Finding beneficiaries

How to search for missing beneficiaries

When someone dies, the person administering the estate needs to let the beneficiaries know what they are entitled to.

All too often, beneficiaries are challenging to track down. And that can have a significant impact on the probate process.

Finding an identified beneficiary

If you know the name of a beneficiary (for example, if they are mentioned in the Will), then the process of locating them isn’t usually too difficult.

Things you can do to find them include:

  • Placing a note in the newspaper
  • Asking family members and friends to help
  • Using a Tracing Agency.

As an executor, you must make reasonable efforts to try and find them, so it is worth speaking to your solicitor if you are struggling to do so.

Finding an unknown beneficiary

According to the latest figures, there are currently almost 9,000 unclaimed estates in the UK. And the total amount of this unclaimed inheritance could be worth billions.

In many cases, these estates remain unclaimed because the deceased did not leave a Will, and it is unclear if there are any living relatives entitled to this inheritance.

Under the UK’s inheritance laws (Rules of Intestacy), when someone dies without a Will, people who are blood relatives of the deceased could be entitled to a share of the estate. Even distant relations could be in for a windfall. However, if no heirs are found the estate will be passed on to the Government (the Crown).

It can be difficult to establish who the beneficiaries are, but your probate solicitor will be able to help. Often this involves you pulling together a family tree and using a Tracing Agent to do the rest.

It’s not enough to find any living relative, they have to be the right person to benefit under the Intestacy rules.

Where a beneficiary can’t be found, you may have to administer the estate regardless. But, you must ensure you are protected in case someone comes forward at a later date and makes a successful claim on the estate.

To protect yourself from liability you could:

  • Obtain insurance specific to this situation
  • Apply for a Court Order to determine how the Estate should be distributed
  • Make a payment to the Court under S.63 Trustee Act 1925 (leaving a nominal sum in an estate).

Ultimately, you are financially liable for searching for missing beneficiaries, so specialist legal advice is strongly recommended.

To find out how we can help, take a look at the Estate Administration section on our website, or speak to one of our expert team. Call us at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Prepare for later life with an LPA

The majority of people are not prepared for later life…

According to the latest figures, from the office of National Statistics, while they are rising in popularity, fewer than 1 in 10 adults have made a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), suggesting that the majority of people are simply not prepared for later life.

An LPA is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your wishes, should you become unable to make financial or health decisions for yourself.

There are two kinds of LPA, a Property & Financial Affairs LPA and a Personal Welfare LPA. Both deal with very different matters.

However, according to the latest figures from the Office of the Public Guardian, there were only 1.4 million Financial LPAs registered in 2016, and 600,000 Health and Welfare LPAs.

People are living longer than ever before

In the UK, the number of people who reach their 85th birthday is expected to double by 2045. At the same time, the Alzheimer’s Society predicts that there will be more than two million people with Alzheimer’s by 2051.

As such, the prospect of being unable to make decisions in later life is one which more of us will have to consider. So, it is more important than ever to plan for later life.

However, while the number of LPAs is rising quickly, many people are failing to make a LPA because they are unsure about what it involves and why it is needed.

You will find some very straight-forward information from Age UK here.

The importance of later life planning

With an increasing number of seniors set to live on into their eighties and nineties, we are likely to see a corresponding rise in people who are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. And, even where people trust that their family will look after them, without any guidance this can be hugely stressful for those left to do so (and cause disagreements between those closest to them).

An LPA can go some way towards managing this problem. With an LPA, you appoint a trusted relative or friend to become an ‘attorney’ and look after your financial affairs, or make decisions about your care and medical attention when you are no longer able to do so yourself. You can also include specific instructions to help them make decisions you would approve of.

Don’t leave it too late

However, when it comes to making sure you are fully protected, planning in advance is crucial. If you put it off indefinitely then you run the risk of not being in a fit state to understand and sign an LPA.

To find out more and to protect yourself if you become unable to manage your financial affairs, and to make informed decisions about your long-term health arrangements, take a look at our Estate Protection services or speak to one of our expert team. Call us at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Are you a Homeowner? Concerned about Inheritance Tax? Read on…

Holding your properties as tenants in common is a simple change to the way your property or properties are held which can save you thousands of pounds.

