Monthly Archives: June 2018

Effect of marriage or divorce on your Will

The effect of marriage and divorce on your Will…

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 info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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What do I do with my Will once it’s written?

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 info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Busting the most common misconceptions about LPAs…

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 info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Contesting a Will

Disputing a Will. What can you do?

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. But what can children, spouses and partners do if they feel they have been overlooked unfairly in the last wishes of their nearest and dearest? And, how can we prevent such disagreements from arising in the first place?

Why do Wills get disputed?
There has been a rise in disputes between family members over inheritance. Changing family structures – which often include people co-habiting, second marriages and second families – are thought to be contributing to this rise. Also, an ageing population means that Wills are being written later in life, at a stage where capacity is more likely to have deteriorated – this is another ground on which a Will can be disputed.

In addition, rising property values mean that a growing number of estates are now thought to be worth contesting. Furthermore, the number of people leaving money to charities after they have gone has risen, and this corresponds with a rise in disputes over charitable gifts in Wills.

Dying without a Will
In many cases, disputes over inheritance occur because a person dies without a Will and so their final wishes are not clear.

Many individuals still believe that their estate will automatically go to their spouse when they die, but this is not always the case.

With disagreements over money or property devastating those left behind, and often very expensive to resolve, a properly prepared and considered Will should be a priority for us all.

However, it’s important to note that, even with a Will, written in sound mind, it can still be challenged. In fact, recent cases have shown that a Will can be overruled if it is thought to be unreasonable or purely spiteful. As such, careful drafting and consideration is essential.

Who can dispute a Will?

  • Husbands, wives and civil partners
  • Former spouses/civil partners who have not subsequently remarried or entered into a civil partnership
  • Children of the deceased (including adoptive children and adult children)
  • A cohabitee who lived with the deceased person for two or more years before they died
  • Someone who was financially dependent on the deceased
  • A beneficiary under the Will or an earlier Will
  • Someone who is owed money or was promised something by the deceased.

With research suggesting that just 40% of Britons make a Will, and arguments around mental capacity being put forward in an increasing number of cases, this issue is likely to become increasingly more contentious.

To make sure your Will is passed on in line with your wishes, or to dispute a Will, speak to legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Understanding Probate

Understanding Probate…

Probate is the process of sorting out an individual’s money, debts, property and possessions when they have passed away. If you’re appointed the executor of someone’s Will then you’re responsible for carrying out probate.

The probate process

There are 4 main stages of probate:

  1. Assess the total value of estate and if it’s liable for inheritance tax
  2. Apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate and submit an inheritance tax form to the tax office
  3. Pay off any inheritance tax due and swear an oath at the solicitor’s office or the Probate Registry
  4. Administer the estate by collating assets, paying off debts and distributing the remainder according to the Will.

You may choose to do probate yourself, although this can be very time-consuming. Many people choose to appoint a solicitor to help them along the way. Even though this comes with a certain cost, it could save thousands of pounds in the long-run by greatly reducing any potential mistakes made in the process.

There are some circumstances in which you’ll definitely need a solicitor:

  • The person died without making a Will
  • There’s a possibility the Will is invalid
  • The estate value exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold because it’s still bringing in a regular income
  • The estate includes overseas property or assets
  • The estate may go bankrupt / is bankrupt
  • Some of the assets are held in a trust
  • Dependants of the deceased have been purposefully left out of the Will but may want to make a claim on the estate
  • The deceased lived outside the UK for tax reasons.

When is probate needed?

Probate is required if the deceased owned property including houses, land or buildings. Furthermore, if the person held assets with a certain bank then you’ll need to enquire about the bank’s threshold amount, as each bank sets its own limit. A Grant of Representation will be needed to claim assets from the bank or other financial institutions.

Probate without a Will

Sometimes a person may die without making a Will – this is known as dying intestate or intestacy. The law will decide how to distribute assets including everything from money to pets. Intestacy rules don’t tend to acknowledge unmarried couples, step children, step siblings and unregistered partners. As a result, it’s essential to make a Will during your lifetime, especially if your family includes any of these relationships.

If you’d like to discuss your Will, get in touch with us at legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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