Category Archives: Lasting Powers of Attorney

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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Do you need a living Will?

A living Will (or an advance decision as it is also known) allows you to make a decision about refusing medical treatment in the future. It means that if you are ever in a position where you cannot communicate your wishes, medical staff know what they are. This can even include a decision not to receive certain life-sustaining treatment.

An advance decision is a legally binding document. However, if your family or medical staff are unaware you have prepared one, then your wishes may not be honoured.

This was the case for Brenda Grant. Brenda suffered a stroke in 2012 and although she had prepared an advance decision stating that she did not want certain treatments, she was fed artificially for two years.

In this case the hospital was in possession of the advance decision but had misplaced it.

Whilst Brenda had informed her doctor of her decision, she had not told her family, so it was only when her doctor flagged it up two years later that her wishes were finally respected.

If she had chosen to prepare a lasting power of attorney (LPA) instead, this situation could have been avoided.

An LPA for health and welfare covers a wide range of issues relating to the care of an individual if they don’t have the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Though it is a legal document just like the living Will, it must be lodged with the Office of the Public Guardian in order for it to be recognised. This ensures that it will be recorded on a national and searchable register. One or more attorneys (normally family members) must be appointed to make the decisions, so in the event of you not being able to make them yourself, there is less risk that your wishes will not be known.

An attorney must make decisions that are in the best interest of the donor (the person who the LPA relates to). The donor can detail what their preferences are and list any instructions for specific circumstances.

Whilst it is possible to have both a living Will and an LPA for health and welfare set up, the latter will take precedence should a conflict arise.

At legalmatters we’re always happy to discuss our clients’ needs and to answer their questions. Call us today 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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Help! I’ve been asked to be an Attorney!

The number of people making use of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) agreements has increased enormously in recent years. In fact, according to data from a Freedom of Information request, the number of LPAs has increased threefold since 2010.

This is undoubtedly a good thing; LPAs allow you (the “donor”) to nominate an “attorney” – perhaps a relative, a friend, a professional (for example a solicitor), your husband/wife/partner – to step in and make decisions on your behalf should you no longer be able to do so.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society there are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and that’s expected to pass the million mark by 2025. As a result, an LPA is an excellent piece of planning, ensuring that someone you trust will be making decisions in your best interest should the need arise.

But what about the people that are asked to be an attorney? What does it mean for them?

  • It’s a significant responsibility, so generally people are advised to select good friends or close relatives to be their attorney.
  • As there may be a lot of administration involved – such as sorting out a care home, paying the care fees and keeping up to date records of the donor’s affairs – they need to be reliable.
  • At all times, the attorney will be expected to act in the best interests of the donor, acting in accordance with the terms of the LPA.
  • What’s more, the attorney cannot ask anyone else to take over their duties unless the donor has authorised them to do so.
  • All of this will be unpaid, although the attorney will be able to claim reasonable expenses.

For anyone who’s been asked to be an attorney but believes that it may be too much for them, it’s important to speak to the donor in advance of the LPA being registered, when it would be too late.

LPAs can give donors peace of mind that someone they trust is making decisions on their behalf. However, selecting the right attorney may be more complicated than it first appears, and it’s vital that attorneys are clear on their responsibilities before taking on the role.

For help preparing an LPA – or to discuss the responsibilities of an attorney – call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Estate Planning – Who’s Who?

There are some fairly obvious legal words used when writing a Will but here’s a definition of some of those which might otherwise be misunderstood.

Administrator (sometimes administratix for a woman) – the person appointed by law to settle the affairs of someone who dies without a Will, so usually their next of kin.

Beneficiaries – this is anyone – a person, organisation or charity – left an inheritance (legacy, gift, trust) in a Will, or if there is no Will, under the intestacy rules.

Substitutional beneficiary – if a beneficiary dies before the person making the Will, a substitutional beneficiary will receive a gift in their place.

Bereaved – those surviving the deceased.

Crown or Treasury – this refers to the Government. If you don’t have a Will and have no next of kin, the Crown receives your estate.