But what does this mean? This article aims to explain the legal terminology of tenants in common in plain English and how it could benefit you.

How tenants in common works
Most couples own their homes as joint tenants, meaning they both own the whole home. Holding the property as tenants in common means that each owns a share of the property, either a percentage or half each. This protects the agreed share for couples who have put unequal deposits into a property. If parents are gifting deposits to their children, it is also a way of easing fears in case of a break-up or death.

In the case of tenants in common, one partner can leave their share of the property on death whilst allowing the other partner to continue living there, passing the remaining share on death. It can also prevent your home being sold in the event you need to go into long term care.

Tax implications
There is no Inheritance Tax (IHT) for assets left in a Will to their spouse – in other words the surviving partner doesn’t have to pay IHT. After the remaining partner dies, the beneficiaries of their estate, usually the children, do have to pay IHT.

The rising cost of houses means that one property alone can put the estate over the IHT threshold. If the house is owned as joint tenants, both own the whole property. If one partner dies, the other automatically becomes the sole owner of the home. In the case of tenants in common each person owns a share of the house, usually split half and half.

Joint owners can split their home in two, therefore benefiting from tenants in common. By doing so, the half belonging to the person who passes away first, would be inherited by the beneficiaries immediately.

Provided the half is worth less than £325,000 – the current IHT threshold, no tax will be due. When the remaining partner dies, their half, inherited by the same children, could be under the threshold which again would mean no IHT is due.

Making it happen
You’ll need to inform Land Registry of the split and also write to each other to specify your intentions of the split.

As providers of Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Trusts we can take care of all of this on your behalf. For further information or to arrange an appointment please call one of our expert team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Claim your refund

Are you owed money from the Office of the Public Guardian?

If you applied to register a power of attorney in England or Wales from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2017, then you may well be owed money from the Office of the Public Guardian.

The background to this is that the Office of the Public Guardian – the people you paid a fee to in order to register a power of attorney in England or Wales – is not supposed to make a profit. So when the registration fee per power of attorney was reduced from £110 down to £82 fairly recently, they had to admit they’d been making a profit on the fees for some time, hence the reduction in the price of the fee.

But what about the profit they’d been making in years gone by?

Well, they’re not allowed to “keep” that profit. So, anyone who applied to register a power of attorney between the above dates, can go online and register a claim. Although the payment will only be made to the “donor” (which is the person who made the LPA), if you’re a an ‘attorney’ (someone appointed by the donor in an LPA or EPA to make decisions on their behalf) or have been formally appointed as a replacement attorney, (and are now able to make decisions on the donor’s behalf) then you can make the online claim. If the donor has died, then only the executor of the will or administrator of the estate can claim a refund.

Filing the claim should only take about 10 minutes online and they’ll let you know in about 12 weeks as to whether you’re claim has been successful. You must however claim your refund by 1 February 2021.

When it doesn’t pay to improve efficiency

The Office of the Public Guardian said that they hadn’t ‘fessed up to it before because the volume being processed hadn’t initially produced a profit. But now that they have a greater number of powers of attorney going through the system and they haven’t had to increase the number of staff to manage them (because it’s a heavily computerised process) this has led to them making a profit.

What would you do with £34…

The refund amount ranges from £34 to £54, depending on when you applied to register the power of attorney. It might not be an earth-shattering amount, but what would you do with yours?

Find out more about it here.

For further information or to arrange an appointment to discuss any aspect of Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Trusts, please call one of our expert team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Back To School…

Whether you sent your pride and joy to school for the first time this September, or they’re into their second, third or fourth year, most parents feel a flutter of apprehension when letting go of their hand on the first day.

Doing everything to protect your child comes naturally. From planning a safe route for your kids to get to or from school and ensuring they know the green cross code to protecting them from bullying.

Protection comes in many shapes and forms. At this time of year, once they are safely in school, now is the time to make sure they are protected should something happen to you.

