Category Archives: Wills

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.

Our house

What happens to your house when you die?

While you might think it is easy to leave your house or flat to someone you love, bequeathing property is not always as straightforward as you would think. So, how can you ensure that your home is passed on as you would like?

When someone dies and leaves behind a home, there are a few things that need to be considered. Some things you’ll need to think about include:

Is there an outstanding mortgage?

Unless insurance is in place to pay off a mortgage in full when someone dies, the monthly payment will still need to be paid. If the remaining mortgage is small, the beneficiary may be able to take on that debt. But, if there is a large mortgage outstanding, and the beneficiary cannot afford the repayments, the lender is likely to require that the home is sold.

Whether the deceased owned the legal title to the property

When someone owns a property, the legal title – registered with the Land Registry – will clearly show their name as the owner. If the property is not registered correctly, an investigation will have to take place to prove how the title passed to the deceased before it can be given to the intended beneficiary.

How the property was owned

In England and Wales, when a property is co-owned (e.g. by a husband and wife), the way it is registered will impact what happens to it when one owner dies.

There are two ways to own a property with someone else:

  • As joint tenants: This means both (or all) owners own 100% of the property. So, when someone dies their name is removed from the title and the home automatically belongs to the surviving co-owner(s).
  • As tenants in common: This means each owner owns shares in the property. These shares can be for the same, or different amounts. When someone dies, that person’s share can be left to someone other than the co-owner.

Is the property freehold or leasehold?

If a home is a leasehold, there will be an agreement from the freeholder (sometimes called the landlord) to use it for a set number of years. With a leasehold, there might be conditions on who can own or occupy the property, and this can prove problematic when leaving it in a Will.

If the property is freehold, things are more straightforward. The property and the land it is built on are owned outright and can be passed on however the deceased wished (as long as they are the sole owner).

Is there a Will in place?

If someone dies without leaving a Will, the state decides how your estate is distributed. Often this does not reflect what you wanted to happen. As such, the best way to make sure your house goes to those you want it to, is to write a Will.

For expert advice on amending or drafting a Will, 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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Make it happen

Legalmatters to offer Cancer Research UK’s free Will Service

Legalmatters are proud to have joined Cancer Research UK’s Free Will Service.

The Free Will Service helps people aged over 55 to write or update their Will free of charge. It also gives guidance for people considering leaving a legacy gift to Cancer Research UK. The service is now being provided at legalmatters where trained solicitors will be able to offer support to people living in the UK and assist with drafting a Will.

Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its research and relies heavily on the generosity of people leaving gifts in their Wills. Over a third of its research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer is funded through supporters leaving a legacy to the charity.

A legacy gift can be anything someone wishes to leave in their Will. Traditionally this is money, but it could be anything that has a monetary value like an estate or specific item. Anything that is left to Cancer Research UK can be marked to be ring-fenced for research into a specific cancer type or research within a local area.

Lucy Thomas, Legal Services Director at legalmatters, says: “Another bonus to doing this, besides simply helping a good cause, is that legacy giving can also reduce your inheritance tax bill. Take a look at our blog “What can legacy giving do for your tax bill” to find out more, or give us a call on on 01243 216900 for expert advice on amending or drafting your Will.”

Clare Moore, Director of Legacies at Cancer Research UK, explained: “We all reach a stage at some point in our lives where we start to look ahead and consider what will happen to our financial affairs in the future, when we may no longer be around.

“At Cancer Research UK, we work with a number of local solicitors, including legalmatters, to offer the Free Will Service to anyone aged 55 or over, helping individuals to make an all-important first Will or update an existing one.

“One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. The generous gifts left by people in their Wills are so important as they help us continue the work that we do to beat cancer sooner. Without the money we receive from gifts, the progress we make through research would be a far slower.

“We are always so grateful to anyone who leaves a gift in their Will to Cancer Research UK – legacy gifts help us find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.”

Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress. Every step taken by its doctors, nurses and scientists relies on donations from the public and the kindness of supporters who choose to leave a gift in their Will.

The Free Will Service has been running successfully for over 20 years across a network of solicitors in the UK. Anyone who wishes to use the service is asked to consider leaving a legacy gift to Cancer Research UK but under no obligation to do so.

