Making a will the most important family New Year resolution

Rachel Roche, the award winning owner of York based Roche Legal, believes the most important New Year resolution families can make is to ensure they have made or updated their wills to help avoid lengthy probate delays that have triggered a House of Commons inquiry. 

The House of Commons Justice Committee has reacted to concerns over the growing processing time for probate applications and has submitted a call for evidence. The waiting time for probate almost doubled from April 2022 to April 2023, with reports citing cases of probate taking more than eleven months and practitioners advising clients that probate will take at least nine months. 

Probate involves identifying the deceased person’s assets, paying off any debts and sharing out the remaining estate according to the will. A property cannot be sold, and the money distributed, until a formal grant of probate is issued. 

Rachel said: “During the height of the pandemic making a will became a significant factor but we have now slipped back into concentrating on other things. Making a will enables families to move into 2024 with the peace of mind of being prepared for whatever might be ahead. 

”In terms of the probate delays, I think we are still in post-Covid situation and government organisations are struggling to get back up to speed which impacts on the time it takes to sort out a deceased person’s estate. That is why it is so important to update your will or make one if you have not made that decision already.” 

A case can been ‘stopped’ when there’s a dispute about either who can apply for probate or issues with a will or proposed will, or if an error is identified and a request for further information is made.  

Sir Bob Neill MP, Chair of the Justice Committee, revealed concerns over probate had risen sharply over the last five years and said: “Families across the country have faced challenges in navigating the probate system, with reports of rogue traders and poor practice, as well as significant delays.” 

More than 30 million people in the UK  are still without a will despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rachel  is concerned making a will and ensuring a person’s wishes are known after their death has been pushed to one side again.  

Even those people who have made a will need to regularly check that the details are up to date to recognise any changes in circumstance including remarriage. “Regularly updating your will makes sure your wishes are recognised and can reflect any changes such as disputes with family members: “she explained.  

“Making a will is particularly relevant if you want to bequeath your assets to an unmarried partner, have a blended family or you have a high value or complex estate. Funeral wishes are not legally binding but you can make clear what you would like to happen. One case we are dealing with involves burial wishes and the suggestion the will is a fraud which is unusual. 

“ There is also the need to ensure that the executors of the will have the organisational skills to make the kind of decisions that will be needed. Age becomes a consideration as well because appointing executors who are slightly younger than you can avoid future problems. It may be worth appointing someone like a solicitor to work alongside the executors. 

“A recent case involved two executors who were the same age as the deceased – 90 – and also having dementia. New executors had to be appointed which caused a delay in a process that can drag on.” 

Besides the need to make a will, the question of arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) needs to be addressed as Rachel explained: “ An LPA could help to protect you and your family if you were left unable to make decisions for yourself. Making a Will or an LPA just in case could make all the difference to your loved ones if they were ever needed.” 

Note to editors:

Rachel is available for interview and can be contacted on 01904 866139 or through Chris Jones Media on 07774 772820/ 07738 005133…

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