24,000 children a year experience the death of a parent according to charity Winston’s Wish.
Did you know that if both of a child’s parents die and there’s no valid Will and therefore no appointed guardian, children could be put in foster care until the courts decide who they should live with?

Added to which, most of us don’t live in the nuclear family of the past which adds additional complications.

Making a Will allows you to:

  • Decide who will take care of your children should something happen to you
  • Make it known how, and where, your children should be educated
  • Ensure that there won’t be any family disputes or court battles over who takes care of your children
  • Plus, any other wishes you have from what they eat to what they should receive as pocket money….

As parents, we all want the best for our children, and this is probably one of the easiest ways of protecting them. Making a Will also costs less than you may think. To discuss writing a Will speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Mecca – The Journey Of a Lifetime…

September marks the largest gathering of people in the world.

Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for all Muslims. It is considered a once in a lifetime trip, and serves as 1 of the 5 pillars of Islam. Muslims save for, prepare and embark on their travels, with faith that this journey along with 2 million other pilgrims will bring them closer to their beliefs and unite them in worship.

It is specified in the Holy Quran that Muslims must leave a Will in their lifetime, but pays particular reference to Hajj. Historically, before modern transport and medicine, many pilgrims would die on their travels.

To learn more about it, see this article from The Independent.

Biblical economics tell us; It has been said that a person will spend fifty or sixty years accumulating earthly treasure, then spend another 20 years or more trying to keep from losing it, but will not spend two hours planning the distribution of it when he dies.

Hesitation to write a Will runs throughout the ages, with superstition playing a huge role. To discuss writing a Will speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Online accounts

What happens to your online accounts when you die?

One thing many people forget about when making their Will is what will happen to their digital assets once they die. But, in today’s online world, this is something we should all now consider.

What is a digital legacy?

Your digital legacy is all of the online information you will leave behind after you are gone. This may include:

  • Your websites and blogs
  • Your social media accounts
  • Your online photos and videos
  • Your gaming/forum profiles
  • Seller accounts on platforms such as Amazon, eBay, etc.
  • Things you have purchased that are stored online (e.g. music, photos, eBooks etc.)
  • Access to online financial accounts and/or utilities.

Do you own your digital legacy?

Many of these items cannot be left through your Will (because you do not actually own them). Take social media accounts; these are yours by license only. So, when you die, the contract is over. But, you can leave instructions for your executor, setting out what you want to happen to them.

For example, Facebook will let a person of your choosing change your account to “memorial” status. This means it can still be viewed and people can leave messages on it. Alternatively, you might want someone to post a final tweet or blog post on your behalf (and establish in advance what you want that post to say).

Other assets, such as music, photos, movies, or other digital files can often be passed to beneficiaries. But to do this, you will need to leave instructions on how to access them. You may also decide to pass on any seller-accounts (if transferable), along with the items for sale in your Will.

For banking and other online accounts, it is more important than ever to provide clear instructions on how to access these to help with the Probate process.

Ultimately, different online platforms have different rules and, as such, it’s important to understand the policies for each online service you use to ensure you know who owns what, and who has access rights to your digital legacy.

Who can help protect your digital legacy?

You should leave instructions on how to deal with any online accounts and assets with your lawyer as part of the Will-writing process. This can include your log-in information.

To find out how to protect your digital legacy, speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Cryptocurrency and your Will

How will cryptocurrencies affect inheritances?

Cryptocurrency is, in the most basic terms, an alternative digital currency to traditional government-issued currency. A recent survey by Dalia revealed that 5% of the UK are planning to buy cryptocurrency in the next six months, with 9% already owning cryptocurrency. Experts even predict that 33% of millennials will own some form of cryptocurrency by the end of this year.

The question is – with more people investing in cryptocurrency, how will it affect inheritance when these people die?

