We all love to receive affirmation of our kindnesses. With some people it really isn’t hard to be nice. Take this lady – Jean – who we helped with a recent legal matter. She sent us the most lovely letter, thanking us for the advice and support we’d given her in the last few weeks. She added:
“It made me feel secure and cared for.”
And that’s what we aim to do. Give good advice in a supportive and caring manner. And we hope Jean will join us soon for a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
According to the latest figures, there are currently 9,254 unclaimed estates in the UK. With the average value of an estate worth around £150,000, the total amount of this unclaimed inheritance could be worth billions.
Property, money, personal belongings and other assets are being left in limbo instead of being passed on to relatives or friends. To prevent this from happening, it is vital to make a Will.
What happens when you die without a Will?
When someone dies without a Will, and there are no known heirs, their estate will be passed on to the Government (the Crown). Unclaimed assets include property, including buildings, money and personal possessions. And, while in some cases these unclaimed estates are of very little value, they can be worth millions.
Every day the Government publishes an updated list of unclaimed estates. The newest estates are added to the top of the list. An estate remains on the list for a maximum of 30 years, and during this time, relatives can make a claim against it. However, where no heirs are found, the estate is eventually transferred to the Treasury.
Who can claim an estate?
Under the UK’s inheritance laws (Rules of Intestacy), people who are blood relatives of the deceased could be entitled to a share of an estate. Even distant relations could be in for a windfall. However, partners are not recognised if they were not married or in a civil partnership and neither are stepchildren.
If you want to make a claim, you will need to contact the Government’s Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) with a family tree detailing how you are related to the person who has died. You may be asked to prove how you are related to the deceased, so the more details you can include (e.g. birth and marriage certificates), the better.
While this process is complex and can take a long time, with millions going unclaimed the result could be worth it.
Avoid leaving an unclaimed estate
The best way to make sure that your estate doesn’t end up going to the Government is to create a Will. Making a Will is especially important if you have no or few living relatives. But despite the importance of having a Will, too many people never get around to this inexpensive and simple task.
You don’t have to leave your estate to your family. You can decide to leave your home, money and possessions to whoever you want, including friends and charities. But, only by creating a properly drafted Will can you be sure that your estate will be left as you choose when the time comes.
To make sure your estate is passed on in line with your wishes, or to dispute a Will, speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
Latest figures reveal only 59% of the UK have written a Will. Of those people, 6% have written a DIY Will. While there are some advantages to create-your-own Wills, there are even more pitfalls. Here, we explore some of the reasons why DIY Wills may not be the answer…
Whilst most of us have come across DIY Will kits or online Will creation websites, have you ever asked yourself “are DIY Wills legal?” The short answer is yes, although they must still meet all requirements of a professionally written Will.
A DIY Will kit doesn’t provide sufficient help and guidance for the more complex circumstances in your life. This includes, for example, if you aren’t married to your partner, have children from a previous relationship or hold an inheritance in a trust until a child’s 18th birthday. Using the services of a Will writing professional means you have access to all the assistance you need, greatly reducing the risk of mistakes in your Will.
Although a DIY Will may cut costs initially, it could cost you in the long-term. All Wills must be written using the correct terms and language, as well as ‘witnessed’ by the right people. If this isn’t done properly, then the Will is invalid and could cost your heirs their estate, or money intended for them. Hiring a Will writing professional helps you to avoid this pitfall; a well-written Will is more robust when faced with any potential objections.
Even if your Will is still valid, there’s a bigger chance that distributing assets to your heirs could take a lot longer than usual. This can come with additional fees and, in some cases, unnecessary tax. According to the Co-operative Legal Services (CLS), 38,000 families a year experience prolonged probate ordeals for poorly written DIY Wills.
What’s more, up to 10% of your estate could be subjected to unnecessary fees if your Will is ineffective. The average value of a person’s estate in the UK is currently £160,000 – so this could incur costs of up to £16,000, a cost which could be avoided if a Will writing professional was used.
It’s also worth thinking about what could happen if your circumstances change during your lifetime. For example, if you get married, have children or grandchildren, someone named in your Will passes away or if your financial situation changes then your Will also needs to be altered. Significant changes to your Will means you’ll need a new one, whereas smaller changes call for a codicil (a document that allows you to make minor adjustments to your Will).
It can be daunting to make these changes, especially if you’re already going through a stressful time due to a death in the family, a divorce or financial issues. Calling on the help of a Will writer can greatly reduce stress and the worry of whether or not your Will has been rewritten correctly.
