Business-owner

Dealing with a business after owner’s death…

When the owner of a business dies, administering the estate can be a complex affair.

A business forms part of a deceased’s estate and can be left under the terms of their will. However probate is far more difficult to administer when a business which is a going concern is left. In this event, the personal representative will almost certainly need specialist help to deal with the transfer of the business and any shares or alternatively with the winding-up.

Immediate decisions will need to be taken if the business is operational. The more planning the deceased has put into this, the easier it will be. There is a substantial risk to a business when its owner or part-owner dies that it will not be able to continue, or that its operation may be hampered in the short-term.

Preparing for this eventuality will mean that things can continue as smoothly as possible and the benefit of the business will be able to be passed on in the way the deceased would have wished.

Depending on the structure of the business, different actions may be needed.

Sole trader

If the business owner operated alone, the business simply becomes part of their estate and any debts will be paid out of the estate.

Partnership

Ideally a partnership agreement will have been drawn up detailing how the death of a partner is to be dealt with. If this hasn’t been done, the effects can be catastrophic for both the business and any remaining partners.

Death will cause the dissolution of the partnership and the business would need to be wound up. This could take years and be complex to achieve. Any remaining partners would need to start a new business, alongside trying to finalise the old one.

Each partner would be liable for their share of any debts. If the business is in profit, the deceased partner’s share would become part of their estate.

Private or public limited company

If the deceased owned shares in a company, these would pass under the terms of the will or in accordance with the rules of intestacy to the beneficiaries.

If a shareholders’ agreement exists, this may give the other shareholders a right to buy the shares at market value, with a given time period for them to raise the necessary funds.

Sole director

Where the deceased was the sole director of a company, the personal representative will need to register the shares in the name of the beneficiary and also appoint a new director, and possibly a company secretary as well.

When someone actively involved in running their own business dies, it can be complicated for the executor or administrator to deal with. It is always a good idea to call in specialist help to deal with matters as quickly and efficiently as possible so that the business can continue.

To speak to someone about winding up an estate that includes a business, call one of our specialist team at legalmatters, on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! Do we hear wedding bells…

At such a romantic time, your Will is hardly likely to be front of mind. However, you should commit to review your Will either before or immediately after your marriage. Why? To avoid – in the event of your death – your estate being divided under the rules of intestacy!

In England and Wales, your existing Will is automatically revoked when you get married or enter into a civil partnership. So it is vital to review, and if necessary, update your Will after marriage. That is unless your Will makes specific reference to your intended marriage (“in contemplation of marriage”). Take this important step to protect your family and your estate so that the law doesn’t get to dictate who will inherit your money, property and possessions when you die.

What do the rules say?

A person who dies without a valid Will is said to die ‘intestate’. Under the rules of intestacy:

  • If you are married and your estate is worth less than £250k, your spouse will inherit everything, even if you have children
  • If you are married with children (not including stepchildren), and your estate is worth more than £250k, your spouse will inherit the first £250k plus personal belongings. Anything remaining is then split 50/50 between your spouse and your children. Your children will all inherit an equal share of this remaining 50%.

What about divorce?

While getting married automatically invalidates a Will, getting a divorce does not. But, if you end a marriage or civil partnership, your Will carries on as if your spouse has died. This means that they will not receive anything you have left to them in your Will, unless you expressly state that you still want this to happen. Likewise, if they are listed as an executor, they will no longer fulfil this role.

Getting remarried

If you are planning to remarry following a divorce, the effect of your new marriage on your Will is the same as if you were marrying for the first time. So, any Will becomes invalid as soon as your marriage takes place.

It is important to update a Will following marriage. But where second families are involved, the potential for dispute increases, so it becomes even more crucial.

The birth of children and grandchildren should also instigate a Will review, as well as the death of any beneficiaries. Changes to your finances, fluctuations in property values, tax amendments and a whole range of other factors could also mean that your carefully drafted Will no longer reflects your situation and wishes. This is why experts agree that, as well as reviewing your Will after any significant life event, it’s also worth doing every five years.

Drawing up a Will is not a one-time task. Speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email info@legalmatters.co.uk to ensure your Will is updated, and your wealth is passed on in line with your wishes.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

Estate Administration

Making payments from a deceased’s estate…

If you’ve been left money or a share in someone’s estate, you may be wondering what liabilities you have. Do you need to pay tax on the money, and who is responsible for clearing any debts the deceased may have left?

After someone dies, their personal representative is responsible for winding up the estate. It is their job to collect in all the assets, sell any property and pay debts, including tax liabilities. Once this has been done, they will then distribute the funds in accordance with the Will or, if no Will was made, under the rules of intestacy.

Who is responsible for making payments from an estate?

If a Will was made, this will usually name a personal representative, known as an executor. If there was no Will, the Probate Registry will appoint an administrator.