Deceased – the person who has died.

Dependents – anyone who is cared for by the person making the Will. It normally includes children, spouse or elderly/sick relatives.

Executor (sometimes executrix for a woman) – the person or people you choose to make sure the instructions in your Will are carried out. You can choose a family member, a friend or a probate professional. An executor may also be a beneficiary of the Will.

Guardian – someone named in a Will who is appointed to take parental responsibility for any children aged under 18 at the time of the person making the Will’s death. They are known as a testamentary guardian.

Issue – this refers to a person’s lineal descendants. So their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It does not include step-children.

Personal Representative – a general term for anyone in charge of administering a deceased person’s estate. It could refer to an executor or administrator of the Will.

Power of Attorney – a Power of Attorney may be given by executors and administrators to probate professionals to allow them to sort the Will without having to ask the executors to sign everything.

Trustee – a person or a Trust corporation (such as a bank) appointed to administer any Trusts created by a Will or arising under the rules of intestacy (so when there is no Will).

Testator (sometimes testatrix for a woman) – the person making the Will.

Child of the testator – in law this refers to children of the testator and includes legitimate, illegitimate, adopted and some surrogate children, but not automatically step-children.

Wards of Court – orphaned children with no appointed guardians are made wards of court. The court then decides what happens to them.

Witness – you must have two witnesses to see you sign your Will. You must watch them sign it and they must also watch each other sign it. You can’t choose a beneficiary (or their spouse) to witness your Will.

It’s important 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.

Don’t make inheritance tax taxing…

Whenever Brits are polled on their most hated tax, without fail, one tax in particular always finishes top – inheritance tax. As a nation, we want to leave as much as we can after death to our loved ones and the thought of the taxman taking a slice evidently gets our goat.

Here are some simple and efficient ways to reduce your inheritance tax liability and to ensure you leave as little as possible to the taxman.

Making a Will

Did you know that failing to write a Will generally means you will end up paying more inheritance tax? Without a Will in place, your estate will be doled out according to the rules of intestacy, and chances are the taxman will help himself to a healthy chunk of it.

Did you also know that one simple way to reduce your inheritance tax via your Will is to leave some to charity, as these gifts are free of tax?

Understand the thresholds

Inheritance tax is charged on estates once they pass £325,000 in value, at a rate of 40% on everything above that value. However, couples are able to pass their allowance over in full to their partner – in other words, couples have a £650,000 allowance overall. If their combined estate ends up being worth less than that, there will be no tax to pay.

There is also a new additional element to bear in mind here. The ‘main residence’ allowance allows you to pass on your family home to a direct descendent, with an additional tax-free allowance included. For this year it stands at £100,000 and will increase each year until 2020/21 when it hits £175,000. As this allowance applies per person, it will mean a total tax-free allowance of £1 million for couples.

Gifts

Even if you give something away, the taxman will still class it as being part of your estate if you die within seven years of making the gift. It’s a way of preventing people from handing over their home on their deathbed and avoiding the duty. Live longer than seven years and there’s no tax to pay.

However, there are certain gift allowances anyway which are free of tax. Everyone has a £3,000 limit each year, and what’s more this limit carries over to the following year if you don’t use it, to a maximum of £6,000.

On top of that you can give away £250 to each of any number of people every year, while further allowances are in place for wedding gifts to family members, friends and even political parties.

Write your life insurance policy in Trust

Lastly, it’s a good idea to write your life insurance policy in Trust, as this essentially separates it from the rest of your estate.

Usually your life insurance payout will be added to the value of your estate before it is paid out to your loved ones, meaning they have to wait a while in order to receive anything and then may have to pay tax on that payout too.

But writing it in Trust means it is viewed as being outside of your estate, ensuring that your loved ones get every penny and likely get the money quicker to boot.

If you need some help in making the most of your allowances, writing a Will, setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney or Trusts, 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.

Live to work, or work to live?

