Category Archives: News

How easy is it to challenge a will? A cheesy tale of woe

The national press carried a somewhat bizarre tale of a woman in her 20s who married a retired school lollipop man, aged 76, who claimed that she’d found his most recent will (which left the vast bulk of his £600,000 estate to her rather than his daughter by a previous marriage) in an empty Doritos packet in the attic of the family home in Harrow Road, Wembley!

The Daily Mail story tells how Marsha Henderson married ex-London bus conductor Newton Davies in 2004.  He died in 2013 aged 85 and in a will dated July 2011 left Ms Henderson £25,000 with the rest to his daughter and friend.  The so-called ‘Doritos Will’ apparently discovered by Ms Henderson reversed the contents of the earlier Will.

So, there were three different parties involved and therefore three different sides of the story.

If you can put up with the crisp puns then stay with us for a little longer …

So quite how does this corny triangle (I did warn you) relate to us all and what messages should be taken from it?

It may strike you that putting an important document such as Will into a Doritos bag in an attic is a bit eccentric, not to say suspicious, but there are eccentric people in the world.  That of itself would not be grounds for challenging the will.  The deceased’s daughter was able to convince the judge that her father had signed his last true will in July 2011 and therefore the more recent ‘Doritos Will’ was a forgery.

That contention was assisted by the fact that the new will was a simple, but rather poor quality, fake.   Its most striking defect being that the clause at the end referred to it as being “HER” last will.  As the judge pithily remarked “the deceased was a man and not a woman”.

So, was Ms Henderson cornered (I apologise!) and could this happen to anyone?

Not all challenges to a will may be as clear-cut and obvious as this one.  Any court would have to be satisfied that the will does not express or carry out the deceased’s true intention.  There has to be evidence backing this up. Although this case may have been an exception because of the amateur and obvious attempt at deception, challenges to Wills on the grounds of forgery are not uncommon – but they are notoriously expensive and difficult to prove.  For example, handwriting experts are often called upon to dispute a signature.

So how do you take the heat out of a wave of potential problems?

Having a professionally prepared will is obviously the best answer.  Crisp packets in lofts are never the best place to house such an important document as a Will!  Here at legalmatters we are very happy to discuss with clients their circumstances, needs and options in relation to Wills and estate planning.

We make the whole process nice and easy, dealing with everything over the phone or by email if that’s what suits you best.

It doesn’t need to cost a packet to make a Will!  Our costs are also fiercely competitive.

Let us guide you through the process of making a Will and ensure that your Will is a sweet (as opposed to a hot) potato!

For more like this, Follow Us on Facebook, or if you have an immediate query, call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Retirees Seek Advice After Brexit

When the UK made the decision to depart the European Union last year, the actual departure seemed a long way off. Although the thought of leaving loomed, the process of exiting was thought of as distant – simply another thing for politicians to worry about.

As we begin to enter the negotiations, however, it seems that the ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude is faltering, especially among retirees.

According to recent research, 14% of those who have retired are worried about the impact of Brexit on their pension, with 19% saying they are now much more likely to seek financial advice.

Although market volatility was almost certain in the initial aftermath of the referendum, most believed that the markets would calm after the storm. However, retirees believe that the clouds haven’t cleared just yet; over one in four predict that any negative impact on their pension will be for the long-term.

It’s obvious that people are worried about the consequences of leaving the EU, but some have gone further than just expressing their concern. Due to Brexit anxieties, just over one in ten of those who had made plans to retire in 2017 have actively postponed their retirement, with 6% even changing the country that they planned on retiring to.

Having looked at these figures, you might be under the impression that just about everyone is worried about the impact of Brexit on their pension. It is though important to balance the numbers of those who are concerned, against those who are less so. In fact, the figures show the majority of people (67%) felt their retirement plans had not been affected by Brexit at all. One in eight even thought that leaving the EU would impact their pensions in a positive way.

Retirement expert at Prudential, Kirsty Anderson, commented on the concerns of retirees, as well as the importance of seeking advice:

“As you would expect, for many people who have been planning and saving for their retirement for most of their working lives, even the biggest of political upheavals won’t make a difference to their long-term plans. But with one in three new retirees telling us that their retirement plans have been affected by the referendum result, it is clear that uncertainty is having an impact for some.”

Although worrying is a natural reaction to being unsure about something, it’s rarely helpful. Rather than providing an answer, it just allows the concern to escalate and often causes us to worry even more. It might be impossible to know how Brexit will affect you exactly, but adequate planning will at least make your financial future a little more certain.

As well as guiding you through the process, talking to an expert at legalmatters can help clear up any concerns you may have. Be more certain about your future by speaking to one of our professional team today – call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Will Current Political Events Change Your Future?

While 2016 was undoubtedly one of the most turbulent in living history, 2017 is already shaping up to be similarly eventful. That doesn’t mean there’s plenty to watch on the news – these political events can have a significant impact on your finances.

Donald Trump

Obviously one of the big headline grabbers throughout this year will be the US President Donald Trump. Charitably, you can describe his performance so far as unpredictable, and that uncertainty will be a concern for the fund managers who look after so many of our pensions. Only time will tell exactly what impact ‘Trumponomics’ has on our finances.

Article 50

We have our own massive political change taking place here in the UK in the form of Brexit. The first step towards leaving the EU will come with the triggering of Article 50, which is due to happen at the end of March.