This is the person who will be responsible for gathering in the money and settling any bills.

Debts are payable in a set order.

  1. Secured debts such as a mortgage
  2. Reasonable funeral costs
  3. Estate administration expenses
  4. Payments due to employees
  5. Unsecured debts

Estate administration expenses

These are usually the main expenses to be dealt with when winding up an estate and include the costs incurred by the personal representative, such as probate fees, estate agency and valuation fees, Income Tax and Inheritance Tax.

Making payments to beneficiaries

Once all of the debts have been paid, then the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Personal possessions will be passed in accordance with the terms of any Will.

Cash payments are made in a strict order of priority.

Firstly, specified gifts of money are made to named beneficiaries.

After these have been paid, the residue is divided in accordance with the terms of the Will. A residual beneficiary can request a copy of the estate accounts, which will set out all income and expenses.

The amount of any taxes and other debts will therefore reduce the money paid to the residuary beneficiaries, as they are the last in the queue, after any specific cash legacies.

For help with administering an estate, call the probate experts at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

How long does probate take

How long does probate take and what can cause delay…

Winding up the estate of a deceased person can take many months, particularly if it is less than straightforward.

Following someone’s death, it takes an average six to nine months to finalise their affairs and distribute funds to the beneficiaries. The process can be complicated and frequently takes longer than this if difficulties arise.

A personal representative, either an executor or administrator (if there is no Will), has the job of listing in all the deceased’s assets and valuing them. Once this has been done, they need to work out how much tax is owed.

This needs to be paid to HMRC, who will issue a receipt, allowing the executor to apply to the Probate Registry for Grant of Probate.

The Registry will go through the paperwork and issue the Grant allowing the executor to deal with the estate’s assets. This involves selling or transferring everything that the deceased owned.

Possible delays

HMRC can take a long time to agree the information in respect of tax liability. The personal representative will then need to arrange for payment. If this is not possible, they may be able to request that HMRC provide a form allowing them to apply for a Grant on Credit.

The relevant receipt then needs to be forwarded to the Probate Registry along with the application and supporting paperwork, including the Will itself.

If the Probate Registry has any doubts about the validity of the Will, for example if it does not appear to have been witnessed properly, it will delay granting probate until it is satisfied.

This may involve providing documentation from the witnesses and whoever drew up the Will.

Once the Grant has been issued, the executor needs to gather in the assets by writing to banks, building societies, insurance companies etc, sending a certified copy of the Grant of Probate and asking for accounts and policies to be closed and a cheque for monies due to be sent to them.

One of the most time-consuming parts of winding up most estates is the house sale. The property will need to be cleared before the completion date, and a sale alone will usually take two or three months and frequently much longer.

The personal representative is responsible for locating all the beneficiaries, which can take time if the Will was made many years previously and people have dispersed.

If a Will contains any ambiguity or family members feel that they were due money which in fact has not been left to them, disputes may arise which will delay distribution of the estate funds, in serious cases for years.

If you need help to administer an estate professionally and without undue delay, call one of our experts at legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

Beneficiaries to a Will

When beneficiaries to a Will can’t be identified…

A surprising number of difficulties and disputes arise when the beneficiaries to a Will can’t be identified easily.

Although it may be clear when a Will is drawn up who the writer intends to leave their assets to, as time goes by beneficiaries may change their names, often more than once, and/or move away.

Often, a long period of time elapses between the writing of a Will and the administration of the estate. If a Will doesn’t make absolutely clear who is to inherit, it can cause numerous problems for the executor or administrator when they have to find and identify everyone named.

Why you need to do more than just name your beneficiaries

If your Will simply names a beneficiary without any further identifying information, then over the years it can be hard to trace the person intended.

Women in particular may change their names several times throughout their lifetime on marriage, divorce and remarriage.

To help the person who will eventually administer the estate, it is a good idea to include other identifying information, such as address, date of birth and the beneficiary’s relationship to you.

A note containing new addresses can also be put with the Will to make contacting people easier. Beneficiaries will also need to provide the executor with relevant evidence of any change of name, such as a marriage certificate or deed poll.

Why attention to detail in a Will is essential

It is also important to make sure that everyone’s name is correctly spelled in a Will. While an incorrect spelling does not invalidate a gift, it can cause difficulties for the executor and even lead to disputes.

Again, by putting in other identifying information, it will be easier for the executor to be clear exactly what your intentions were.

A professional lawyer will be able to write a Will for you that is clear and unambiguous, with all of your beneficiaries accurately identified. This can avoid expensive and damaging disputes and make sure your intentions are carried out.

To speak to one of our experts about having your Will drafted, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

Using Trusts in Wills

The different uses of trusts within Wills…

Using your Will to set up a trust allows you to set out exactly who you want to benefit from your assets and protect your money from being spent where you wouldn’t want.

