Category Archives: Wills

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.

Can a Will be challenged?

We all know that writing a Will is the best way to ensure your assets are passed on exactly as you choose after you die, but there are some instances when a Will might be challenged. They say knowledge is power, so now you know…

‘Lack of testamentary capacity’ – in other words, challenging whether the person was of sound mind when writing the Will. Essentially, in order to pass this test, it should be demonstrated that the person was aware that they were writing a Will, the value of the estate and that they understood the consequences of including or excluding people from the Will.

There are grounds to believe that it is invalid. There are all sorts of different reasons that can be given, from failing to sign it, failing to ensure it is witnessed and precisely who those witnesses are.

‘Lack of knowledge and approval’, which is where it’s believed that the person was not completely aware of the contents of the Will. An example here may be if a person who helped to prepare the Will is left a substantial gift.

Written under undue pressure or duress, or if you believe it is fraudulent or has been forged.

It does not reflect the actual intentions of the testator (the person whose Will it is) – perhaps because of a clerical error, or because the person preparing the Will failed to understand their wishes.

‘Reasonable financial provision’ has not been made for those left out of the Will. However, success of such a claim is dependent on proving that they could reasonably have expected that their living costs would have been met by the deceased.

To avoid challenges to your Will, it’s always best to work with those who really know what they are doing. Legalmatters can help, we’re always happy to discuss your needs and to draw up a properly written Will which will reduce the chance of dispute. Call us today on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk for further details.

Dog days are over…

What happens to your pets on your death

The UK is famously a nation of dog lovers. If you were to head out to any of our parks, woodlands or beaches on a crisp autumn afternoon you would encounter more canine friends than you could shake a stick at (which they would love). With over 8.5 million (just over 24%) of households owning a veritable smorgasbord of breeds, our four-legged friends are as much a part of the family as our own flesh and blood.

But what happens to our furry babies when we die? Rather callously, the Administration of Estates Act 1925 defines domestic animals as ‘personal chattels’ and can be gifted in your Will in the same manner as a toaster, or the family grandfather clock. In the eyes of the law, your pet may be considered as tangible personal property but as a living, breathing and much-loved addition to your family it is important to give proper consideration when setting out what happens to them. So what should you consider?

Who gets Rex?

Whilst many family members would be happy to accommodate your pooch for a weekend, asking them to take full ownership may well be a different story. Ensure that you speak with potential friends or family members to be certain that they are happy with having your pet(s) on a permanent basis.

As with any gifts in Wills, it is always helpful to consider a plan B should you first choice no longer be in a position to take on the responsibility of your pet. A substitute beneficiary can be drafted to step in. Alternatively, charities such as the RSPCA’s Home for Life and The Cinnamon Trust run rehoming schemes and provide long term care for pets whose owners have died, if there are no other individuals who you are able to draft in.

What about costs of care?

Maintaining an animal can be an expensive business. Food, insurance and general health costs (flea/worming treatment/annual vaccinations) all add up. Leaving an additional cash legacy to the beneficiary tasked with taking on your pets in a great way of ensuring that your pet is looked after without any financial detriment to the beneficiary. In addition, it may be more of an incentive for the individual to agree to having your pet if they do not have any financial pressure to meet bills from their own pocket.

How to put this into practice

The correct wording of a legacy (whether canine or otherwise) is essential to ensure that a gift is properly dealt with. It is ALWAYS advisable to consult with a solicitor to ensure you wishes are adequately put in place. The proper, legal, drafting is necessary as any incorrect provision may fail. Your pet cannot individually receive a legacy (as they cannot provide a legal receipt) and as such any clause stating eg “£5,000 to Rover” just won’t work.

Legalmatters is always happy to discuss your needs for your dogs (or cats, or indeed any other animal) and help get the correct provisions in place.  Whether your best friends are diamonds or dogs, we can help you with your arrangements by drafting the necessary claws (never one to pass up the op-paw-tunity for a pun).

Business Property Relief; none of your business

Tax. Famously one of life’s inevitabilities, it is a necessary evil that can’t be avoided (just ask Al Capone).

