Category Archives: Wills

Back To School…

Whether you sent your pride and joy to school for the first time this September, or they’re into their second, third or fourth year, most parents feel a flutter of apprehension when letting go of their hand on the first day.

Doing everything to protect your child comes naturally. From planning a safe route for your kids to get to or from school and ensuring they know the green cross code to protecting them from bullying.

Protection comes in many shapes and forms. At this time of year, once they are safely in school, now is the time to make sure they are protected should something happen to you.

24,000 children a year experience the death of a parent according to charity Winston’s Wish.
Did you know that if both of a child’s parents die and there’s no valid Will and therefore no appointed guardian, children could be put in foster care until the courts decide who they should live with?

Added to which, most of us don’t live in the nuclear family of the past which adds additional complications.

Making a Will allows you to:

  • Decide who will take care of your children should something happen to you
  • Make it known how, and where, your children should be educated
  • Ensure that there won’t be any family disputes or court battles over who takes care of your children
  • Plus, any other wishes you have from what they eat to what they should receive as pocket money….

As parents, we all want the best for our children, and this is probably one of the easiest ways of protecting them. Making a Will also costs less than you may think. To discuss writing a Will speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Mecca – The Journey Of a Lifetime…

September marks the largest gathering of people in the world.

Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for all Muslims. It is considered a once in a lifetime trip, and serves as 1 of the 5 pillars of Islam. Muslims save for, prepare and embark on their travels, with faith that this journey along with 2 million other pilgrims will bring them closer to their beliefs and unite them in worship.

It is specified in the Holy Quran that Muslims must leave a Will in their lifetime, but pays particular reference to Hajj. Historically, before modern transport and medicine, many pilgrims would die on their travels.

To learn more about it, see this article from The Independent.

Biblical economics tell us; It has been said that a person will spend fifty or sixty years accumulating earthly treasure, then spend another 20 years or more trying to keep from losing it, but will not spend two hours planning the distribution of it when he dies.

Hesitation to write a Will runs throughout the ages, with superstition playing a huge role. To discuss writing a Will speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Online accounts

What happens to your online accounts when you die?

One thing many people forget about when making their Will is what will happen to their digital assets once they die. But, in today’s online world, this is something we should all now consider.

What is a digital legacy?

Your digital legacy is all of the online information you will leave behind after you are gone. This may include:

  • Your websites and blogs
  • Your social media accounts
  • Your online photos and videos
  • Your gaming/forum profiles
  • Seller accounts on platforms such as Amazon, eBay, etc.
  • Things you have purchased that are stored online (e.g. music, photos, eBooks etc.)
  • Access to online financial accounts and/or utilities.

Do you own your digital legacy?

Many of these items cannot be left through your Will (because you do not actually own them). Take social media accounts; these are yours by license only. So, when you die, the contract is over. But, you can leave instructions for your executor, setting out what you want to happen to them.

For example, Facebook will let a person of your choosing change your account to “memorial” status. This means it can still be viewed and people can leave messages on it. Alternatively, you might want someone to post a final tweet or blog post on your behalf (and establish in advance what you want that post to say).

Other assets, such as music, photos, movies, or other digital files can often be passed to beneficiaries. But to do this, you will need to leave instructions on how to access them. You may also decide to pass on any seller-accounts (if transferable), along with the items for sale in your Will.

For banking and other online accounts, it is more important than ever to provide clear instructions on how to access these to help with the Probate process.

Ultimately, different online platforms have different rules and, as such, it’s important to understand the policies for each online service you use to ensure you know who owns what, and who has access rights to your digital legacy.

Who can help protect your digital legacy?

You should leave instructions on how to deal with any online accounts and assets with your lawyer as part of the Will-writing process. This can include your log-in information.

To find out how to protect your digital legacy, speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters by calling 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Cryptocurrency and your Will

How will cryptocurrencies affect inheritances?

Cryptocurrency is, in the most basic terms, an alternative digital currency to traditional government-issued currency. A recent survey by Dalia revealed that 5% of the UK are planning to buy cryptocurrency in the next six months, with 9% already owning cryptocurrency. Experts even predict that 33% of millennials will own some form of cryptocurrency by the end of this year.

The question is – with more people investing in cryptocurrency, how will it affect inheritance when these people die?