When leaving money or property in a Will, there is sometimes a risk that it may not end up where you meant it to be.

For example, a jointly owned property left to your spouse may be at risk of being sold to pay for care home fees, or money may be left to someone who at present is not in a position to use it wisely.

Setting up a Will trust allows you to dictate in detail who gets what, and when.

Protecting your share of a house

You may well want your spouse or partner to be able to continue to live in your shared home for as long as they want, but if they simply inherit it, then should they need to move to a care home, the whole value of the house will count as their own. This would then be taken into account when assessing their entitlement to help with fees.

Your solicitor will be able to draw up a Will allowing you to leave your share of your home to your children or other beneficiaries, but with your spouse or partner still able to live there as long as they wish. This means that your share of the house will ultimately pass to your children or other beneficiaries.

Passing your home to your children

Similarly, if you’ve remarried during your life, you may want your new spouse to have the benefit of your shared home for the rest of their life, but after that you want it to pass to your children.

A trust in your Will can make this possible, preventing the possibility that your share in your home be left by your spouse to someone other than your children.

Leaving a gift in trust

Setting up a trust allows you to leave money to someone under 18, to a person who is not able to manage their own affairs or to a recipient of state benefits, which might be withdrawn if they were to inherit a large cash sum.

Trustees will be in charge of the money, giving it to the beneficiary in accordance with your wishes, for example for living expenses or continuing education.

Leaving a life interest in assets

You can set up a trust via your Will so that a person receives income from the assets in your estate, but when they die, the capital is passed to the beneficiary of your choice. This allows someone’s funds to live on but prevents them from leaving the main capital under the terms of their Will.

Ask one of our specialist team at legalmatters to help you draw up the Will that allows you to leave your assets exactly as you wish. Call us to discuss your Will on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

Protecting your children

Will my stepchildren inherit my assets when I remarry?

A second marriage can be very complicated when it comes to making sure your family inherit exactly what you want them to have.

The first thing to know is that any previous Will you have made becomes invalid when you marry, unless it was specifically made in contemplation of the marriage.

If you and/or your new spouse have children, you both need to sit down and work out what assets you have and who you would like them to be ultimately passed on to.

If you don’t make a Will

When someone dies without making a Will, their estate passes under the Intestacy Rules, which give all personal possessions plus the first £250,000 to the spouse. Any sum over and above £250,000 will be shared, with 50% going to the spouse and 50% shared between any children.

Stepchildren are not included at all. This can mean that if your spouse inherits your estate and then dies without writing a Will, your children would not be entitled to anything.

If you do make a Will

If you make a Will leaving everything to your spouse, with the understanding that they will then leave your children your assets when they die, you have no guarantee that this will actually happen.

As time passes, they may change their mind and decide to leave their estate elsewhere, or they may fall into debt or need funds for care home costs.

The way to avoid this is to have a Will drawn up so that your spouse has a lifetime interest in your property and assets, but on their death the capital passes to your children.

What to do about your Will when you remarry

Because any previous Will becomes void on marriage, you should sit down with your new spouse and decide who you want to inherit. Its particularly important when family situations are complicated, for example with different sets of children and stepchildren, to get expert help in drawing up a Will that includes the necessary trusts.

It is also important that Wills are unambiguous to avoid disputes after someone dies. If possible, you should talk things through with any children and stepchildren so that they understand what your wishes are and what will happen to your estate after you die.

A specialist Trusts and Probate lawyer from legalmatters will be able to put your requirements into a valid Will and this should avoid any arguments arising at a later date.

If writing – or updating – your Will is one of your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, don’t put it off. Speak to one of our expert lawyers at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

Living with someone – they could be entitled to more than you think…

A recent case involving a cohabiting couple has highlighted the need for a robust Will after a man died and the judge awarded his surviving partner more than he intended.

There has been a rise in disputes between family members over inheritance. And a recent case has shown that a cohabiting partner might have a greater claim to your estate than you realise.

What happened in this case?

While the ‘common law’ husband or wife doesn’t actually exist in law, living with someone could entitle them to a substantial proportion of their deceased partner’s estate. Even if this goes against the terms of their partner’s Will.

Mr Hodge and Ms Thompson lived together for over 40 years. However, just before he died, Mr Hodge created a Will leaving nothing to his partner. In a letter he explained that he did this because he believed Ms Thompson would need to move into residential care after his death, and that she had her own finances to cover this cost.

However, Ms Thompson was unhappy with this and contested the Will. Her claim was successful as the judge found that she did not need to move into residential care and could live independently, but did not have the financial means to do so. As such, Ms Thompson was awarded a home worth £225,000, as well as a further £28,800 to pay for adaptions to the cottage, and an additional lump sum of £116,000 to help supplement her limited income.