Rightly or wrongly, inheritance tax is often named as one of the UK’s most hated taxes. Thankfully, with the introduction of the Residential Nil Rate Band earlier this year, we are in a much more fortunate position than we have been previously. Theoretically, a married couple can now leave up to £1 million pounds to their descendants without paying a penny to HMRC, but is there anything else you can do to avoid your estate going to the tax man? If you have a business interest or run your own company then indeed there is. So sit down at the back and pay attention.

If you have owned a business for at least two years prior to your death, your executors will be able to claim Business Property Relief (BPR) on certain business assets. Good news, huh? It gets better. Qualifying assets can obtain relief of up to 100%. That means that even if the assets are worth £1 billion, you can give them away without paying a penny in tax.

You can get 100% business relief on a business or interest in a business, or shares in an unlisted company, while 50% relief is available on:

  • shares controlling more than 50% of the voting rights in a listed company;
  • land, buildings or machinery owned by the deceased and used in a business they were a partner in or controlled; and
  • land, buildings or machinery used in the business and held in a Trust that it has the right to benefit from.

It’s important to be aware that you can’t claim business relief if the asset is not needed for future use in the business.

What’s more, business assets can actually be given away while the owner is still alive and qualify for business relief. However, certain criteria need to be met – for example, the recipient must keep them as a going concern until the death of the donor.

Despite the booming buy-to-let industry, it should also be clarified that rental property does not qualify for the relief, as it does not meet the criteria of ‘trading’. A business which only generates investment income will not attract BPR, so this excludes:

  • A residential or commercial property letting business
  • A property dealing businesses
  • A serviced office business.

Some business activities are borderline: whether they will qualify for relief depends on the nature of services provided, typically these include holiday businesses, property management and caravan parks – where there is letting, holidays and caravan sales.

Business property relief can make a huge difference to the eventual inheritance tax bill of your loved ones and can also help with succession planning. But it requires careful planning in order to ensure it is available when you need it. Dictating exactly what happens to your assets after you die is incredibly important, whether you own a business or not, and a Will is the best way to do that. It is a terrific way to reduce the uncertainty and upset your loved ones face after you pass away.

If you own a business, or are interested in becoming a business owner, and would like advice on how to include this within your Will, talk to legalmatters. Check your eligibility and ensure that what HMRC is entitled to, is none of your business.

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.

How Pensions Have Changed

It’s just over two years since the pension reforms were introduced to give people more choice in accessing their pensions. One of the benefits it’s brought is that it is encouraging people to think more about their pensions when they’re younger.

According to research by Aegon, 15% of people have realised they need to plan more for their retirement. The number of people talking to an advisor has almost doubled in the last 12 months.

What is particularly good to hear is that since the reforms, 14% of working age people are saving more in their pension pot. As a result, there has been a big jump up since April 2015 in the average amount that people have saved, from £29,000 to £50,000.

Just as it’s important for people to seek advice on how to grow their pensions, the new freedoms mean that people should equally take advice to manage when and how much they take out at retirement.

There may be a temptation to withdraw a large sum and leave yourself with too little to enjoy in a long retirement. Before splashing out on a long, exotic holiday, it pays to take a moment to think about some of the costs you may need to prepare for now.

When planning for your future, you may need to consider funeral and possible future care costs, as well as any outstanding debts. If you have built up a large pot and plan to invest it, you will need solid financial advice to ensure you get the best return.

Figures from HMRC show that many people are taking advantage of the freedom to withdraw money from their pension pot after the age of 55. During the last year, an average of 164,000 people withdrew money each quarter. The average withdrawal per individual was nearly £9,900.

The beauty of the pension reforms is that people have more choice to decide what to do with their pension pot. There are 6 options once you get to age 55:

1. Leave the pot until a later date
2. Buy an annuity
3. Invest the pot to produce an income
4. Withdraw cash in chunks
5. Withdraw the whole pot in one go
6. A mix of the above

Many people are still following the traditional route of buying an annuity, but as the figures go to show, many are also enjoying their new-found freedom. But the choices you make at retirement may have a big implication on the inheritance tax your dependents will need to pay.

It is worth discussing this with both your financial advisor and your Will writer. It’s a complex area and in some situations, it may be advisable to set up a Trust.

For advice on planning your Will please contact legalmatters today on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Where There’s A Home, There’s A House – Using Your House In Retirement

A house is far more than simply a home. It’s also an enormously valuable asset, which can help you meet the costs of retirement.