Firstly, it’s important to learn which types of cryptocurrencies are currently the most popular. Here are some of the most common forms of cryptocurrency and their codes:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Ripple (XRP)
  • Ethereum (ETH)
  • Zcash (EC)
  • Monero (XMR)

Make sure you provide wallet keys in your Will
It’s essential to tell you future beneficiaries you have invested in cryptocurrency and to list the details of your cryptocurrency wallet in your Will. This is because it’s purchased under a pseudonym and can be very hard to trace if your beneficiaries don’t have the wallet details. By providing your public and private keys in your Will, you’re making it much easier for your beneficiaries to access the wallet. Some cryptocurrency providers have policies in place to transfer any cryptocurrency to beneficiaries or next of kin, though at the moment they are hesitant to have these crucial conversations for fear of fraudster activity.

Cryptocurrency is an intangible asset and eligible for Inheritance Tax
HMRC now treats cryptocurrencies as any other currency – so it’s not exempt from Inheritance Tax and should be listed on your Will. Cryptocurrency is one of the fastest growing currencies in value, so it’s important to keep track of how much your cryptocurrency fluctuates over time. The current standard exemption threshold for Inheritance Tax is £325,000. For example, if you have £100,000 in Bitcoin in 2018, it may grow to £400,000 by the time you die. If this is the case, your beneficiaries will need to pay a 40% Inheritance Tax rate on the £75,000 that exceeds the threshold.

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

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Aretha Franklin

‘The Franklin trap’

Aretha Franklin died last week, and it has come to light that she did not have a Will, despite having an estimated fortune of over $80 million.

So, here’s a song title challenge for you – see how many you can spot!

Dying without a valid Will is no joke so I would say a little prayer for Aretha’s family and don’t keep daydreaming on that freeway of love, and do the responsible thing and think about getting a Will in place.  Dying without a Will ain’t no way to respect your family, making them look like a ship of fools.  Would they be willing to forgive you if your Will isn’t in place and rock steady.

So call me, Lucy at legalmatters on 01243 216900, to get your Will sorted in these ever changing times.

Remember, have R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and come and make your Will with me!

civil partnerships and estate planning

6 ways civil partnerships affect estate planning…

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Understanding Inheritance Tax

Most over 50s don’t understand Inheritance Tax…

According to the latest research, the majority of over-50s don’t understand essential Inheritance Tax terminology. Furthermore, this lack of financial education could result in them passing on less than they expect.

The research, from Alan Boswell Group, found that of the over-50s surveyed:

  • Fewer than 30% understood key Inheritance Tax terminology
  • Only 27% were able to correctly identify that ‘nil-rate band’ referred to the threshold at which an estate became liable to Inheritance Tax and that this threshold is set at £325,000
  • Only 44% were aware that the current rate of Inheritance Tax was 40%.

With the Government announcing record Inheritance Tax receipts of over £5bn in 2017/18 (that’s an increase of over 50% since 2014), there are fears that people could be failing to minimise their tax liability correctly.

Rising property prices are impacting Inheritance Tax liability

An increase in property prices across the UK has meant that more and more people are now liable for Inheritance Tax.

Since 2009, the tax has been set at 40% on all assets over the £325,000 threshold; despite the fact that house prices have rocketed over the past ten years. What this means is that Inheritance Tax now hits an increasing number of estates. Before 2009, the threshold was set each year to reflect inflation and rises in overall asset prices.

As such, it’s perhaps no surprise that forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) show that the number of estates on which Inheritance Tax is paid has more than quadrupled over the last seven years.

It’s also important to note the introduction of the residence nil-rate band (RNRB) last year, providing an additional inheritance tax allowance for individuals who leave their main residence to lineal descendants.

The additional allowance is to be brought in gradually, increasing by £25,000 on an annual basis. The amount began at £100,000 in 2017/18 and eventually grow to £175,000 in 2020/21.

In total, as this is on top of the current threshold, this amounts to an allowance of £1 million for a couple.

The problem facing the over-50s

With Inheritance Tax affecting more people than ever before, it is vital that the over-50s are fully informed about this topic. Worryingly, however, the latest research shows that this is not the case. As a result, it is likely that families will lose out while the Government benefits.

But there are ways to reduce a person’s Inheritance Tax liability (e.g. by using ISAs, a deed of variation, discretionary will trusts, etc.). So, it is vital that careful and professional estate planning is carried out to ensure assets are left to family members rather than the taxman.

To find out how you can pass on your estate in a tax-efficient way, speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Unclaimed estates in the UK could be worth billions

Unclaimed estates in the UK could be worth billions!