This isn’t a one-off

In this case, the named beneficiaries will still inherit a sizeable amount as the estate was worth £1.5 million. Furthermore, the fact that Mr Hodge’s reasons for not taking care of his longstanding partner were unfounded contributed to the judge’s decision. But this is not the first time a Will has been overturned in favour of a cohabitee.

Indeed, it is possible for a ‘common law’ partner to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act after just two years of cohabitation if they rely on financial provision from the estate to carry on living the lifestyle they have become used to (however luxurious that lifestyle might be).

So, money and property can be given to someone other than the deceased’s intended beneficiaries.

The death of a loved one is a difficult time, and, where there are disputes about a Will, the stress and upset can make it even harder. As such, taking professional advice is crucial if you want to protect your Will against any potential challenge. With disagreements over money or property devastating for those left behind, and often very expensive to resolve, a properly prepared and considered Will should be a priority.

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 by calling legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

The importance of inheritance to the younger generation

Data published by the Office for National Statistics shows that the wealth gap between generations in the UK continues to widen. The findings also show that inheritances are becoming increasingly important to younger people.

Over recent decades, rising levels of household affluence mean that the older generation has higher levels of wealth that can be left to younger family and friends. This wealth is passed on through inheritances, gifts and loans.

The latest Government report looks at how the transferal of assets impacts wealth inequality, social mobility and the intergenerational transference of advantages in the UK.

According to the findings, on average:

  • Individuals with the most income and wealth were likely to receive the most substantial gifts and loans
  • Those aged under 45 were the age group most likely to accept cash gifts or loans from friends and family of the value of £500 or more, and also received the highest amounts
  • Those aged 55 to 64 were the most likely to receive an inheritance and also received the largest legacies
  • The least wealthy and youngest individuals receive smaller estates, but they make up a much more significant proportion of their total net wealth
  • Those in the middle of the wealth distribution were the most likely to receive cash gifts or loans from friends and family of the value of £500 or more.

Gifts and loans

Of 25-to-34-year-olds, 11% had received a gift or loan above £500 in the last two years. This is the age most people become first-time buyers and have children, which could suggest that older family members are keen to help support these expensive life stages. The next highest beneficiaries of gifts or loans is 25-44 year-olds (9%). So, the research could also indicate an ongoing dependence of adult children on their parents in the modern world.

Inheritances

When it comes to receiving an inheritance, the average age a person is likely to inherit is between 55 and 64. This is thought to be because people are living longer.

Inheritances are more likely to be received by those who already have relatively high levels of wealth. However, bequests received by those in the bottom income group were equivalent to 13% of their net wealth, while for those in the top income group inheritances were equivalent to 5% of their net wealth. So, legacies could play some role in reducing inequalities.

Knowing how people save and spend money – and understanding the impact of transfers of wealth between generations – is a crucial step in helping people reach their financial objectives.

To find out how best you can pass on your wealth, speak to one of our expert team by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.

How will the “stealth death tax” impact charities?

Charities are worried about the impact the new “stealth death tax” could have on legacy giving.

The Government is facing condemnation after its plans to hike the cost of applying for probate were revealed. Under the proposals, some grieving relatives would need to pay death taxes of up to £6,000 to secure legal control over a deceased’s estate.

But in addition to families, charities could also feel the impact. In fact, according to The Institute of Legacy Management (ILM), charities will lose out by more than £10 million per year under the proposals.

In response, the Government has been asked to reconsider its stance. Speaking about this issue, the Chief Executive officer of ILM, said that it was deeply concerned by the proposed rise in probate fees.

At present, the current cost of securing probate is £215, or £155 for families who use a solicitor. However, if the Government gets its way, this cost could soar to £6,000 from April next year. This could have a devastating impact on those charities who are reliant on legacy gifts and significantly reduce their income.

At a time where many charities are struggling to meet increasing demand for their services, this could have a considerable impact on many groups across the UK.

The proposals have also come under fire for being a “stealth tax”. This is because the current fees cover the average costs of making a grant of probate, but the new fee structure is hugely disproportionate.

Is it a new tax?

Introducing a new tax requires new legislation. But the Government is using its existing powers to force the change rather than passing a new law. If passed, the new tax will side-step the long-established exemptions and reliefs of the inheritance tax regime, including the charity exemption.

With concerns that this stealth tax will be shouldered – in part at least by charities – the impact on the sector is expected to be significant. So much so that millions of much-needed funds could go to the Government, rather than being used to fund vital services.

The Government has responded by stating that the cost to the charity sector is “not expected to be substantial”.

To find out how to maximise any legacy you want to leave to a charity, speak to one of our expert team by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Finding our posts interesting? Why not sign up to receive legalchatters, our regular news, views and update service straight to your mailbox. Or Follow Us on FaceBook.