In truth, most of us aren’t saving enough to cover our retirement needs. A recent study by Prudential found that more than half of those planning to retire this year will work beyond state pension age, with many pointing to a lack of money as the motivating factor. Around 1 in 12 said they simply could not afford to retire before they reach the age of 70.

However, the value tied up in our properties represents a potential answer for some with insufficient savings. According to Key Retirement, the property owned by the over-65s is worth a massive £1.054 trillion. So how can people tap into that money?

One answer is to downsize to a smaller property. These will usually be substantially cheaper, meaning that you can move into a property which is less difficult to manage and bank thousands of pounds to supplement your pension.

If you don’t want to leave your property, perhaps because of sentimental reasons or because it is close to family, then looking to remortgage may be an option. However, some lenders are less than eager to lend to people in their later years, so it may not be possible. Your chances of successfully remortgaging will depend on your individual circumstances.

An increasingly popular option is equity release, where you essentially unlock some of the equity you have built up in your property. Interest in equity release is at record levels and in the first half of 2017, retired homeowners cashed in £1.25 billion of housing wealth, according to Key Retirement. While these products are more expensive than remortgaging, they provide a useful alternative and should allow you to leave some form of inheritance for your loved ones after you pass away.

Interested to see how your property can supplement your retirement or be left to your loved ones after you’re gone? Speak to us today on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Spoiling Legacies For Celebrity Children

Father of 4, Gordon Ramsay, has joined a growing list of celebrities who have decided not to leave their inheritance to their children. The celebrity chef, perhaps as well known for his colourful language as his culinary genius, believes in instilling a strong work ethic in them instead.

He has homes in London, Cornwall and LA and an impressive income – he is in 26th place on the Forbes rich list, with an income for the last year of £46 million. Despite this, he shares the view with many that to leave his offspring a fortune would be to spoil them.

He and his wife Tana have agreed they will give their children the 25% deposit they will need for a flat – but that’s it.

The common theme among the people taking this stance is that they want their children to grow up hard-working and fulfilled. They believe that handing on large sums of money changes people for the worse.

There are many who feel that their money is better spent on charitable works. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet set up the Giving Pledge. They encouraged 40 of America’s wealthiest people to join them in committing to give more than half of their wealth away, either while they are living or through their Will.

In an interview on ITV’s This Morning, Bill Gates summed up his attitude towards inheritance: “It’s not a favour to kids for them to have huge sums of wealth. It distorts anything they might do creating their own path.”

Simon Cowell has also said he plans to leave his money to charity. Whether he has changed his mind since the birth of his son, Eric, remains to be seen.

Sting on the other hand has said he intends to spend his wealth while he’s still alive. He, along with Nigella Lawson and Lenny Henry have echoed similar concerns as Bill Gates about over-privileging their children.

Back in 1992, three female inheritors set up the Inheritance Project. They wanted to talk about how inheriting wealth can be a negative thing and the effects it had on them. They interviewed 200 people in a similar position to them. They found that it was common for people who had inherited large sums of money to be trapped by their lack of needing to work and that many of them found it difficult to sustain relationships and had problems with addictions.

Obviously, all these examples involve very large sums of money and the people in question are not leaving their children penniless. But regardless of the size of your estate, it is worth putting some thought into what you leave to who and ensuring that it’s drawn up correctly.

For help on any aspect of preparing your Will, please call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

From here to maternity; why sorting out your Will needn’t be a Royal pain…

This week, a statement from the palace made the happy announcement that William and Kate are expecting once again. This news makes legalmatters feel all gooey inside. Legalmatters does love a baby, particularly a royal one with a rosy cheek and a knee sock, and extends the warmest of congratulations to the Cambridges on their impending bundle.

It has been baby news all around this week at LM towers with many clients sharing their news of family additions. New babies, together with holidays, are often one of those trigger events that get people thinking about their legal affairs. It’s a funny old thing having babies. Along with an indescribable love and exhaustion that you never thought possible, becoming a parent (and legally responsible for another tiny human) slaps you in the face with a fear of mortality like no other experience. No longer will you approach life’s risks with the same reckless abandon as your childless life before; bungee jumping and sky diving may take a backseat for a few years. Let’s face it, even that initial drive home from the hospital can be one of the most tense and apprehensive of your life. Don’t they realise you’ve got a baby in the back for goodness sake? You’ve even fashioned a gaudy yellow sign to warn other drivers of your precious cargo – yet they’re still driving like Bowser from Mario Kart as you indicate half a mile before your turning and drive at 15mph in a 40mph zone.

