Category Archives: Estate Planning

When did you last update your Will?

Over half of people have not updated their Will. That’s according to a recent online poll. The survey found that while people have started to recognise the importance of Wills when it comes to establishing their final wishes, the majority are still unaware of the need to review them.

However, life can change quickly, so it is recommended that you review your Will after any significant life event, or every five years.

When do you need to update your Will?

The poll shows that people are largely unaware of the impact legislative and domestic changes can have on the distribution of their estate.

For example, even where a Will already exists, most people don’t know that getting married automatically invalidates it.

Here are just some of the instances when you should check your Will:

  • The birth of a child or grandchild
  • When buying a home (or other property)
  • When getting married
  • If you inherit any money or property
  • If you get a divorce
  • If you remarry
  • If you sell a home (or other property)
  • If you start a second family
  • If you need care and assistance.

Each of these circumstances will have an impact on your Will and some could even nullify it. Likewise, increases (or decreases) in wealth also require a Will review as it is crucial to ensure it reflects your current financial situation. That’s why, even if everything else stays the same, it is important to review your Will at least once every five years.

Regulatory amendments, such as inheritance tax changes, should also prompt a review to make sure you are taking advantage of all available exemptions and allowances.

Updating your Will is easy

Efficient and regular planning will give both you and your family peace of mind, and minimise the amount of inheritance tax due. By speaking to one of our expert team and taking the time to update your Will, you can help to ensure that your wealth is passed on in-line with your wishes.

We can provide all the guidance you need to update your Will so that it accurately reflects your wishes. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Successful succession…

Thinking about the future and what will happen to your family after you die, is not exactly a fun thing to do.

However, if you want the wealth that you have built up to continue on through your children and grandchildren’s generations, then it’s important to take a proactive approach.

So how do you ensure a successful wealth succession? Here are a handful of simple steps that are worth bearing in mind.

Initially, it’s worth discussing with your family how you see the wealth being used in the future – essentially, what is its purpose? Is it simply there to provide them with a comfortable lifestyle or do you have other grand hopes and aspirations?

Ensuring that the distribution of your assets is fair is another key factor. That doesn’t necessarily mean splitting them equally – this may not be desirable nor convenient.

Being open with those who will inherit on how you see the assets changing hands, and why, will likely help quash any potential resentment.

It’s important to get your family prepared for how they will handle that wealth too. If this represents a big change for them, there is a greater chance of the wealth being squandered.

So give them the opportunity to at least see how you manage those assets, if not giving them the chance to do so themselves in a controlled environment. With this level of preparation behind them, they will be better equipped to ensure the wealth continues on through future generations.

Finally, be on your guard for future risks. From economic crises to changes to the tax infrastructure, there are plenty of as-yet unknown dangers which could diminish that wealth.

Protecting against them will often involve the use of advisers, so get your loved ones used to working with them in advance of any actual succession.

Nobody likes to think about dying or how our families will cope after we have gone. But it is important to make sure they are prepared to handle the wealth left to them, in order to ensure it lasts throughout further generations, and that means talking openly about it.

Of course, the best way to ensure that your assets are divided precisely to your wishes is to write a comprehensive Will. Speak to one of the team here at legalmatters to make sure that your Will reflects your wishes. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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A right royal birth…

Unless you have managed to avoid all forms of media – both social and otherwise – this week, it can’t have escaped your attention that the newest addition to the House of Windsor has arrived.

The son of the future king of England was born, with exceptionally patriotic timing, on St George’s day. What a gloriously poetic and symbiotic meeting of all things English. Only Hugh Grant Morris dancing to God Save The Queen could have made the event more of a celebration of the Empire.

Within hours, both parents appeared at the door of the Lindo Wing looking impossibly flawless and presenting their gorgeous squishy bundle to the world’s expectant press. Catherine exchanged surgical stirrups for sling backs in less time than it takes the average mama to savour her buttery NHS toast and post natal cup of tea. Whilst undoubtedly proud, healthy and happy, not a single person would blame the Duchess if she were to scrape her hair back in a top knot, chuck on some comfy pjs and settle down with her newborn, a box set and a family size packet of Hob Nobs as soon as the doors of Kensington Palace closed behind her.