For help and advice on the potential pitfalls of DIY Wills, speak to one of the team at legalmatters today. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re taking a walk around Chichester to raise money for free legal advice services…
On 12th September 2018, our legalmatters and Legal Workflow team – including Lucy Thomas, Martin Langan, Andy Saych, Lindsay Dobson, Sarah Reed, Terry Walsh, Lauren Bain, Mel Bloomfield and Gus (the cockapoo) – will be taking part in a sponsored walk to raise funds for The Citizens Advice services in South and West Sussex and Havant.
Please sponsor us now to help us meet our target amount.
We head off from The Fountain, South Street in Chichester at 5.30pm for a 10k circular walk, which funnily enough ends up back at the pub. No doubt we’ll be doing a bit of nibbling and much munching of chips as we compare blisters and funny stories while we recover our strength and before we wend our way homewards.
Between now and then I have no doubt there will be some training walks – between pubs I expect. These will be led by Gus, our very own Chief Welfare officer, acting trainer and motivator (pictured) who’ll be sharing some doggy pep talks, leading from the front and always nosing about in pockets for treats.
We do take charity giving seriously though at legalmatters, and every year we take part in various fund-raising and partnership activities to raise both awareness of charitable giving and funds through sponsorship.
In October 2017 alone, we helped to raise about £57,900 of future income from legacies for the Guide Dogs.
It’s not all altruistic – you might not be aware that a charitable legacy in your Will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax your estate is liable for. Look at these posts for more information – and do talk to us about your own Will.
See what legacy giving can do for your tax bill – read our post.
And if you like a little light-hearted banter and want to get an idea of what that all means at celebrity level, take a look at our blog here following rumours in the press after Sir Bruce Forsyth’s death:
You can see just some of the reasons why other celebrities are planning charitable legacies in this post.
More about the Chichester Legal Walk: Across South and West Sussex and Havant there are areas of high poverty and need, and many vulnerable people. Access to legal advice helps those people to get out of poverty and distress. The Chichester Walk raises much needed funds for advice agencies who support vulnerable people in our community and help them access justice.
While you might think it is easy to leave your house or flat to someone you love, bequeathing property is not always as straightforward as you would think. So, how can you ensure that your home is passed on as you would like?
When someone dies and leaves behind a home, there are a few things that need to be considered. Some things you’ll need to think about include:
Is there an outstanding mortgage?
Unless insurance is in place to pay off a mortgage in full when someone dies, the monthly payment will still need to be paid. If the remaining mortgage is small, the beneficiary may be able to take on that debt. But, if there is a large mortgage outstanding, and the beneficiary cannot afford the repayments, the lender is likely to require that the home is sold.
Whether the deceased owned the legal title to the property
When someone owns a property, the legal title – registered with the Land Registry – will clearly show their name as the owner. If the property is not registered correctly, an investigation will have to take place to prove how the title passed to the deceased before it can be given to the intended beneficiary.
How the property was owned
In England and Wales, when a property is co-owned (e.g. by a husband and wife), the way it is registered will impact what happens to it when one owner dies.
There are two ways to own a property with someone else:
- As joint tenants: This means both (or all) owners own 100% of the property. So, when someone dies their name is removed from the title and the home automatically belongs to the surviving co-owner(s).
- As tenants in common: This means each owner owns shares in the property. These shares can be for the same, or different amounts. When someone dies, that person’s share can be left to someone other than the co-owner.
Is the property freehold or leasehold?
If a home is a leasehold, there will be an agreement from the freeholder (sometimes called the landlord) to use it for a set number of years. With a leasehold, there might be conditions on who can own or occupy the property, and this can prove problematic when leaving it in a Will.
If the property is freehold, things are more straightforward. The property and the land it is built on are owned outright and can be passed on however the deceased wished (as long as they are the sole owner).
Is there a Will in place?
If someone dies without leaving a Will, the state decides how your estate is distributed. Often this does not reflect what you wanted to happen. As such, the best way to make sure your house goes to those you want it to, is to write a Will.
For expert advice on amending or drafting a Will, speak to one of the team at legalmatters today. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
What is Critical Event Protection and is it relevant to me?
If you are a member of a Death in Service Scheme, if you have a separate Critical Illness and Life Insurance Policy or even if you have a Pension Plan, you should look at Critical Event Protection.
What are these schemes and policies for?
Death in service schemes are often part of your employers’ group policy scheme which provides a lump sum for family or to cover the death of a shareholder in a business.