Firstly, it’s important to learn which types of cryptocurrencies are currently the most popular. Here are some of the most common forms of cryptocurrency and their codes:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Zcash (EC)
  • Monero (XMR)

Make sure you provide wallet keys in your Will
It’s essential to tell you future beneficiaries you have invested in cryptocurrency and to list the details of your cryptocurrency wallet in your Will. This is because it’s purchased under a pseudonym and can be very hard to trace if your beneficiaries don’t have the wallet details. By providing your public and private keys in your Will, you’re making it much easier for your beneficiaries to access the wallet. Some cryptocurrency providers have policies in place to transfer any cryptocurrency to beneficiaries or next of kin, though at the moment they are hesitant to have these crucial conversations for fear of fraudster activity.

Cryptocurrency is an intangible asset and eligible for Inheritance Tax
HMRC now treats cryptocurrencies as any other currency – so it’s not exempt from Inheritance Tax and should be listed on your Will. Cryptocurrency is one of the fastest growing currencies in value, so it’s important to keep track of how much your cryptocurrency fluctuates over time. The current standard exemption threshold for Inheritance Tax is £325,000. For example, if you have £100,000 in Bitcoin in 2018, it may grow to £400,000 by the time you die. If this is the case, your beneficiaries will need to pay a 40% Inheritance Tax rate on the £75,000 that exceeds the threshold.

For help with this, or on any aspect of Will writing, please give us a call at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk for further details.

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Aretha Franklin

‘The Franklin trap’

Aretha Franklin died last week, and it has come to light that she did not have a Will, despite having an estimated fortune of over $80 million.

So, here’s a song title challenge for you – see how many you can spot!

Dying without a valid Will is no joke so I would say a little prayer for Aretha’s family and don’t keep daydreaming on that freeway of love, and do the responsible thing and think about getting a Will in place.  Dying without a Will ain’t no way to respect your family, making them look like a ship of fools.  Would they be willing to forgive you if your Will isn’t in place and rock steady.

So call me, Lucy at legalmatters on 01243 216900, to get your Will sorted in these ever changing times.

Remember, have R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and come and make your Will with me!

civil partnerships and estate planning

6 ways civil partnerships affect estate planning…

Civil partnerships were reserved for same sex couples only. However, in recent years, opposite sex couples have been campaigning for civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. The Supreme Court of England and Wales ruled in favour of civil partnerships for all, as the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was seen as an infringement of the European Convention of Human Rights. The legislation will be changed, though this is thought to take some time.

So how does a civil partnership affect estate planning? Firstly, it’s important to determine what ‘estate planning’ actually is. Your estate covers everything you own including property, finances, material possessions and even your social media accounts. An estate plan is how you wish to distribute your assets and possessions among your loved ones.

Here are six ways a civil partnership changes estate planning for all couples:

  1. If you die without making a will your partner will still inherit your assets

If you’re in a civil partnership and you die intestate (without making a Will) then your partner will automatically inherit a portion, or all, of your property. For example. if you and your partner own and live in a house together, they will stand to automatically inherit it after you die  – unless there are special circumstances.

  1. If you die having made a valid will your wishes will be carried out

If you or your partner dies after making a valid Will, then all wishes will be carried out as they would be for a Will from a marriage. For example, if you want to pass down your home to your partner and your holiday home to your children then the wishes will be carried out as specified.

  1. Civil partners are exempt from Inheritance Tax

Neither you nor your partner will pay Inheritance Tax if the value of your entire estate is below £325,000. You will also be exempt from Inheritance Tax if you leave all your estate to your civil partner, community sports club or a charity.

  1. The Inheritance Tax increases to £450,000 if children are the heirs

If you want to leave your property to your birth children, the Inheritance Tax exemption threshold increases to £450,000. This also extends to foster, adopted and stepchildren.

  1. You can add surplus Inheritance Tax threshold to your partner’s threshold

If your estate is under the threshold, the ‘unused’ threshold can be added to your partner’s threshold when they pass away. This pushes the maximum Inheritance Tax threshold to £900,000.

  1. You can pay a reduced Inheritance Tax rate in some circumstances

The standard rate for Inheritance Tax is 40% but you can reduce it to 36% if at least 10% of your net assets are left to charity in the Will. If you and your partner owned farmland or woodland you may be eligible for Agricultural Relief on your Inheritance Tax bill.

Estate planning can look complicated. If you’d like some help in writing your Will, contact one of the team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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