Unfortunately fellas, it is a proven statistic that ladies are winning in the longevity stakes, compared to their hairier counterparts.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics have the average female’s life expectancy coming in at 88.3 years, with the chaps not far behind at a nevertheless none too shabby 85.6 years.

Reasons for this difference are down to a variety of factors; socio economic, geographic and last but not least, being unbelievably stubborn (presumably). In addition, recent data from the ONS also uncovered that different jobs can also affect people’s life expectancy, and not just for the obvious reasons (needless to say, supervillains and Road Runner pest control operatives don’t fare too well).

The study concluded that for both sexes, if you work in a higher managerial position or in a professional occupation, such as a doctor or architect, you can expect to add an additional 365+ days onto your life. If on the other hand you work in what is classed as a ‘routine occupation’ (such as a lorry driver, bar staff or labourer) then statistically, you can shave off just over a year.

More men and women from professional jobs are likely to make their magic 100th birthday than those not working in the professions. Indeed, men are a whopping 3 times more likely to reach this milestone, compared with their non-professional male counterparts.

Since the mid-1980s when this 30-year study commenced, life expectancy across all jobs has been steadily increasing. This is brilliant news. Against all the odds, and in the face of constant nuclear and cold war threats, hairspray related holes in the ozone layer and a diet consisting almost entirely of microwavable meals, e-numbers and Findus Crispy Pancakes, we made it out the other side. Well done everyone!

Naturally, the longer you live, the more risk you have of developing various illnesses. Nearly 60% of those aged 80 or over have a disability. The leading cause of disability, ahead of stroke, heart disease and some cancers, is dementia.

And therein lies the poignant issue; whilst a long life in certainly something to be applauded, surely a happy, healthy and fulfilled life is what we all strive for?

Obviously, none of us can predict the future. For every base jumping, bomb disposal expert who dies peacefully in their sleep well into their 90s, you will have a sensible, cautious, risk assessor who gets hit by a bus at 26. We are only on this beautiful planet for such a short amount of time but being in a job you dislike is certainly one way to make the days feel longer. Life is, quite frankly, too short. So follow your bliss to make the years happy ones, regardless of what job you are in. It’s not particularly realistic to think about changing your job to try to affect the statistics, but it is worth planning ahead.

Whatever your vocation, everyone should have a Will in place, and one which is reviewed from time to time to reflect changing circumstances. Given that the chances are increasing of developing an illness which might affect mental capacity, everyone should have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) set up too.

Legalmatters will definitely be receiving a telegram from the Queen (or presumably the King by then) congratulating us on our centenary. A heady mixture of the best clients in the land and a steady stream of cake, means job satisfaction levels are through the roof and eternal life is surely on the cards.

But if loving your job really is the key to a longer life, surely you can’t get better than the recently advertised ‘International Gin Taster’ as a key to eternal youth? Legalmatters imagines that the successful ‘gintern’ may well live forever (if indeed, their liver can keep up). Chin chin.

Only 5% Are Prepared For The Future

Whenever we spot a new wrinkle or grey hair, we often pause for a moment and consider how the years are rolling by. Most of us at some point will also worry about how our health might deteriorate in our later years.

In a recent study by a national law firm, 75% of respondents said they worried about getting older and 70% were specifically concerned about developing dementia. Surprisingly, despite these worries, only 5% had made plans to deal with such an eventuality.

When someone develops an illness such as dementia, or is involved in an accident that takes away their capacity to make decisions for themselves, someone else needs to make decisions for them. But nobody has the automatic right to do so. Neither your partner nor your children nor your closest friends and relatives can, unless you have specifically given them permission in advance in the form of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

An LPA can only be made while you have the mental capacity to do so. If you lose capacity to make your own decisions and there is no LPA in place, your loved ones will need to apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy to make your decisions for you. They can apply to be appointed as your deputy, but it will be the court that makes this decision rather than you.

It costs £82 to register an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian.