Critical illness policies produce an income supplement in the event of a critical illness and on death there is usually a lump sum paid.
Life insurance policies may make provision to cover inheritance tax, provide a lump sum for family or to cover the death of a shareholder in a business.
An occupational or self-invested pension plan may have a lump sum which will be paid on death.
What happens to these assets when I die and why would I need Critical Event Protection?
These valuable assets usually only pass to your next of kin if you’ve nominated them. If you haven’t, they go into your estate and may then become subject to Inheritance Tax at 40%. In this way, sometimes funds are wasted or end up with people you don’t even know yet, for example if your current partner or next of kin starts a new relationship.
How can I protect these assets for my dependents?
Using a trust preserves the use of these funds for your dependents, avoids direct ownership, can avoid the need to incur estate administration costs and may save inheritance tax. A trust protects and ringfences these lump sum proceeds and means a quick claim by the trustees upon your death can make the funds available in a protected trust environment to meet family costs.
At legalmatters, we have put together a simple solution, which will enable you to deal with these valuable assets, called Critical Event Protection.
Legalmatters are proud to have joined Cancer Research UK’s Free Will Service.
The Free Will Service helps people aged over 55 to write or update their Will free of charge. It also gives guidance for people considering leaving a legacy gift to Cancer Research UK. The service is now being provided at legalmatters where trained solicitors will be able to offer support to people living in the UK and assist with drafting a Will.
Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its research and relies heavily on the generosity of people leaving gifts in their Wills. Over a third of its research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer is funded through supporters leaving a legacy to the charity.
A legacy gift can be anything someone wishes to leave in their Will. Traditionally this is money, but it could be anything that has a monetary value like an estate or specific item. Anything that is left to Cancer Research UK can be marked to be ring-fenced for research into a specific cancer type or research within a local area.
Lucy Thomas, Legal Services Director at legalmatters, says: “Another bonus to doing this, besides simply helping a good cause, is that legacy giving can also reduce your inheritance tax bill. Take a look at our blog “What can legacy giving do for your tax bill” to find out more, or give us a call on on 01243 216900 for expert advice on amending or drafting your Will.”
Clare Moore, Director of Legacies at Cancer Research UK, explained: “We all reach a stage at some point in our lives where we start to look ahead and consider what will happen to our financial affairs in the future, when we may no longer be around.
“At Cancer Research UK, we work with a number of local solicitors, including legalmatters, to offer the Free Will Service to anyone aged 55 or over, helping individuals to make an all-important first Will or update an existing one.
“One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. The generous gifts left by people in their Wills are so important as they help us continue the work that we do to beat cancer sooner. Without the money we receive from gifts, the progress we make through research would be a far slower.
“We are always so grateful to anyone who leaves a gift in their Will to Cancer Research UK – legacy gifts help us find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.”
Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress. Every step taken by its doctors, nurses and scientists relies on donations from the public and the kindness of supporters who choose to leave a gift in their Will.
The Free Will Service has been running successfully for over 20 years across a network of solicitors in the UK. Anyone who wishes to use the service is asked to consider leaving a legacy gift to Cancer Research UK but under no obligation to do so.
Legalmatters looks forward to offering the Free Will Service to help the people in the UK and working with Cancer Research UK to help beat cancer sooner.
For more information about leaving a legacy gift and Cancer Research UK’s free Will service, visit www.cruk.org/freewillservice or call legalmatters on 01243 261900.
According to latest data from the Office of National Statistics, there were 245,513 marriages and 107,071 divorces in England and Wales. What happens to the couples who already have a Will in place? We take a look at how marriage and divorce affects both you and your partner’s Wills…
Preparing to get married is an exciting time that comes with lots of planning, but many couples often overlook their Wills. It might surprise you to know that when you get married, your Will is automatically revoked. It’s worth sitting down with your partner and reviewing your current Wills – this is especially crucial if you intend to leave some of your assets to someone else such as a child or grandchild.
If you don’t draw up a new Will after you marry, the law of intestacy will step in – this means that your assets could be distributed in a way which is not in line with your wishes. The most effective way to remedy this is to appoint a professional Will writer to help create wills for both you and your partner.
What happens to my Will if I get divorced?
In the case of divorce, your Will is still valid but your ex-partner’s role as executor of your Will is automatically cancelled. As the Will takes effect as if he or she had died on the date the decree became absolute, if you’ve left everything to them, the rules of intestacy will apply.
As a result, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider:
Beneficiaries: If your ex-partner was entitled to the majority of your estate in your Will then you’ll need to appoint a new beneficiary such as a sibling or child.
