Many families will have to pay more in probate fees from April 2019. That’s according to new proposals that see a hike in the cost of applying for probate.
The Government has claimed that fees are necessary to fund an effective and fair court and tribunals system. However, under the plans, some grieving relatives will have to pay death taxes of up to £6,000 to secure legal control over a deceased’s estate.
What are the main changes?
At present, the current cost of securing probate is £215, or £155 for families who use a solicitor. But, under the new plans, the Government has linked the charge to the size of the estate. This means that:
- Inheritances of less than £50,000 will be exempt (the current threshold is just £5,000)
- Estates valued between £50,000 and £300,000 will pay a fee of £250
- Those between £300,001 and half a million pounds will now pay £750
- Estates between £500,001 and a million will pay £2,500
- The cost could go up to £6,000 for estates estimated at over £2 million.
The reforms will also make it easier for grieving families to make the application online while helping people lacking in computer literacy.
Are the changes fair?
While it might seem fair that larger estates have to pay more, these fees must be paid upfront by loved ones (who might not have access to this kind of money).
This also fundamentally changes the fee-structure for applying for probate. Until now, the cost has existed to cover the average costs of making a grant of probate. However, the new fee structure is hugely disproportionate leaving some people to argue that it is actually a “stealth tax”.
However, according to the Government, the new banded fee model represents a “fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee”. It also argues that, for those who do pay, “around 80% of estates will pay £750 or less”. It has said that fees will never be unaffordable and that options will exist to help families choose a way to pay which suits their circumstances.
Nevertheless, with assets from an estate frozen until the executors receive the grant of probate, questions still exist over how some executors will manage to pay the probate fees. Especially for people who may have little money in the bank, despite valuable estates and properties.
To find out more about how the new probate fee structure could impact your estate, speak to one of our expert team by calling 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a tough time when somebody you care for dies and we’re pleased when we’re able to lighten the load. At such a tough time when there’s such a lot to do, it’s a delight when clients takes the time to say thank you:
“I’d like to say a big thank you to yourself and your firm for all your help and support over the last few months!! It’s much appreciated. Thank you.” Darren & family
Thank you too, Darren. We’re glad that everything is now settled. Good advice in a supportive and caring manner is what we like to give.
Civil partnerships were reserved for same sex couples only. However, in recent years, opposite sex couples have been campaigning for civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. The Supreme Court of England and Wales ruled in favour of civil partnerships for all, as the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was seen as an infringement of the European Convention of Human Rights. The legislation will be changed, though this is thought to take some time.
So how does a civil partnership affect estate planning? Firstly, it’s important to determine what ‘estate planning’ actually is. Your estate covers everything you own including property, finances, material possessions and even your social media accounts. An estate plan is how you wish to distribute your assets and possessions among your loved ones.
Here are six ways a civil partnership changes estate planning for all couples:
- If you die without making a will your partner will still inherit your assets
If you’re in a civil partnership and you die intestate (without making a Will) then your partner will automatically inherit a portion, or all, of your property. For example. if you and your partner own and live in a house together, they will stand to automatically inherit it after you die – unless there are special circumstances.
- If you die having made a valid will your wishes will be carried out
If you or your partner dies after making a valid Will, then all wishes will be carried out as they would be for a Will from a marriage. For example, if you want to pass down your home to your partner and your holiday home to your children then the wishes will be carried out as specified.
- Civil partners are exempt from Inheritance Tax
Neither you nor your partner will pay Inheritance Tax if the value of your entire estate is below £325,000. You will also be exempt from Inheritance Tax if you leave all your estate to your civil partner, community sports club or a charity.
- The Inheritance Tax increases to £450,000 if children are the heirs
If you want to leave your property to your birth children, the Inheritance Tax exemption threshold increases to £450,000. This also extends to foster, adopted and stepchildren.
- You can add surplus Inheritance Tax threshold to your partner’s threshold
If your estate is under the threshold, the ‘unused’ threshold can be added to your partner’s threshold when they pass away. This pushes the maximum Inheritance Tax threshold to £900,000.
- You can pay a reduced Inheritance Tax rate in some circumstances
The standard rate for Inheritance Tax is 40% but you can reduce it to 36% if at least 10% of your net assets are left to charity in the Will. If you and your partner owned farmland or woodland you may be eligible for Agricultural Relief on your Inheritance Tax bill.
Estate planning can look complicated. If you’d like some help in writing your Will, contact one of the team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
We all love to receive affirmation of our kindnesses. With some people it really isn’t hard to be nice. Take this lady – Jean – who we helped with a recent legal matter. She sent us the most lovely letter, thanking us for the advice and support we’d given her in the last few weeks. She added:
“It made me feel secure and cared for.”
And that’s what we aim to do. Give good advice in a supportive and caring manner. And we hope Jean will join us soon for a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
We’re taking a walk around Chichester to raise money for free legal advice services…
On 12th September 2018, our legalmatters and Legal Workflow team – including Lucy Thomas, Martin Langan, Andy Saych, Lindsay Dobson, Sarah Reed, Terry Walsh, Lauren Bain, Mel Bloomfield and Gus (the cockapoo) – will be taking part in a sponsored walk to raise funds for The Citizens Advice services in South and West Sussex and Havant.
Please sponsor us now to help us meet our target amount.
We head off from The Fountain, South Street in Chichester at 5.30pm for a 10k circular walk, which funnily enough ends up back at the pub. No doubt we’ll be doing a bit of nibbling and much munching of chips as we compare blisters and funny stories while we recover our strength and before we wend our way homewards.
Between now and then I have no doubt there will be some training walks – between pubs I expect. These will be led by Gus, our very own Chief Welfare officer, acting trainer and motivator (pictured) who’ll be sharing some doggy pep talks, leading from the front and always nosing about in pockets for treats.
We do take charity giving seriously though at legalmatters, and every year we take part in various fund-raising and partnership activities to raise both awareness of charitable giving and funds through sponsorship.
In October 2017 alone, we helped to raise about £57,900 of future income from legacies for the Guide Dogs.
It’s not all altruistic – you might not be aware that a charitable legacy in your Will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax your estate is liable for. Look at these posts for more information – and do talk to us about your own Will.
See what legacy giving can do for your tax bill – read our post.
And if you like a little light-hearted banter and want to get an idea of what that all means at celebrity level, take a look at our blog here following rumours in the press after Sir Bruce Forsyth’s death:
You can see just some of the reasons why other celebrities are planning charitable legacies in this post.
More about the Chichester Legal Walk: Across South and West Sussex and Havant there are areas of high poverty and need, and many vulnerable people. Access to legal advice helps those people to get out of poverty and distress. The Chichester Walk raises much needed funds for advice agencies who support vulnerable people in our community and help them access justice.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com for further details.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
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 email@example.com for further details.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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