Category Archives: Estate Planning

Going on holiday

Making a Will before you go on holiday

While no-one really wants another task to do before they go away on holiday, it really is a good idea to make sure you have a valid Will in place before you travel.

Taking a trip will always involve a small risk, and many people take out insurance just in case something happens. Think of a Will in the same way; it probably won’t be needed, but once you have it in place, you can forget about it and enjoy your break.

Increased risk level on holiday

When we’re away, we often try activities we wouldn’t at home, and they may well be things we’re not proficient at. While there is rarely a problem, very occasionally things can go wrong.

Some countries have lower road safety levels than the UK, meaning a higher risk of an accident while travelling. Some places face regular natural disasters such as flooding, subsidence, earthquakes or tsunamis.

There are diseases in some countries that can on occasion be fatal or a risk of injury or poisoning from the local wildlife, and medical care might be of a lower standard than you would wish.

While these are not common occurrences, insurance companies understand that the risks do exist. It makes sense to put a Will in place, in the same way that we might arrange an insurance policy.

Why you should make sure you have a Will

If you die intestate, ie. without a valid Will in place, your money and assets such as your home and personal possessions will pass under the Rules of Intestacy, to particular members of your family. You may have wished to leave your money elsewhere, or in different proportions, but without a Will, no-one will be able to carry out your wishes.

You can also include requests about your funeral, what should happen if you die overseas and details regarding care of any minor children if you have them. This can cover not only who you would like to become their legal guardian, but also financial provision.

It is always a good idea to have a Will in place, even if you aren’t planning any travelling. This applies to every age group, not just older generations. If you have any assets, then it makes sense to make your wishes clear, so that they can go to those you choose.

While no-one enjoys thinking about writing their Will, once it is in place there is usually a sense of relief, knowing that your wishes have been recorded and will be carried out should anything happen to you. In the meantime you are free to relax and enjoy life, including any trips you have planned.

If you would like to talk to someone about writing your Will, speak to one of our team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Are there any restrictions as to who can make a Will?

There are certain restrictions as to who can make a Will, including age and capacity.

In England and Wales you generally need to be 18 before you can make a Will. It is always advisable to make a Will once you reach that age, even if you feel you might not have anything much to leave.

You can include your wishes for social media accounts as well as leave gifts of items other than cash which you may want friends or family members to receive from you.

If you own your own home or are involved in a business you should make sure you have a Will.

Those under 18 may be allowed to make a Will if they are in the armed forces on active duty or they are sailors at sea. A law introduced during the First World War allows young people in these circumstances to make a Privileged Will allowing them to leave their possessions as they wish.

Other restrictions on making a Will

You are required to have ‘testamentary capacity’ to make a Will. This means that you must fully understand the nature of the document and its effect.

You also need to know the extent of the property you own.

Finally, you need to be able to understand the moral obligations you should consider, for example whether you have any dependents who are more in need of financial help than others, through illness or incapacity or because they themselves have dependents.

When should you make a Will?

You should make a Will straight away if you don’t already have one, and plan to review it regularly, particularly as life changes.

You may want to have your Will rewritten on the arrival of children or grandchildren or if you get divorced.

If you marry, any Will you have will become invalid and you will need a new one or your estate would pass under the Rules of Intestacy.

If you own a business or are in a partnership you should have a Will drawn up taking this into account.

If you are co-habiting then making a Will ensures that you can leave that person something if you wish. If you die without making provision for them, it is possible they will receive nothing.

A recent survey found that three-quarters of adults questioned did not have a Will. Whatever your circumstances, if you clearly set out your wishes it not only means that the administration process will be easier for people, but you can be assured that your beneficiaries will receive exactly what you want them to have.

To speak to someone about writing your Will, call one of our specialist team at legalmatters, on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Partner's assets

A quarter of people don’t have details of their partner’s assets…

Research carried out by Direct Line Group has found that 25% of people who are married or co-habiting don’t know where their partner’s money is.

This could cause problems in the event that someone dies. If the extent and whereabouts of their assets isn’t known, the administration of their estate could be delayed for a long period of time while searches and enquiries are made. In the worst case scenario, money could simply be lost.

32% of those questioned did not have any details of their partner’s workplace pension and 28% had not shared details of their savings account.

Women share fewer details than men and were found to be five times more likely to keep secret savings.