The Duke and Duchess are now officially outnumbered and life will be all the busier, noisier, messier and more filled with love as a result.

Any life changing event, especially the arrival of a new addition, is an excellent opportunity to consider your current legal arrangements. Future generations can even be catered for, without having to specifically name them within your estate planning documents. Which is handy when it takes a little while to decide on a moniker (although ‘Prince Gus’ certainly has a majestic ring to it if the Cambridges’ are looking for some suggestions).

Legalmatters are always available to review any existing documents in place or advise on new arrangements, to ensure that your family are considered and looked after in your lifetime planning and in your Will. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Bitcoins – are they properly covered in your Will?

Digital currency such as bitcoins are relatively new. However, they still form part of your estate when you die. They’re classed as “digital assets” similar to frequent flyer points or gaming credits. They might have dipped in value recently, but they are still worth money so you want to make sure they’re included in your will.

There are two key things to consider about this digital legacy.

The first thing relates to bitcoins being properly defined in your Will. If you already have a Will in place, you should check this. If they’re not covered, then you need to make an amendment. If you’re writing a new Will, then a professional Will-writer will be able to advise you on this from the start.

The other important factor to consider is how your beneficiaries are going to access your bitcoins. Passing on digital currency is more complex than passing on money stored in a traditional way such as a bank or savings account.

Bitcoins are stored in an encrypted electronic wallet which can be accessed only by an electronic key or password. Unlike banks and building societies, cryptocurrencies do not store names and addresses against the electronic wallets, so aside from the electronic key there is no way to identify who a wallet belongs to.

It’s vital then to make sure that you keep a secure copy of the key for your executors. Without it, it will be virtually impossible for them to access the wallet and the money will be lost.

You could consider entrusting the key with a secure storage service, in a safety deposit box or with your executor or a trusted family member. The main thing here is that it needs to be someone you trust as you are handing them access to your money.

For help with this or any aspect of Will writing, please give us a call at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk for further details.

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Trusts vs Prenups

Some recent research indicated a rise in families using discretionary trusts instead of pre-nuptial agreements to protect family assets.

Typically, people think of pre-nuptial agreements as the standard approach for couples to take when considering marriage. They are designed to separate personal property and wealth accumulated prior to marriage and safeguard it in the event of a divorce.

However, although a court will take a prenup into consideration if a couple are divorcing, they are not legally binding in the UK.

Whilst courts tend to uphold them, there are many factors which can result in them not being upheld, perhaps if the court deems the agreement unfair, if the couple did not receive independent advice, for instance.

Equally, prenups still hold a certain stigma and couples and families can often feel uncomfortable discussing them.

On the other hand, discretionary trusts are viewed more as a planning tool and allow parents to protect family wealth and assets against a future divorce.

Typically, in this type of trust, the parents will set themselves up as trustees. As well as having full control over the assets, they can also decide who can benefit from the trust whilst maintaining discretion to make payments or transfer assets from the trust if they wish.

Each parent can put up to £325,000 into a discretionary trust during their lifetime. (This figure may be reduced if other gifts have been made). As long as the value of the gifts made and the value being put into the trust do not exceed £325,000 in the last seven years there will be no immediate inheritance tax to pay either. If the parents live for another seven years, these assets will not form part of the estate for inheritance tax purposes.

In light of these factors, discretionary trusts are certainly something that families should consider. Not only can it protect family wealth in the event of a divorce later on, it can also help to reduce a future inheritance tax bill.

Whilst they are complex, setting up a trust can be straightforward if you received the right advice. As well as minimising tax responsibilities a trust can also help to protect your assets in the future.

To find out how you could benefit from a prenup or a trust, give us a call at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk for further details.

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Could you be a royal legacy?

Most of us at some point have probably wondered about our family history. Sure, you may know about your grandparents’ roots and perhaps even a generation or two before that, but where does your family line start?

What sort of riches or scandal have your ancestors seen? It’s because of this curiosity about our family histories that shows like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ have become so popular, as have websites helping you to trace your family tree.

So could you have royal blood? According to a study from researchers at the University of California and the London School of Economics, your last name could be a good indicator of whether you are one of the top 1%.