On the other hand, the costs for setting up a deputy via the Court of Protection are more expensive. The application fee is £400 for each type of deputyship: health/welfare and property/financial affairs. An appeal, if required, is another £400 and if the court decides a hearing is required, that’s a further £500. In addition, there is an assessment fee of £100 for new deputies and an annual supervision fee.

No-one likes to consider what may befall them in the future. It’s a much easier job to plan for though if done in advance. The financial and emotional cost for your family to deal with it after the event can be significant. Perhaps most importantly of all, LPAs allow the individual concerned to document their wishes around what happens to them at a later date and decide who will make those decisions on their behalf.

For help preparing an LPA, please call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

The Forsyth Saga

Last Friday, news broke of the sad death of Sir Bruce Forsyth. The former Strictly Come Dancing host and all round National Treasure passed away at the age of 89, following a lengthy battle with illness. 

Reports in various national papers have since detailed the star’s alleged estate planning which, according to ‘a friend’, was done in an effort to “avoid it being gobbled up by the taxman”. By all accounts, Sir Bruce has left all of his £17million estate (didn’t he do well?) to his wife outright where it has then been widely reported that his widow Wilnelia will then “be able to transfer up to £650,000 to each relative tax free to avoid inheritance tax”.

Whilst is it true that legacies to spouses are free from inheritance tax by virtue of the spousal exemption, legalmatters shakes its head at the level of misinformation reported. Quite frankly it doesn’t even know where to start with dissecting what a flawed and short-sighted piece of alleged tax planning this represents, but here goes.

So what is the actual position (if indeed these were his wishes) and why might it be regarded as a potentially reckless and ineffective idea?

First of all, the tabloid press have been quoting the figure of £650,000 supposedly available for Wilnelia to generously distribute ‘to each relative’ once Sir Bruce’s legacy has been transferred. Each relative!?! If this was the case, then the majority of estate planners would be out of a job and considered, surplus to requirements.

It would appear that the press have confused the level of transferrable nil rate band available to the surviving spouse on death with what an individual is able to give away tax free during their lifetime. Whilst Wilnelia would indeed be able to benefit from her late husband’s inherited nil rate band of £325,000 to combine with her own on her death, her late husband’s nil rate band is not something that she would be free to make use of during her lifetime. The articles also totally disregard the newly established ‘residential nil rate band’ that this tax year alone would have increased the late entertainer’s tax free allowance by an additional £100,000 (but latterly would allow a combined nil rate band of £1,000,000 if left to lineal descendants).

Any legacy left to a spouse is free of tax by virtue of the spousal exemption. Wilnelia is, of course, free to make gifts to whoever she likes during her lifetime. As long as she were to live another 7 years following such gifts (of any monetary value) these would also be inheritance tax ‘free’. Quite honestly, she could gift the full £17 million equally amongst his 6 children (or whoever she so wishes) as soon as she had received the monies from probate, should she be so inclined, but therein lies the issue.

If indeed this is the arrangement, there is NOTHING obliging Wilnelia to carry out the ‘wishes’ of her late husband. Outright gifts by their very nature, leave the recipient free to do whatever they like with the legacy. Despite ‘wishes’ or ‘instructions’ from the deceased, there is nothing legally binding to see that these are fulfilled. The deceased is simply requesting the recipient to make distributions and is hoping that this will be carried out. Whilst this level of trust is admirable, the private client practitioner knows more than most that trusting your relatives to ‘do the right thing’ on your death is a dangerous assumption.

Let us assume that, despite having no legal obligations to do so, the recipient of the legacy has every honourable intention of making these posthumous gifts. They themselves would need to survive another 7 years which is always a risky proposition. What instead, if they were to lose mental capacity and unable to make such transfers? Michael Schumacher’s tragic accident and resultant circumstances have shown that age, wealth and level of fitness have nothing to do with a lack of mental capacity and inability to manage your own affairs. How can we be sure that Wilnelia shall live a long and untroubled life, free of illness and incapacity? Her ability to make gifts from her late husband’s fortune and to therefore share the wealth and to reduce her own liabilities to inheritance tax is dependent on her being mentally fit and well; certainly, any attorneys that she may have appointed won’t be able to undertake such tax planning ventures without court authority (another common misconception).