A study by GoCompare found that on average secret savings amounted to just over £10,000, with a fifth having more than £25,000.

What happens when details of assets aren’t shared

An estimated £2 billion exists in unclaimed bank accounts, with many billions more believed to be in lost pensions, life assurance policies and other investments such as shares.

If assets can’t easily be located after death, there is a risk they will be lost. Executors will need to conduct searches to try and locate what they can, but unless there is a clear list of all holdings, some may well be missed.

How to ensure assets can be located after death

If you don’t want to give your partner details of your financial affairs you can draw up a list of your assets to be placed with your Will and stored by your solicitor at their offices.

This should include the names and account numbers of your holdings and you should aim to regularly update the list.

If you have bank or building society accounts that aren’t used, then remember to check them from time to time. Banks may archive the account after a number of years if you don’t respond to enquiries by them and an unattended account may fall prey to hackers.

As banks and building societies merge or are taken over, it is easy for accounts to be forgotten. Old pension accounts can also be overlooked as people move on to new jobs.

Make an inventory of your financial affairs and ensure that you are in control of your money and aware of its location.

Check that your Will is up to date and reflects your wishes. Let those close to you know where your Will is stored or keep a letter from your solicitor confirming that they have the Will with your personal papers.

To find out how we can help, call one of our experts at legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Business in a Will

Why, as a business owner, you need a solicitor to write your Will…

When you own a business, not using a professional lawyer to draw up your Will is almost always a mistake.

Failing to cover all your assets and not considering issues around inheritance tax, executors and trusts are two common mistakes made with a DIY Will. But even the smallest of mistakes could render a Will invalid – such as if it’s witnessed by the wrong people or number of people; if it’s not signed or dated in the right place.

Having a valid Will in place is essential if you want the final say in what happens to your business and other assets after you die.

If you die without a Will, or if it’s invalid, everything you own – including business and non-business assets – will be distributed under the laws of intestacy. Which means that you or your loved ones will have no say as to who inherits. To avoid your assets being dealt with under the rules of intestacy, your Will should detail what will happen to your business shares.

Business assets

When you die, any shares or interest you own in a business become an asset of your estate. Without a Will, these shares could be sold, the company could be broken up, or it could run into trouble without the correct day-to-day management in place.

For example, you might know who you want to inherit your business after you die, but what happens if there’s a tragedy and these people don’t survive? A professional solicitor will know what questions to ask to make sure that your Will covers all situations.

Take a look at the package “Business Wealth Protection” which we’ve put together specifically for business owners. We will look at all eventualities and the Will we draft for you will include a trust and letter of wishes to ensure that inheritance tax is handled in the most cost-efficient way.

In some cases, you might already have a partnership agreement or company papers in place that set out what will happen to the business after you die. These types of contracts are usually put in place if more than one person owns a business and you want the company to continue after your death. You should also consider whether you need a business lasting power of attorney. We’ll help you decide what legal documents you need to draw up in order to carry out your wishes and best protect your business and your loved ones.

It is always important when drawing up a Will that it is done correctly, and for business owners this is more complex. We can help guide you through the process. Just speak to one of our expert team by calling legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Professional Will writing

5 good reasons for having your Will drawn up by a Solicitor…

There are many reasons for having your Will drawn up by a Solicitor. Here are 5 of our top reasons.

  1. Top of our list, making your Will is one of the most important things you’ll ever do.

Without a Will, how will you get to say who inherits your assets? For instance, without a Will, and where there are no known heirs, your estate will be passed to the Government. This could include property, money and personal possessions. Where there are relatives, under the UK’s inheritance laws (Rules of Intestacy), people who are blood relatives could be entitled to a share of your estate. Even distant relations could be in for a windfall. And partners may not recognised if you were not married or in a civil partnership. Neither are stepchildren.

  1. The need for clarity

So you’ve sensibly decided to draw up your Will. But if you’re thinking of creating a handwritten Will, then think very carefully about it. There are various legal requirements for a handwritten Will (also known as a ‘holograph’ Will).

For instance, it must be signed by the Testator (the person making the Will) in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign the Will in the presence of the Testator. Furthermore, the Testator must understand that in doing this, they are creating a Will. So it needs to be a clear and final expression of intention about where assets should go upon your death.