The study looked at unique surnames among the richest – names like Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham – and found that when it comes to social mobility, moving in and out of the upper classes takes centuries, not just generations.

In fact, on average upper-class families took between 300 and 450 years before their descendants dropped into the middle classes.

Fascinatingly, of the people who died between 1999 and 2012, if they had one of the 181 rare surnames of wealthy families in the mid-19th century, they were generally three times wealthier than the rest.

Whether you come from generations of wealth or are completely self-made, it is vital that you take steps early on to ensure that you pass it on to your family members as seamlessly as possible.

That may mean considering your likely inheritance tax liabilities, but you will also need to write a Will.

After all, writing a Will is the best possible tool at your disposal to ensure that your assets are divided precisely as you wish after you pass away. If you don’t, you may be exposing your family to unnecessary heartache at an already difficult time.

For help and advice on writing your Will, get in touch with us at legalmatters by calling us on 01243 216900 or emailing us at info@legalmatters.co.uk for further details.

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What can legacy giving do for your tax bill?

Who are you going to leave money to in your Will? Your spouse or partner is probably first in line, any children or extended members of the family may pop up here and there too.

But what about charity?

Thousands of people every year choose to leave a gift to charity in their Will, whether it’s a fixed amount, a fixed percentage of their estate or even just what’s left after other gifts have been handed out to their surviving loved ones.

It doesn’t have to be a charity that you’ve been particularly involved with during your life either – you can leave money to any registered charity.

There’s another bonus to doing this, besides simply helping a good cause. Legacy giving – where you leave money to a charity – can also reduce your inheritance tax bill.

With inheritance tax, you – or rather your estate – is charged a rate of 40% on every £1 that the estate is valued above the nil rate threshold, which currently stands at £325,000 (though couples essentially enjoy a £650,000 threshold).

However, when you leave money to charity, it won’t count towards the value of the rest of your estate, giving you the opportunity to reduce the value of your estate below that threshold, ensuring no further tax is payable.

Even if your estate is still valued about the threshold, charitable giving can help reduce your tax bill. If you leave 10% of your net estate to charity, then the inheritance tax charged on the remainder of your estate falls from 40% to 36%, a reduction which could see the estate save thousands of pounds in tax.

Many of us regularly give to charitable causes while we’re alive. To do so after your death will not only help support good causes with some of your estate, but for your beneficiaries there are tax benefits that can come with it. Obviously, you should discuss this carefully with your loved ones and your will writer when drafting your Will.

It’s important for you to be clear when drawing up legal documents. Legalmatters can help, we’re always happy to discuss your needs or answer your questions. Call us today on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk for further details.

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The unspoken word: how to talk about making a Will…

There are many difficult emotions to deal with when someone dies. It can be made even more challenging if the details of the Will come as a surprise to loved ones left behind.

If an adult child or relation doesn’t inherit what they expected, they can see it as a sign that they weren’t loved or that others were loved more. Those sorts of hurts can run deep and cause anguish for years to come, sometimes leading to a Will being contested.

However, by simply talking about your Will in advance, all of this confusion and heartache can be avoided.

Of course, it can be a tricky discussion to have. Many people don’t like to contemplate their death and family relationships can be tricky at the best of times. However, by openly talking about your estate as well as how you’d like it to be distributed, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of problems emerging later down the line.

Here are our tips on how to go about it:

  1. Mention to your family in advance that you would like to discuss their inheritance.
  2. Talk to your family, individually and as a group.
  3. Prepare an outline of what you intend to do although be receptive to other’s views and consider changing your plans if someone has a better idea.
  4. Explain your goals – you may wish to leave some of your money to charity for example or put some aside for your grandchildren’s education. Explain why these matters are important to you.
  5. In general, it is best to treat your children equally. However, if one child has a special need or disability, and you feel it is your duty to leave more to them, ensure that your reasoning is made clear.
  6. Discuss your sentimental possessions and how you think that they should be distributed. Emotions can run high over these regardless of their value so take time to find out who would like what and try to reach a unanimous agreement.
  7. Be calm and tactful. Discussions such as these can be rewarding if children begin to reminisce over why an object is sentimental to them. However, they can also be tense and emotional so do take this into account.
  8. If you feel that this type of meeting may become argumentative, consider having a neutral party attend. This could be a respected family friend or a professional adviser such as your lawyer or accountant, particularly if they are going to be executor of the will as well.

