim to bring (therefore cheaper) than a claim based on lack of testamentary capacity, for example. There is no need for expert evidence or judicial discretion if the witness evidence is clear. Either the Will was witnessed properly – so it’s valid or it wasn’t – so it fails. It’s very black and white.”
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