A Yorkshire based law firm has been praised for offering free wills to NHS and care workers in Leeds and Harrogate.
NHS Community Midwifery team leader, Petra Mullen, is one of the first people to benefit from the free will making service that Winston Solicitors introduced in order to give key workers in the NHS and care industry peace of mind during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Mullen said: “It’s something I have been meaning to do for ages, but like many busy, working people it has got pushed to the bottom of a very long to-do list! Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus, death has been brought to the forefront of more people’s minds – especially when you work on the front line. You never want to think it will happen to you, but you can see first-hand the extra pressure it puts on the families of those that have died without a will. It’s great that Winston Solicitors has given me the chance to make a will free of charge and I feel much more organised and confident that everything will be properly taken care of.”
Howard Cohen, who has over 35 years’ experience, specialising in wills, estate planning, Lasting Powers of Attorney and probate work, including taxable estates, is a partner at Winston Solicitors. He said: “Throughout my career, I have been able to help many people gain a sense of control over what will happen after they die. It is often older people or those that are vulnerable or disabled that make a will, but people of all ages really should do it -especially if there is a change in their circumstances – including getting married or divorced, having children, moving house, or moving into a care home.
“It is a terribly sad fact that many people will die during the coronavirus pandemic. When a person dies without making a will, intestacy rules automatically apply and these can be frequently unfair and fail to take into account the wishes of the person who dies, which in turn will cause significant hardship to loved ones. This particularly affects unmarried partners.
“We understand that because of this dreadful virus, more people are at risk, and we want to support those people who are working on the front line by providing professional wills for free. It’s our way of showing our heartfelt thanks and appreciation of our heroic NHS and workers in the care sector.
“The message we want to get across to everyone is that it is essential that they make a will if they wish to ensure those they love and care for are adequately provided for. We understand that people don’t want to focus on the worst case scenario, and that it can be upsetting to even think about a will, but it really is the only way to be certain that an individual’s wishes are fulfilled.
“Another thing that puts some people off making a will is concern about who to name as an executor. Many people feel it’s a lot of responsibility to give or they might not have any close family. Disputes within families and people who have children with different partners or more complicated living and financial circumstances, can also create problems, and we often get asked to act as executor as a result.”
Winston Solicitors is keen to emphasise that it is able to provide its services in a safe manner. Howard added: “Some people might be worried that because of the coronavirus it’s not possible to make a will, as they can’t visit a solicitor, or they are vulnerable or ill. Our client’s safety is our priority, which is why we are talking to people over the phone as well as offering face-to-face advice via video on Zoom, FaceTime and other apps. We are sending correspondence via email and post and also advising people on how to obtain two witnesses, whilst maintaining social distancing. Its essential people fully understand what they are doing when making a will, and that they are not under any pressure or influence. Talking to a professional solicitor is the best way to make sure everything is above board and it also often brings up key aspects of inheritance that people may not have even considered.”
Winston Solicitors is also warning people who already have a will to review it now. Howard concluded: “Wills can easily become out of date or inefficient in terms of tax. Also a large proportion of people have no recollection of what they actually put in their will. We would recommend reviewing a will at least every five years, or if there is any significant change in personal circumstances.”
Howard is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and has a Step Advanced Certificate in Administration of Estates and in Administration of Trusts. He is a Solicitors For The Elderly (SFE) Full Accredited Member and he provides trusted advice on all areas of family law including divorce, matrimonial finance, cohabitation disputes and children issues.