Legalmatters looks forward to offering the Free Will Service to help the people in the UK and working with Cancer Research UK to help beat cancer sooner.

For more information about leaving a legacy gift and Cancer Research UK’s free Will service, visit www.cruk.org/freewillservice or call legalmatters on 01243 261900.

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Effect of marriage or divorce on your Will

The effect of marriage and divorce on your Will…

According to latest data from the Office of National Statistics, there were 245,513 marriages and 107,071 divorces in England and Wales. What happens to the couples who already have a Will in place? We take a look at how marriage and divorce affects both you and your partner’s Wills…

Preparing to get married is an exciting time that comes with lots of planning, but many couples often overlook their Wills. It might surprise you to know that when you get married, your Will is automatically revoked. It’s worth sitting down with your partner and reviewing your current Wills – this is especially crucial if you intend to leave some of your assets to someone else such as a child or grandchild.

If you don’t draw up a new Will after you marry, the law of intestacy will step in – this means that your assets could be distributed in a way which is not in line with your wishes. The most effective way to remedy this is to appoint a professional Will writer to help create wills for both you and your partner.

What happens to my Will if I get divorced?

In the case of divorce, your Will is still valid but your ex-partner’s role as executor of your Will is automatically cancelled. As the Will takes effect as if he or she had died on the date the decree became absolute, if you’ve left everything to them, the rules of intestacy will apply.

As a result, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider:

Beneficiaries: If your ex-partner was entitled to the majority of your estate in your Will then you’ll need to appoint a new beneficiary such as a sibling or child.

Executors: The best action to take is to appoint more than one executor. An executor must be over 18 years of age and can be the beneficiary if you prefer.

Including ex-spouse: Of course, you can still leave assets to your ex-spouse. If you have a financial obligation to them then you may want to re-adjust your Will so they can’t make further claims on your estate in court.

Inheritance tax: During your marriage, your partner would have been exempt from inheritance liability (IHT). However, your estate now only has a tax-free limit of £325,000 unless the beneficiary is a new spouse.

What happens to my Will if I get remarried?

Similar to the process when you get married the first time around, if you get remarried your current Will is invoked. If you don’t draw up a new Will, then your estate will be divided under the rules of intestacy. Usually this means your estate will be split between your spouse and your children. If you don’t have children, your estate will go to your spouse and your siblings.

If you’re just getting married or are going through a divorce, it’s important to check your Will or seek the help of a professional to check for you.

For expert advice on amending or drafting a Will, speak to one of our professionals at legalmatters today. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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What do I do with my Will once it’s written?

It’s estimated that around only 40% of adults in the UK have written a Will. If you’re one of those then you’ve taken an important step to lay out how your estate is to be distributed on your death. But simply writing your Will may not be enough to guarantee that your wishes are followed.

Obviously, it’s an important document and you need to store it in a safe place. It might seem like a good idea to keep it in your folder of important documents but in the event of theft, fire or flood, it could be lost. It’s a better idea to store it away from your home.

Most Will-writing professionals offer a Will storage service too. If they don’t there are other options such as a Will storage company or even the probate service. However never keep your Will in a bank safety deposit box. The bank won’t open that box for anyone other than yourself or, in the event of your death, an executor who has been granted probate. However, your executor won’t be able to gain probate until he has access to your Will. It’s a catch-22 situation.

Don’t attach anything to your Will either. If there are any marks on the paper from staples or similar it may raise some doubt that there is a missing amendment which might cause complications for your executors.

It’s always a good idea to tell your family – and in particular your executor(s) – where your Will is stored. You should also consider registering it with an accredited Will register. Although there is normally a small fee for doing this, it means that the Will is easy to trace.

Once you’ve completed these things, your Will is safe. However, it’s important to check it over every few years or if any significant life events occur in the meantime. For example, if you get married or form a civil partnership, an earlier Will becomes invalid. If you get divorced, it remains valid but any references to your former partner become invalid – which can have significant consequences. Alternatively, grandchildren might be born or people who were your beneficiaries might die. In any of these events, you might like to review and revise your Will to accommodate any changes.

For help with this or any part of the Will writing process, speak to one of our professionals at legalmatters today. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Contesting a Will

Disputing a Will. What can you do?

