Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Pitfall of Gifting Assets

It’s no secret that there is a care crisis in the UK.In order to deliver social care, the Government is being forced to consider increasing council tax to help cover the costs. However, the cost facing the individual, should they require care, could be very high too.

If you have savings and assets worth more than £23,250 in England and Northern Ireland (rising to £24,000 in Wales or £26,250 in Scotland), or a weekly income high enough to cover care fees, then you will not be eligible for local authority funding. In other words, you’ll have to pay for your own care.

In order to reduce their care liabilities, older people may therefore look to giving away their assets to loved ones. However, where gifting is concerned, there are strict rules which must be followed.

Deliberate deprivation

It’s not easy to hide the fact that you may have tried to give your property away to your children or grandchildren. Local authorities will carry out a financial assessment, looking not only at your current assets, but also those that you have previously owned.

If they believe you have given away assets intentionally, in order to qualify for funding from the local authority, they may find that you have indulged in ‘deliberate deprivation’. This may include selling assets for less than their true value, as well as giving them away.

What makes it deliberate?

To determine whether the disposal of assets was deliberate, the local authority will look at a number of things. These include:

  • what your apparent motive was
  • the timing of the gift (i.e. the time between you realising you need care and when you disposed of the asset)
  • the amount of assets involved.

For example, they are less likely to investigate you if you give away £500 than if you are handing over £50,000.

If it is found that you have deliberately deprived yourself of those assets, even if you no longer own them, their value may be considered in the financial assessment. If the local authority does fund someone’s care costs, and later discover that the individual deliberately deprived themselves of assets, they can pursue that asset transferee in order to recover some of those care costs.

It’s not just during your life that you need to carefully plan how to hand your assets over to your loved ones. It is also vital to put together a plan for what happens after you die. This means ensuring you have a professional will in place. With important issues such as these, it pays to work with those who really know what they are doing. We can help. Call us today on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Lasting Power of Attorney – Planning for the Unexpected

Dementia is a growing problem in the UK. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently 850,000 people with dementia, and that number is set to reach one million by 2025.

At some point, many people with dementia will reach the stage where they are unable to make decisions for themselves. As a result, it is very important that somebody is nominated to have lasting power of attorney (LPA).

An LPA allows that person – known legally as your ‘attorney’ – to make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer in a position to make them yourself. There are two types of LPA – a property and finances LPA and a health and care LPA. You don’t have to make both at the same time.

Choosing the right person to act on your behalf can be very difficult, so it pays to take your time and not rush the decision. They will have to be over 18, and if making financial and property decisions, cannot have been declared bankrupt.

You will need to appoint someone that you trust, who you believe knows you well and will act in your best interests. You also need to find someone who is reliable, and who has the necessary skills to take on the responsibility. There is little point picking someone who knows you well, but who will be unreliable in meeting their obligations. Your attorney needs to be someone that you can always rely on.

Most people pick a family member, such as their partner or child, but you can appoint a professional, such as a solicitor if you prefer. Bear in mind that they may charge for their time.

You should also consider picking a replacement attorney. This is the person you wish to make decisions on your behalf should the first attorney no longer be able to or is unwilling to carry out the role. So, if you pick your partner for example, you may choose to select someone younger such as one of your children as the replacement attorney.

For help with this, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Annual Fall in Excess Winter Deaths

Unsurprisingly, during the cold, winter months there is a noticeable increase in deaths compared to during the summer months. The Office for National Statistics refers to these as ‘excess winter deaths’.

In 2015/16, the number of excess winter deaths halved compared to the year before, at 24,300. That’s primarily because last year’s figure sharply increased on usual winter deaths as a result of a particularly ineffective flu vaccine. Because that vaccine didn’t combat flu properly, a larger number of elderly people passed away during the winter months.

As a result, it’s easy to think excess winter deaths is only an issue for the very old. But according to the ONS, in 2015/16 there were similar mortality rates across all age groups. The mortality rate among those over the age of 85 actually fell, as that is the age group most at risk from flu. Deaths go up for all age groups during winter, and it isn’t simply down to the very old dying because of a strong flu.