One client in particular has been in touch to put their instructions ‘on hold’ whilst they await their first baby in the next few weeks. They cheerily informed us that they would be back in touch in 6 weeks or so to finish off their Will and as we hung the phone up we wanted to ruffle their hair with an ‘aawww’ and a head tilt.

It may well be that 4 weeks post birth they will be straight back on the phone with confirmation of who is to inherit the family clock and who their executors are. But, it may be that there are other things taking up their time when they are at home with a one-month old. Such as brushing their teeth, wearing something that isn’t covered in milk and – the holy grail – actually managing to drink a cup of tea whilst it’s still hot.

Life with a new baby is hard. Physically, emotionally, financially. It can take time – a lot of time – being caught up in the wonderful, confusing, exhausting and worrying whirlwind of looking after a new baby before you step outside, blinking into the sun, and make steps to reintroduce a semblance of routine and anything which resembled your life before.

Of course you should get your Will sorted, now more than ever. But we are realists and know that life has a habit of getting in the way. Sorting out your Will in the months post birth is on the list with getting the car serviced, shaving or sorting out the weird drip in the downstairs cloakroom tap. You know you must do them, but seriously, all hours in the day are spent keeping a small person alive. Making it out of the house to get to Rhyme Time can be an effort of Herculean proportions, let alone the time and expense of going to see a Solicitor to sort out your Will and LPAs. Legalmatters knows that your time is precious and time spent going to see a Solicitor at their office – around naptimes- could be time spent watching Netflix and eating Hobnobs. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Yeah, right. I guess you then cook when the baby cooks and clean when the baby cleans too?

Legalmatters can take all of your instructions over the phone (or email. Might as well spend those 3am feed times productively rather than Facebook stalking ‘Gemma from Accounts’ holiday photos from Faliraki in 2007). Sorting out your Will and LPA with legalmatters can be quick, easy and super cost effective (as maternity leave pay is not the time to be paying extortionate fees for your legal documents).

So, whilst Catherine spends the next few months with her feet up contemplating suitably regal names (top tip: Arthur, Henry, Richard = good; Kong, Joffrey, Wenceslas = avoid), why not spend the time putting legal documents in place before the big day?

Choosing guardians for your children is nowhere near as fun as choosing nursery colours – but it is far more important. For help preparing your Will, please call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

Peace Of Mind Before Your Holiday

Planning your Will may be the last thing on your mind as you’re packing your shorts and sun cream, but accidents and injuries happen when we least expect them. Of course, the chances of dying or sustaining a severe injury on holiday are slim, but if you have a Will in place it’s one less thing to worry about as you head off for your break.

The risks vary depending on where you’re travelling to. According to the latest information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) there were just over 3,600 reported deaths of British nationals abroad in the year 2014/2015. Spain, Thailand and France recorded the highest number of fatalities. The FCO also recorded over 3,300 reported hospitalisations. In both cases, the numbers reflect occasions where the foreign office gave assistance, so the totals for both sets are likely to be higher.

If you’re travelling abroad, it’s far less likely that you will be struck down by an infectious disease. The greatest risk for most travellers according to the World Health Organisation is road traffic accidents. Even more so if you’re travelling to a lower income country, where typically road laws are a little more relaxed. Add to that, that as a driver you may be driving a vehicle you are unused to, the steering wheel may be in a different place – you may be adapting to driving on the right-hand side of the road and navigating signs in a different language.

The other high risks are associated with violence and water activities. According to the Swimming Teachers’ Association, a Briton is 5.5 times more likely to drown abroad than in the UK. In the decade up to 2010, 784 Britons drowned abroad, the majority of whom were adults.

Once you have a Will in place, make sure it’s stored in a way that’s easy for your executor to find. The company that writes your Will may be able to do this for you.

Holidays are a time to relax and spend time with the people you love. Setting up things such as Wills and travel insurance means you can sit back and enjoy yourself in the knowledge that if something does go wrong, your family will be taken care of.

For help on any aspect of preparing and writing a Will, please call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.