While the dire economic warnings about what would happen if we voted to leave haven’t yet come to fruition, it’s important to remember that we haven’t actually left yet. The value of the pound has, however, fallen significantly since the Brexit vote, while inflation has risen and is predicted to continue to do so.

It seems likely that there will be further bumps along the road as we leave the EU.

European elections

There are a host of significant elections taking place in Europe this year; all of which will have an impact on the investment markets, and as a result the British economy – and your pension savings.

There are general elections due to take place in France, the Netherlands, Germany and possibly Italy. Who would bet against further unexpected results?

The Lifetime ISA

One of the Government’s big ideas to get us saving more is the Lifetime ISA, which launches in April.

You can save up to £4,000 per year, and you’ll get a 25% bonus from the Government on your savings on top, up to the age of 50.

Auto enrolment

Another of the Government’s initiatives is the auto enrolment scheme, where employers are duty bound to enrol their employees in a pension and contribute towards it.

Thousands of employers across the country will have to join the scheme this year; if you work for a firm of smaller than 30 people, then chances are you’re one of them.

The importance of a will

There’s not a lot that you can do about the ups and downs of the political world. Though you can set in stone exactly how you want your assets to be divided between your loved ones after you die.

It isn’t a nice thing to think about, but a will is crucial if you want to determine who gets what. Speak to legalmatters today about your plans by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

New rules to help reduce IHT bills

The new Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB) which comes into effect this April means that you can now plan to hand down your family home with either a zero bill or a significantly reduced one than the current inheritance tax (IHT) rules permit.

There are various restrictions to how this will work in practice. In simple terms, it means that the current IHT threshold of £325,000 for a single person and £650,00 for a married or civil partnership couple will remain but that there is an additional (and separate) allowance of £100,000 (available per person, provided that certain requirements are met

This additional allowance will increase year-on-year by £25,000 until it reaches £175,000 and then continuing in line with inflation.

It’s important though to understand when and where it can be applied.

There are three key criteria to meet:

  • The property must form part of the deceased’s estate;
  • he or she must have lived in it at some point (there is no minimum period in which they must have lived in it, but this may rule out buy-to-let properties for example);
  • and the property or a share of it must be passed to direct descendants.

For those with children of their own, this quite obviously includes children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, it is not limited to blood relations and so also includes step-children, adopted or fostered children, or any children that the deceased had been appointed guardian of, even if they are now over the age of 18.

Widening the net even further, the spouses and civil partners of any of these descendants are also included, even if the descendant themselves has died.

Siblings, nephews or nieces of the deceased are not included. They may still be included in the will, perhaps receiving a part share of a property, as the RNRB applies to the value of the share that’s inherited by the direct descendants.

The new RNRB is only applicable for deaths on or after 6th April 2017. The rate is, however, transferable between married and civil partners and if one partner has already died prior to this date, their unused RNRB will be available to be carried forward to the estate of the surviving partner.  However, the allowance must be claimed and it isn’t automatically available.

There are many other points to consider with RNRB, although they won’t apply to everyone.  For example, the value of RNRB tapers away where the estate is worth more than £2 million. That’s straightforward but it can become tricky where the deceased sold their property prior to their death to downsize or gave it away and continued to live in it. The key point here is that they must have done this since 7th July 2015 to qualify. It becomes increasingly complex as to whether RNRB will apply where trusts are involved.

For advice on preparing or changing a will to maximise the tax efficiencies that can be made, please call our team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Jimmy Hill: Care and Capacity- Why Make a Lasting Power of Attorney?

With the news that the former footballer Jimmy Hill is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease came the accompanying stories that his family are in dispute over his care. Such circumstances are worryingly common, but can usually be avoided.

The former Match of the Day presenter was the first English club chairman to abolish standing at matches and was a well-known figure in the profession. Jimmy Hill gave joint powers of attorney to his current wife and a solicitor in 2005. By 2008, Jimmy Hill’s condition became such that he was deemed to have lost mental capacity, and the Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) was registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, meaning that his wife and the solicitor could take over management of his affairs. The person who makes the power of attorney (‘donor’) cannot alter the identity of his attorneys after he loses mental capacity, so Jimmy Hill’s choice of attorneys was binding and what followed was that his children have no say in the running of his affairs.

EPAs were replaced from 1 October 2007 by Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA’s) which have the same effect.

Jimmy Hill’s five children (from his previous marriages) only discovered the existence of the EPA in 2008, and they did not find out that they were not named as attorneys until the EPA was registered. Understandably, their lack of involvement caused friction in the family.

This case has attracted significant media attention as two of Jimmy Hill’s children made the news of his condition public in an effort to raise awareness regarding the problems around mental capacity. Joanna Hill, Jimmy’s daughter has commented that children should talk to their parents and discuss how affairs should be dealt with before deterioration sets in.

This high-profile case highlights the need to make a power of attorney and to choose your attorneys carefully. Opting for a power of attorney can involve emotional decisions, but in the long run it is more desirable for both the individual and their family. Without an LPA, people are powerless to do even the most simple things on their relatives’ behalf- there would be the need to apply to the Court of Protection which is a lengthy and costly process.

Legalmatters can assist here by offering an affordable, fixed-fee Estate Protection package (Will and LPA). Avoid unnecessary uncertainty for your family.