Ultimately, what goes into your Will is personal, but a conversation about it now could save a lot of anguish at the probate stage.

If you are thinking about planning a Will, or would like to change an existing one, give us a call at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Writing a business LPA…

The use of the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – where an ‘attorney’ is appointed to make certain decisions on your behalf should you reach the point where you are unable to make them yourself – has increased significantly in recent years.

However, it would be a mistake to view LPAs as purely a tool for individual use. A business or commercial LPA can prove just as useful if you happen to own your own business.

What would happen if you were injured or fell seriously ill? It may be that you have company documents such as a partnership deed or shareholders agreement to say who would take over the running of the company but who makes shareholder decisions i.e. who would be in charge of those strategic decisions on which the future of the business will depend?

While there may be some form of informal understanding among you and your senior team of who would take on that responsibility that may not be enough if you are also a shareholder in a business. Without some form of legal structure in place, there may be issues with them accessing the business’s bank accounts, arranging contracts with suppliers, even paying the salaries of the existing staff. It may not take long for the company to end up in serious difficulties.

Writing a business LPA is an excellent way to tackle this, ensuring that an appointed attorney is in place to step in and maintain continuity should you no longer be able to fill that role.

Picking a suitable attorney for a business LPA is not altogether different to selecting one for a personal LPA. You need to find someone who you trust, who is reliable and who has a similar outlook and attitude towards the business as you. It’s vital that you talk this responsibility through with them in advance though, so they are well aware of what will be expected of them should you fall ill or be involved in an accident.

As with a personal LPA, you can appoint more than one attorney, and specify that they act together in certain areas but separately in others.

Successful business owners pride themselves on being prepared for all situations, and sadly ill health is an important one to consider. Without making it clear legally that one of your team can step in and make important business decisions on your behalf, if you are no longer able to, it can put the very future of the firm in danger. Having a business LPA in place is vital.

To find out more about LPAs, contact legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk to discuss your particular situation.

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Common law marriage or common misconception…

Common law marriage? That old chestnut!

Whether you are familiar with the specific term or not, you may be aware of the concept. The idea that if you live with someone, your assets will simply pass to your partner upon death.

Whilst this is certainly one of the most common assumptions amongst the population at large, unfortunately – and more specifically, legally – it is simply not the case.

Like many things in life, assumptions such as this tend to form over time, passing unquestionably into the general conscious until they have become ‘fact’. Chinese Whispers that have gradually become engrained as folk-law and accepted as true; such as the Great Wall of China being visible from space, goldfish having 3 second memories or Eastenders actually being any good. All faux-facts. It is important to challenge these misconceptions as relying on this misinformation can have potentially damaging consequences.

Given the proportion of people that are cohabiting, the potential extent of the problem is even more worrying.

Survey results from the Office for National Statistics recently showed that cohabitees are the second most common type of family, with the total for 2017 standing at 3.3 million. Cohabiting families are the fastest growing type of family, with the most recent figure being more than double that which was recorded in 1996.

In addition to showing a clear shift in values towards the ‘traditional’ family structure, it also represents an increasing number of families who may be unaware of the consequences when it comes to later life planning.

So, is common-law marriage a myth?

In short, absolutely.

Without a Will, ‘the rule of intestacy’ will step in and your assets will be distributed according to it. Under these rules, only spouses, civil partners and close relatives will automatically be able to inherit your wealth – cohabitees not included. Even if you have been living with a cohabiting partner for many years, this will not increase their right to your estate.

The concern regarding cohabitees is further supported by figures from family justice organisation, Resolution. They reveal that over two-thirds of cohabiting couples don’t know that ‘common-law’ marriage has no legal grounding in the UK – a worrying statistic.

The only way to ensure that your possessions are passed on in line with your wishes is to write a Will.

Though it might seem like a hassle, writing a will can be easy when you’ve got experts to help you, not to mention give you priceless peace of mind.

To assume is to make an ass of u and me.

If you need some help in writing your Will, then speak to a member of the team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk to find out more.