According to the latest figures, there are currently 9,254 unclaimed estates in the UK. With the average value of an estate worth around £150,000, the total amount of this unclaimed inheritance could be worth billions.

Property, money, personal belongings and other assets are being left in limbo instead of being passed on to relatives or friends. To prevent this from happening, it is vital to make a Will.

What happens when you die without a Will?

When someone dies without a Will, and there are no known heirs, their estate will be passed on to the Government (the Crown). Unclaimed assets include property, including buildings, money and personal possessions. And, while in some cases these unclaimed estates are of very little value, they can be worth millions.

Every day the Government publishes an updated list of unclaimed estates. The newest estates are added to the top of the list. An estate remains on the list for a maximum of 30 years, and during this time, relatives can make a claim against it. However, where no heirs are found, the estate is eventually transferred to the Treasury.

Who can claim an estate?

Under the UK’s inheritance laws (Rules of Intestacy), people who are blood relatives of the deceased could be entitled to a share of an estate. Even distant relations could be in for a windfall. However, partners are not recognised if they were not married or in a civil partnership and neither are stepchildren.

If you want to make a claim, you will need to contact the Government’s Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) with a family tree detailing how you are related to the person who has died. You may be asked to prove how you are related to the deceased, so the more details you can include (e.g. birth and marriage certificates), the better.

While this process is complex and can take a long time, with millions going unclaimed the result could be worth it.

Avoid leaving an unclaimed estate

The best way to make sure that your estate doesn’t end up going to the Government is to create a Will. Making a Will is especially important if you have no or few living relatives. But despite the importance of having a Will, too many people never get around to this inexpensive and simple task.

You don’t have to leave your estate to your family. You can decide to leave your home, money and possessions to whoever you want, including friends and charities. But, only by creating a properly drafted Will can you be sure that your estate will be left as you choose when the time comes.

To make sure your estate is passed on in line with your wishes, or to dispute a Will, speak to one of our expert team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Pitfalls of DIY Wills

The pitfalls of DIY Wills…

Latest figures reveal only 59% of the UK have written a Will. Of those people, 6% have written a DIY Will. While there are some advantages to create-your-own Wills, there are even more pitfalls. Here, we explore some of the reasons why DIY Wills may not be the answer…

Whilst most of us have come across DIY Will kits or online Will creation websites, have you ever asked yourself “are DIY Wills legal?” The short answer is yes, although they must still meet all requirements of a professionally written Will.

A DIY Will kit doesn’t provide sufficient help and guidance for the more complex circumstances in your life. This includes, for example, if you aren’t married to your partner, have children from a previous relationship or hold an inheritance in a trust until a child’s 18th birthday. Using the services of a Will writing professional means you have access to all the assistance you need, greatly reducing the risk of mistakes in your Will.

Although a DIY Will may cut costs initially, it could cost you in the long-term. All Wills must be written using the correct terms and language, as well as ‘witnessed’ by the right people. If this isn’t done properly, then the Will is invalid and could cost your heirs their estate, or money intended for them. Hiring a Will writing professional helps you to avoid this pitfall; a well-written Will is more robust when faced with any potential objections.

Even if your Will is still valid, there’s a bigger chance that distributing assets to your heirs could take a lot longer than usual. This can come with additional fees and, in some cases, unnecessary tax. According to the Co-operative Legal Services (CLS), 38,000 families a year experience prolonged probate ordeals for poorly written DIY Wills.

What’s more, up to 10% of your estate could be subjected to unnecessary fees if your Will is ineffective. The average value of a person’s estate in the UK is currently £160,000 – so this could incur costs of up to £16,000, a cost which could be avoided if a Will writing professional was used.

It’s also worth thinking about what could happen if your circumstances change during your lifetime. For example, if you get married, have children or grandchildren, someone named in your Will passes away or if your financial situation changes then your Will also needs to be altered. Significant changes to your Will means you’ll need a new one, whereas smaller changes call for a codicil (a document that allows you to make minor adjustments to your Will).

It can be daunting to make these changes, especially if you’re already going through a stressful time due to a death in the family, a divorce or financial issues. Calling on the help of a Will writer can greatly reduce stress and the worry of whether or not your Will has been rewritten correctly.

For help and advice on the potential pitfalls of DIY Wills, speak to one of the team at legalmatters today. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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legalmatters Chichester Legal Walk

The Chichester Legal Walk 2018…

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.