That’s not always as easy as it sounds…

  1. Mind your language

For the Will to be legal, the correct language and terminology needs to be used. What might seem obvious to you might not be evident in the eyes of the law. And if you do it yourself, you’ll not know that until it’s too late, when the Will gets read, after your death.

Which leads us on to…

  1. Avoiding Disputed Wills

You don’t want your Will to be disputed after you die. But there are some common instances that lead to a Will being challenged:

  • Changing family structures which often include unmarried couples living together and second families
  • An ageing population and the increased risk of mental health and dementia
  • Rising property values resulting in a growing number of estates worth contesting
  • An increase in the number of people leaving money to charities.

A Will can be overruled following a challenge. Whether it is or it is not overturned, such disagreements about inheritance are usually devastating for those left behind, and often very expensive to resolve.

A carefully drafted Will would avoid this heartache…

  1. And finally, that most hated penalty, Inheritance tax

When you make a Will you’ll want to make sure that your beneficiaries don’t pay any more Inheritance Tax than they have to.

There are many ways to limit your liability, but unless you are an expert in this area, your beneficiaries could end up paying the taxman far more than is necessary.

Advice on how to distribute your assets in your Will can make the most of allowances and protect any vulnerable beneficiaries…

Talk to us about your Will. We are experts and can help you through the process. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Are you a Homeowner? Concerned about Inheritance Tax? Read on…

Holding your properties as tenants in common is a simple change to the way your property or properties are held which can save you thousands of pounds.

But what does this mean? This article aims to explain the legal terminology of tenants in common in plain English and how it could benefit you.

How tenants in common works
Most couples own their homes as joint tenants, meaning they both own the whole home. Holding the property as tenants in common means that each owns a share of the property, either a percentage or half each. This protects the agreed share for couples who have put unequal deposits into a property. If parents are gifting deposits to their children, it is also a way of easing fears in case of a break-up or death.

In the case of tenants in common, one partner can leave their share of the property on death whilst allowing the other partner to continue living there, passing the remaining share on death. It can also prevent your home being sold in the event you need to go into long term care.

Tax implications
There is no Inheritance Tax (IHT) for assets left in a Will to their spouse – in other words the surviving partner doesn’t have to pay IHT. After the remaining partner dies, the beneficiaries of their estate, usually the children, do have to pay IHT.

The rising cost of houses means that one property alone can put the estate over the IHT threshold. If the house is owned as joint tenants, both own the whole property. If one partner dies, the other automatically becomes the sole owner of the home. In the case of tenants in common each person owns a share of the house, usually split half and half.

Joint owners can split their home in two, therefore benefiting from tenants in common. By doing so, the half belonging to the person who passes away first, would be inherited by the beneficiaries immediately.

Provided the half is worth less than £325,000 – the current IHT threshold, no tax will be due. When the remaining partner dies, their half, inherited by the same children, could be under the threshold which again would mean no IHT is due.

Making it happen
You’ll need to inform Land Registry of the split and also write to each other to specify your intentions of the split.

As providers of Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Trusts we can take care of all of this on your behalf. For further information or to arrange an appointment please call one of our expert team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Back To School…

Whether you sent your pride and joy to school for the first time this September, or they’re into their second, third or fourth year, most parents feel a flutter of apprehension when letting go of their hand on the first day.

Doing everything to protect your child comes naturally. From planning a safe route for your kids to get to or from school and ensuring they know the green cross code to protecting them from bullying.

Protection comes in many shapes and forms. At this time of year, once they are safely in school, now is the time to make sure they are protected should something happen to you.

24,000 children a year experience the death of a parent according to charity Winston’s Wish.
Did you know that if both of a child’s parents die and there’s no valid Will and therefore no appointed guardian, children could be put in foster care until the courts decide who they should live with?

Added to which, most of us don’t live in the nuclear family of the past which adds additional complications.

Making a Will allows you to:

  • Decide who will take care of your children should something happen to you
  • Make it known how, and where, your children should be educated
  • Ensure that there won’t be any family disputes or court battles over who takes care of your children
  • Plus, any other wishes you have from what they eat to what they should receive as pocket money….

As parents, we all want the best for our children, and this is probably one of the easiest ways of protecting them. Making a Will also costs less than you may think. To discuss writing a Will speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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