Monthly Archives: July 2017

Selling A Property in Probate – Online vs High Street

Often when someone is left a property by a deceased relative, they will want to sell it quickly. This may be for emotional reasons, but there are also financial concerns to take into account too – maintenance costs can quickly mount up.

Given these difficult circumstances, what do you need to consider when selling a property in probate?

When can I sell?

You cannot sell the property until probate is formally granted. This will generally take around eight weeks, though there’s nothing to stop you putting the property on the market before that date.

Valuations

When the executor applies for the grant of probate, they will need to detail all of the deceased’s assets, with valuations. It’s therefore a good idea to get the property valued by a couple of different estate agents to give you a decent idea of what it is worth. Alternatively, you could get it valued by a surveyor.

Title and deeds

If the property has been registered with Land Registry, downloading a copy of the title entries for the property to ensure that it was in the deceased’s name, should be straightforward.

However, if it wasn’t registered then you will need to locate the paper title deeds.

How to sell it

Traditionally, high street estate agents have been the method of choice for selling property. However, recent years have seen the emergence of a number of big online estate agents, which may be worth considering.

One big plus point with online estate agents are the fees, which are usually much smaller than dealing with a high street estate agent. You will often only have to pay a single, flat fee with an online estate agent. However, with a traditional estate agent, the fee will be a percentage of the eventual sale price – on expensive homes, this can be quite significant.

There are downsides to online estate agents though – you may need to do the viewings yourself and sort out photographs to go with your property’s listing on the various property portals.

Remember, the fact that there is no chain involved with the property will be an added selling point too, as it should represent a relatively straightforward purchase.

Probate can be a difficult, stressful time so it is important to work with experts who can ease the burden.

At legalmatters we can guide you through every part of the probate process. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

How to keep your documents safe – Digital vs Paper

Keeping your important documents organised and secure will make it easier for you or your loved ones to access them when needed.

First, give some thought as to which documents need to be stored securely. The simplest way to do this is to think in terms of how easy or difficult it would be to replace the document in question and what would be the impact of it being missing.

Top of your list should be items such as your Will and Power of Attorney but also include birth and marriage certificates, divorce or other legal documents, and house deeds.

The original copies of these items should ideally be kept in a lockable fireproof, waterproof safe or box. It is prudent to have at least one and preferably two backup copies which should be held in different locations. This is the ideal time to consider whether to store physically or digitally, each having different benefits.

At home (hard copy)

This option provides you with cheap and easy access to your documents. Depending on what storage you use you may be vulnerable to theft, fire or flood.

Solicitor

Most solicitors will store your Will for you. Some also provide a document storage facility for your important documents. With legalmatters, there is no fee for this.  Solicitors’ storage is regulated so you can expect redress if something goes wrong.

Probate Service

You can lodge your Will with the probate service. There is a flat rate fee for this and you are the only person who can access your Will while you are alive. Upon your death, your executor can access it.

Document storage facility

There are many companies, including some banks, that provide document storage.  Prices vary quite considerably so it’s worth shopping around.

Remember though that legalmatters don’t make a charge for storing your documents; we are content that your documents are safely stored and are easily accessible.

Safety Deposit Box

Many banks no longer provide this service. However, if they do, never store your Will in one. Your executor will not be given access to it until they gain probate, which they cannot do without your Will.

Storing items digitally is straightforward. First you will either need to scan or photograph the document and then decide where you want to keep it.

On your PC

This gives you easy access and can be done securely. You must password protect your PC, have a reputable, up-to-date, anti-virus software running and consider encrypting your files to protect against theft, hacking or viruses.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage – either personal or online – allows you to access your documents from any device anywhere. Again, make sure you have the same security protections in place as above.

Remember also to completely clear the hard drive before you sell or give your computer away.

Finally, wherever you store your documents make sure your loved ones and executor know where to find them.

For advice on storing legal documents and which ones that will be needed to write your Will or during probate, please call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

How to prevent things going wrong with your LPAs

With dementia continuing to rise, the importance of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) cannot be overstated. An LPA can be a vital tool, giving a friend, loved one or solicitor the power to make decisions on your behalf should you reach a position where you are unable to.

Safeguards are built into them to ensure they are used appropriately, but there are steps you can take to ensure things do not go wrong.

Choose the right attorney

If you want to prevent any future issues with an LPA, then choosing the right attorney at the outset is crucial. There are many duties involved in acting as an attorney for someone, so you need to pick someone responsible and organised, as well as someone who knows you well and can be trusted to act in your best interests.

You may want to select more than one attorney – this will make abuse of the powers associated with an LPA much harder.

If you do choose more than one attorney, you can set out whether they need to act together or separately for certain issues.

Informing loved ones

One important safeguard is the fact that the ‘donor’ (the person handing over their powers to their attorney) can name up to five people who must be informed before the LPA is registered. It’s important to do this – these loved ones can then step in and dispute the registration, should they believe that the donor was put under undue pressure or the attorney is set to behave in an inappropriate way.

It’s a good idea to speak to your friends and loved ones who aren’t named on the document in advance of organising an LPA too. You can explain why you are doing it and how you want the powers to be used – this can help reduce the chances of fraud and should also reduce the chances of conflict between family members later on.

Guidance

Another safeguard is the ability for donors to have certain guidance for the attorney written into the LPA. For example, this may suggest that they meet a couple of times a year to go through bank details and discuss financial arrangements for the next six months. This should also make it harder for any fraud to take place.

Organising an LPA can give you peace of mind that you will have someone you trust making decisions for you, should you lose the ability to do so.

Choosing the right attorney, and getting the right LPA in place, can take some time, but it is time well spent.

If you’re struggling to choose an LPA or would like advice on how to appoint one, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

What If There Is A Death Tax Introduced

Before the snap General Election, the Government was planning to introduce a new fee structure for applications for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (for when someone dies intestate).

The new fees would have taken effect last month (May 2017), but the election has put these changes on hold.

When somebody dies, the executors must apply for a Grant of Probate from the probate registry.  This needs to be done to allow them to administer the estate according to the terms of the Will.

Previously, the fees for this application were set at either £155 if probate was applied for by a solicitor or £215 if it was applied for by friends or family. There were no fees if the value of the estate was less than £5,000.

If the Government were to now make the fee changes as planned, the first change would be that estates below £50,000 would no longer have to pay any probate fee. This significantly increases the number of estates exempt from the fees. Unfortunately, everyone else would see an increase.  Those with the largest estates would see fees of up to £20,000.

The fees would be tiered depending on the value of the estate.

£50k – £300k               –           £300

£300k – £500k             –           £1,000

£500k – £1M               –           £4,000

£1M – £1.6M               –           £8,000

£1.6M – £2M               –           £12,000

Above £2M                 –           £20,000

These fees would be in addition to inheritance tax.

The probate fees need to be paid up front. It may be difficult if the executor is not able to release cash from the deceased’s bank account and/or the executor is on a low wage or benefits. Previously they may have been able to apply to get help with the fees. However, the Government may also now remove probate applications from the general fees remissions scheme and financial help could no longer be available if all the scheduled changes were to go ahead.

If these changes were to happen, there are things to consider which may reduce the amount of probate needing to be paid. In particular, married couples or those in a civil partnership could consider the nature of any property ownership agreements they hold.

Another way to reduce the cost of probate is to consider setting up a Trust. This may lower the value of the estate (from a probate point of view) and drop it from a higher tier rate to a lower one. Trust law is complex. You will need advice from a qualified advisor to ensure that you are setting one up in the most tax efficient way, so that it doesn’t end up costing you more than you hope to save.

For advice on this or any aspect of planning a Will please call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.