It’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but these figures should remind us all that death is sadly inevitable. As a result, it’s absolutely crucial that you begin thinking about what will happen after you die. What plans do you have in place to continue to support your family? What do you want to happen to your assets? Are there particular charities or organisations that you would like to support after death?

If you don’t have a will in place, the process of dealing with your estate becomes much more stressful for your loved ones, and there is no guarantee that your assets will be divided as you’d like. Speak to us today to find out more information. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

VIP R.I.P.

It was a grim year for everybody but the Grim Reaper. As we reflect on 2016, we ask why it’s been such a bumper year for celebrity deaths…

“Why are so many celebrities dying in 2016?” asked the Daily Mirror, whilst people on Twitter expressed that their tolerance was subsiding, “Enough, 2016!”

 Other users of the site posted pictures under the tag line “Me at the beginning of 2016 versus me at the end of 2016” – the first an upbeat image of a character such as Kermit the Frog and the second showing the same figure beaten down by life; a bedraggled mess.

So why has 2016 been such a good year for the Grim Reaper when it comes to celebrities?

Experts have come up with a few reasons. Thanks to the proliferation of media over the past few decades, there are more stars around these days, for one. In the early part of the 20th Century, before television, the only celebrities were film stars. Social media also plays a role. As well as creating new stars, it also means that we hear about celebrity deaths far faster than in the past in addition to providing everyone with a platform to publicly share their grief. Then, there’s the fact that many of those who died in 2016 were baby boomers – people aged between 52 and 70. With so many born into that generation, it makes sense that lots of them went on to become famous.

One numerological theory is that 2016’s bad luck is due to its digits adding up to nine, the number commonly associated with completion and endings.

What is incontrovertible, however, is that 2016 was the year that reminded us that death is inevitable, regardless of how rich and famous they are. It also reminded us of the importance of writing a will. Whilst Alan Rickman left £100,000 to charity, David Bowie similarly planned sensibly, setting out 20 pages of instructions on how his estate should be divided. This included his wish to have his ashes scattered on Bali after a Buddhist ceremony. On the other hand, Prince died intestate, with drama ensuing over his £300m estate as various people claimed to be his blood relatives.

Although more famous faces will stay the course this year, January 2017 is still a good month to reflect on our own mortality and get our estates in order – even if they aren’t of A-list proportions.

For help with this, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Will This Be the Year?

Writing a will probably isn’t top of anyone’s list of New Year’s Resolutions – who wants to start 2017 with such a grim project? Indeed, according to a 2011 poll in the US, 60% of Americans would rather undergo root canal treatment, do their taxes or abstain from sex for a month than set down their final wishes. However, a US psychologist has suggested that we’re all lying to ourselves by procrastinating over writing our wills; instead, sitting down and planning our estates could empower us…

Considering death is one of the few certainties of life, why do so many of us put off writing a will? Apparently, it’s all to do with the very human instinct to deceive ourselves. In doing so, we avoid uncomfortable realities – a coping mechanism that Dr. Cortney S. Warren, a psychologist at the University of Nevada, covers in her book Lies We Tell Ourselves: The Psychology of Self-Deception.

“Humans are masters of self-deception,’ Dr Warren writes. ‘We don’t like to think of ourselves as liars; it hurts us too much to admit. So we lie to ourselves about that, too. As a clinical psychologist, I am frequently confronted with the fact that we all lie to ourselves. I believe that it is our biggest obstacle to living a fulfilling life.”

According to Warren, avoiding writing a will is a good example of us lying to ourselves. By the very act of writing one, we are acknowledging something we find very difficult to face; our own mortality.

In an article for Psychology Today however, Warren does highlight the feeling of empowerment which writing a will provides us with. “The main reason to write a will is to give yourself a voice,” she says. “It is actually a wonderful gift to those you love to have a will in place so that they can celebrate your life after you die—not become engrossed in legal battles over your stuff.”

Maybe it’s time to rethink your New Year’s Resolutions list for 2017 – and add writing a will to the top of it. To stick to resolutions, psychologists advise breaking goals into small steps.
Take the first one today by speaking to us at legalmatters. For more information, and to start 2017 with a little of the self-empowerment which writing a will can bring, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.