One year on and a lot has happened since we went into lockdown in March 2020. Charlotte Fleming and Lily Morrison take this opportunity to reflect on the changes we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic and how we at BTO continue to be on hand to help you navigate life’s ups and downs.
When in March 2020 workers across the nation left their workplaces due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some cheerily saying ‘see you in 3 weeks!’ to their colleagues, no one could have anticipated that we would all still face restrictions a year on. As we pass the one-year anniversary of the first national lockdown, we reflect on how practices have changed and how our team still remains willing and able to assist you with all your private client needs.
One year on – Some of the changes we have seen
The world went online
Restrictions have forced us to conduct our lives online, from office jobs to family birthdays. This shift has led to our reliance on digital services and usage of digital content more than ever before.
This change can also impact those dealing with the estate of a deceased person. While appointing an executor may entitle an individual to deal with physical assets, it does not necessarily deal with accessing devices and profiles. This can cause difficulties in obtaining content of sentimental value, or monetary value if you trade using cryptocurrency or online vendors such as PayPal.
If you wish to consider this aspect further, the BTO Personal team have produced a step-by-step guide for taking initial action: How to access digital assets.
Increasing financial concern
Almost universally, people are becoming more concerned about their finances. This includes immediate issues such as bills and mortgage payments, but also a concern for any future savings or long-term goals. In addition, the restrictions have had an enormous impact on our businesses.
Going forward, it will be important to consider succession planning for you, your family and any business interests you may have.
Changes to family life
Lockdown also had a significant impact on our social choices. It may have encouraged some couples to move in with one another to avoid the difficulty of social distancing rules. Unfortunately, divorce enquiries have also increased in the last year. In both of these circumstances, it is important to remember that succession law may not reflect your particular preferences for your estate distribution and a Will is vital to clarify your wishes.
It is also estimated that around 200,000 babies were born during the height of lockdown. More children mean more people to consider in succession planning! Provisions such as the inclusion of trusts or the appointment of an appropriate guardian are very useful for future-proofing your Will, should the worst happen.
Business as usual for BTO
Wills and Powers of Attorney
Nationally, there has been a surge in demand for Wills and Powers of Attorney. This is perhaps either due to fear of illness caused by the pandemic or the fact that some have found themselves with additional time on their hands to reflect.
There is a common misunderstanding that Wills and Powers of Attorney must be witnessed in person. However, the lockdown has introduced many of us to the utility of virtual meetings which allows BTO to carry out virtual witnessing. This means that Wills and Powers of Attorney can be validly finalised from the comfort of your own home. This has been a benefit for many clients who find attending the office time consuming or burdensome.
The financial strain of the continuing lockdown has led to rates of inheritance tax recently being frozen until 2026. This presents a degree of stability, in terms of inheritance tax, which is an opportune time to also engage in tax planning.
We understand that the loss of a loved one is one of life’s most stressful events. Despite the lockdown restrictions, our team are on hand to guide and assist you through the process. It remains our priority to reduce the burden on you as much as possible, so that you have the space and time to grieve.
We are here to help!
We know that life must go on despite the pandemic and we are still here to provide advice via telephone, email and video call. If you would like to receive advice from one of our solicitors in relation to any of the matters discussed in this article, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of our experienced Wills, Estates and Succession Planning Team.