Executors: The best action to take is to appoint more than one executor. An executor must be over 18 years of age and can be the beneficiary if you prefer.
Including ex-spouse: Of course, you can still leave assets to your ex-spouse. If you have a financial obligation to them then you may want to re-adjust your Will so they can’t make further claims on your estate in court.
Inheritance tax: During your marriage, your partner would have been exempt from inheritance liability (IHT). However, your estate now only has a tax-free limit of £325,000 unless the beneficiary is a new spouse.
What happens to my Will if I get remarried?
Similar to the process when you get married the first time around, if you get remarried your current Will is invoked. If you don’t draw up a new Will, then your estate will be divided under the rules of intestacy. Usually this means your estate will be split between your spouse and your children. If you don’t have children, your estate will go to your spouse and your siblings.
If you’re just getting married or are going through a divorce, it’s important to check your Will or seek the help of a professional to check for you.
For expert advice on amending or drafting a Will, speak to one of our professionals at legalmatters today. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s estimated that around only 40% of adults in the UK have written a Will. If you’re one of those then you’ve taken an important step to lay out how your estate is to be distributed on your death. But simply writing your Will may not be enough to guarantee that your wishes are followed.
Obviously, it’s an important document and you need to store it in a safe place. It might seem like a good idea to keep it in your folder of important documents but in the event of theft, fire or flood, it could be lost. It’s a better idea to store it away from your home.
Most Will-writing professionals offer a Will storage service too. If they don’t there are other options such as a Will storage company or even the probate service. However never keep your Will in a bank safety deposit box. The bank won’t open that box for anyone other than yourself or, in the event of your death, an executor who has been granted probate. However, your executor won’t be able to gain probate until he has access to your Will. It’s a catch-22 situation.
Don’t attach anything to your Will either. If there are any marks on the paper from staples or similar it may raise some doubt that there is a missing amendment which might cause complications for your executors.
It’s always a good idea to tell your family – and in particular your executor(s) – where your Will is stored. You should also consider registering it with an accredited Will register. Although there is normally a small fee for doing this, it means that the Will is easy to trace.
Once you’ve completed these things, your Will is safe. However, it’s important to check it over every few years or if any significant life events occur in the meantime. For example, if you get married or form a civil partnership, an earlier Will becomes invalid. If you get divorced, it remains valid but any references to your former partner become invalid – which can have significant consequences. Alternatively, grandchildren might be born or people who were your beneficiaries might die. In any of these events, you might like to review and revise your Will to accommodate any changes.
For help with this or any part of the Will writing process, speak to one of our professionals at legalmatters today. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
A Lasting Power of Attorney or 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.
But, all too often people fail to make an LPA because they are unsure about what it involves and why it is needed. Here are the most common misconceptions about LPAs:
I don’t need an LPA because I am fit and healthy
Our individual circumstances can change in an instant. People lose mental capacity for many different reasons including accidents, strokes and heart failure.
So, rather than waiting until you are losing capacity to make an LPA, it makes sense to do so when you are still able to understand and sign the document yourself. Don’t leave it until the moment an LPA is needed as that could be too late.
I have a Will so I don’t need an LPA
While a Will sets out what happens to your estate after you die, an LPA deals with what happens if you can no longer make decisions for yourself while you are still alive. As such, they are very different documents that deal with very different circumstances. Both are needed to protect you and your assets.
My family will look after me, so I don’t need an LPA
Even if your loved ones all agree on how best to look after your finances and health (and this often isn’t the case), it can be hugely stressful for them if they don’t know what your wishes are. An LPA reduces the likelihood of disagreements between those closest to you and gives them the confidence that they are doing what you would wish. For example, you can decide whether your attorney has the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf or set out what you would want.
My family will make decisions that I don’t approve of
With an LPA, you not only retain the right to look after your own affairs for so long as you are capable, but you can also limit the powers an attorney is given, and, include specific guidance to help them make decisions you would approve of.
I already have one LPA, I don’t need another one
There are two kinds of LPA: a Property & Financial Affairs LPA and a Personal Welfare LPA. Both deal with very different matters and having just one will not cover all the different decisions you might need to be made for you.
I have a joint bank account, so my husband/wife/partner can look after our finances
Even if you hold a joint account, you could face issues accessing your cash. In fact, banks often freeze accounts to protect the vulnerable person until they see a copy of a registered LPA.
To protect yourself against becoming unable to manage your financial affairs, and to make informed decisions about your long-term health arrangements, speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.