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Is remote estate planning a feasible option for complex luxury estates?

To help you decide whether remote estate planning might be an option for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

By LLM Reporters  |  June 21, 2022
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It’s crucially important to consider writing or updating a will if you’re the owner of a complex luxury estate. Failing to put plans in place for your property after your days, could mean that your assets are not administered as you would have preferred.

Unless your will is adequately drafted, your estate could become part of a contentious probate case. If this happens, there’ll likely be issues for your loved ones when you pass on. Estate planning is certainly necessary, but over the last few years, the way that the process is conducted has changed somewhat. Before we discuss remote estate planning for luxury estates, let’s establish the basics.

What is remote estate planning?

Estate planning refers to a process to decide what will happen to a person’s estate once they’ve passed away. The procedure involves elements such as making a will, choosing an executor, and writing an estate plan. The estate plan should detail all of the assets and debts that make up the individual’s estate, including savings, property, and possessions. As part of the estate plan, the person can choose to transfer cash gifts to their loved ones, set up a Lasting Power of Attorney, or a trust to determine how funeral expenses will be covered. An estate plan may also cover care fees, and inheritance tax planning.

Traditionally, estate planning processes have been conducted in-person, yet as technology has advanced, remote estate planning has become an increasingly popular option. The events of the Covid pandemic are partly responsible for these shifts.

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Do you have a plan for your estate once you pass away?

Essentially, remote estate planning means that the estate planning processes are conducted virtually with the help of video conferencing, email, phone calls, and online software platforms. Whilst there are many benefits of remote estate planning, there are also draw backs, particularly when it comes to complex luxury estates.

To help you decide whether remote estate planning might be an option for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

What are the benefits of remote estate planning for complex luxury estates?

Improved convenience

Estate planning for a complex luxury estate is a lengthy and complicated process, such high-value estates tend to involve multiple properties, often including international properties. Consequently, meeting in person to discuss and arrange every aspect can be incredibly time-consuming.

The process of luxury estate planning can be much quicker and more convenient when clients and their solicitors can go through the procedures virtually. With the help of video conferencing and online platforms estate planning just became a whole lot easier.

Speeding up the estate planning process is sometimes required if, for example, a person’s health is quickly deteriorating.

Removes location restrictions

Remote estate planning is beneficial because it can remove location restrictions, allowing individuals to liaise with their lawyers in the UK, even if they are residing elsewhere. As such, remote estate planning can be particularly useful for those who have properties abroad.

Accessing the best legal service

Estate planning is an incredibly important preparation for the future. Unless you take steps to properly plan your estate, there’s the risk that your assets will not be distributed as you would have liked. If you pass away having not written a will, it could be that your loved ones are not properly provided for.

When making a will, individuals with luxury estates will need access to the best legal services

When making a will, individuals with luxury estates will need access to the best legal services. With remote estate planning, these people have the option to choose the best service they can find.

Responding to the pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people found themselves concerned about their health and the future. People wanted to access legal services to make their wills and plan their estates, and yet restrictions prevented individuals from meeting with solicitors.

Remote estate planning processes provided our communities with a solution to this predicament. While we hope that excessive restrictions will not return, we’ve now all seen the benefits of remote legal services.

What are the drawbacks of remote estate planning for complex luxury estates?

Contentious probate

While there are plenty of benefits of remote estate planning, there are also several drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks is the potential of a contentious probate. This refers to a dispute about how an individual’s estate is administered once they’ve passed away.

Estate and will disputes can arise for a number of different reasons, including disagreements between beneficiaries or an executor who hasn’t managed the estate correctly. Disputes often occur over the interpretation of the will, or the validity of the will.

A will must be correctly witnessed in order to be valid. Since the pandemic, many people have challenged the validity of a will if it’s been witnessed remotely (via video conferencing tools).

The laws about what makes a will valid, and how a will should be correctly witnessed, can be complicated. Many argue that remote witnessing is creating a grey area, and leaving much room for dispute.

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A last resort

The Law Society have advised that executing wills using live video-links should only be used as a last resort, ‘for example where a testator is in isolation in hospital and medical staff are unable or unwilling to act as witnesses, or where circumstances support a solicitor acting as a witness but attendance in person is not possible.’

Before you begin the estate planning process, it’s important to discuss your options with a solicitor. They’ll help you access the relevant legal services to reflect your needs.

Is remote estate planning a viable option?

In the context of luxury estates, remote estate planning is a feasible option in many ways. By accessing remote processes those with complicated and high-value estates can benefit more convenient options. These people can then plan their estates more swiftly and conveniently. Individuals can plan their estates regardless of their location and take their pick of the very best legal services to do so.

Despite the advantages, planning your entire estate remotely is not advisable by authorities such as the Law Society, who state that remote witnessing of the will should only be used as a last resort. When estate planning processes are completed entirely remotely there is a higher likelihood of a contentious probate case.

Many believe that certain aspects of estate planning can be completed remotely, but that others are best completed in person, to avoid the potential of a dispute. The best thing to do is to access legal advice, before making a decision.