So what might Sir Bruce have done to make provision for his children and grandchildren (and indeed he could well have done, because we are commenting on the reporting, not on actual events)?

Lifetime gifting would have been the best starting point. If carried out wisely and cautiously, after careful advice and taking all needs of the parties into due consideration, then lifetime gifting is an excellent way of reducing your tax bill.

And what about the use of trusts? Despite trusts having their own particular tax regimes, they are immensely useful structures to protect and preserve assets against unknown circumstances. Tax shouldn’t necessarily always be the driver, particularly where significant wealth is concerned.

Finally, any charitable giving would have the double benefit of not only being exempt from IHT for the legacy itself, but it could also have reduced his IHT rate to 36% if he had left 10% or more of his total estate to charity. A Brucie bonus if you will.

For the papers to glibly report that Sir Bruce has ‘in one fell swoop’ cannily avoided inheritance tax and at the same time ensured that his wealth lands where he would wish is, in our humble opinion, grossly underestimating the risks and potential issues at hand and is in any event based on apparent mis-reporting of the facts.

Make sure that your wishes are adequately enshrined in the correct, binding, legal documents as the road to court is paved with good intentions. Nice to sue you, to sue you, nice. Speak to a member of the team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk to find out more.

Winter is coming; be prepared. The legal lessons we can learn from Game of Thrones…

As Game of Thrones season 7 is fully underway, the shenanigans of the inhabitants of Westeros are attracting viewers in record breaking numbers. Whether or not this fictional romp of dragons, zombies and war is your cup of tea, once you remove the fantasy element, you are left with the very bread and butter of a private client practitioner’s workload; family relationships, wealth and death. A tenuous link? Perhaps, but undoubtedly these universal themes are very much at the heart of both worlds.

Admittedly, the level of death is a little more frequent and varied than the average probate practitioner’s workload. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Services have a difficult enough job processing paperwork without having entire family dynasties wiped out in one fell swoop (one can only imagine the Oath drafting…)

But on a serious note, the programme highlights that death will not always present itself in the chronological order of a family tree. Even despite the wealth of information in the public domain, we are still faced with clients who do not have a Will as they believe their wealth will automatically be inherited by their children on their death. The Intestacy Rules will only go so far in handing down your estate to your lineal descendants but, of course, there is so much more to a Will then simply enshrining this course of events.

Warring offspring? Dubious marriage choices? Unruly illegitimate children? All in a day’s work in the Seven Kingdoms yet in the real world, these issues are just as much cause for concern for our clients today. If you are worried about protecting the family wealth (however big or small) correct estate planning can prepare for such eventualities and ring fence funds for your intended recipients without the worry of funds falling into the wrong hands.

Indeed, so many of the show’s main conflict points could have been easily avoided and managed had the characters’ legal affairs been put in order.

Had the ‘Mad King’ been furnished with a fully registered Lasting Power of Attorney, then his appointed attorneys could have stepped it at the first sight of faltering capacity and a much cheerier (and less bloody) outcome could have been achieved by all.

A Lannister always pays their debts, and loans and gifts are indeed an excellent form of estate planning if done in the right way. A flexible family trust is a great way of allowing for loans and repayments to be made to and from the family pot of money. Running out of blood descendants? A trust also allows for the person setting it up (the ‘settlor’) to add friends or charities into the mix.

There is certainly a stark solution for making provision for ‘blended families’ (with children born from different relationships) in a straightforward manner, without having to lose your head.

Whatever your family situation, legalmatters will find the right solution for you to ensure that your death does not leave any nasty surprises for those left behind.

An appropriate, professionally prepared and properly executed Will can provide security for your family, during an already emotional time. There is a time and a place for drama and conflict, and your death shouldn’t be one of them. Make a Will, make your wishes clear, because goodness only knows transferring the ownership of a dragon is an administrative nightmare at the best of times!

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