The death of a loved one is a difficult time, and, where there are disputes about a Will, the stress and upset can make it even harder. But what can children, spouses and partners do if they feel they have been overlooked unfairly in the last wishes of their nearest and dearest? And, how can we prevent such disagreements from arising in the first place?

Why do Wills get disputed?
There has been a rise in disputes between family members over inheritance. Changing family structures – which often include people co-habiting, second marriages and second families – are thought to be contributing to this rise. Also, an ageing population means that Wills are being written later in life, at a stage where capacity is more likely to have deteriorated – this is another ground on which a Will can be disputed.

In addition, rising property values mean that a growing number of estates are now thought to be worth contesting. Furthermore, the number of people leaving money to charities after they have gone has risen, and this corresponds with a rise in disputes over charitable gifts in Wills.

Dying without a Will
In many cases, disputes over inheritance occur because a person dies without a Will and so their final wishes are not clear.

Many individuals still believe that their estate will automatically go to their spouse when they die, but this is not always the case.

With disagreements over money or property devastating those left behind, and often very expensive to resolve, a properly prepared and considered Will should be a priority for us all.

However, it’s important to note that, even with a Will, written in sound mind, it can still be challenged. In fact, recent cases have shown that a Will can be overruled if it is thought to be unreasonable or purely spiteful. As such, careful drafting and consideration is essential.

Who can dispute a Will?

  • Husbands, wives and civil partners
  • Former spouses/civil partners who have not subsequently remarried or entered into a civil partnership
  • Children of the deceased (including adoptive children and adult children)
  • A cohabitee who lived with the deceased person for two or more years before they died
  • Someone who was financially dependent on the deceased
  • A beneficiary under the Will or an earlier Will
  • Someone who is owed money or was promised something by the deceased.

With research suggesting that just 40% of Britons make a Will, and arguments around mental capacity being put forward in an increasing number of cases, this issue is likely to become increasingly more contentious.

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

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Understanding Probate

Understanding Probate…

Probate is the process of sorting out an individual’s money, debts, property and possessions when they have passed away. If you’re appointed the executor of someone’s Will then you’re responsible for carrying out probate.

The probate process

There are 4 main stages of probate:

  1. Assess the total value of estate and if it’s liable for inheritance tax
  2. Apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate and submit an inheritance tax form to the tax office
  3. Pay off any inheritance tax due and swear an oath at the solicitor’s office or the Probate Registry
  4. Administer the estate by collating assets, paying off debts and distributing the remainder according to the Will.

You may choose to do probate yourself, although this can be very time-consuming. Many people choose to appoint a solicitor to help them along the way. Even though this comes with a certain cost, it could save thousands of pounds in the long-run by greatly reducing any potential mistakes made in the process.

There are some circumstances in which you’ll definitely need a solicitor:

  • The person died without making a Will
  • There’s a possibility the Will is invalid
  • The estate value exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold because it’s still bringing in a regular income
  • The estate includes overseas property or assets
  • The estate may go bankrupt / is bankrupt
  • Some of the assets are held in a trust
  • Dependants of the deceased have been purposefully left out of the Will but may want to make a claim on the estate
  • The deceased lived outside the UK for tax reasons.

When is probate needed?

Probate is required if the deceased owned property including houses, land or buildings. Furthermore, if the person held assets with a certain bank then you’ll need to enquire about the bank’s threshold amount, as each bank sets its own limit. A Grant of Representation will be needed to claim assets from the bank or other financial institutions.

Probate without a Will

Sometimes a person may die without making a Will – this is known as dying intestate or intestacy. The law will decide how to distribute assets including everything from money to pets. Intestacy rules don’t tend to acknowledge unmarried couples, step children, step siblings and unregistered partners. As a result, it’s essential to make a Will during your lifetime, especially if your family includes any of these relationships.

If you’d like to discuss your Will, get in touch with us at legalmatters. Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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What happens to your social media accounts when you die?

At present, the UK has over 38 million active social media users. The popularity boom for social media across all ages means it has become an integral part of our lives, whether intentional or not. Social media is also fast becoming a significant way to remember loved ones when they pass…

Facebook
Facebook allows you to appoint a ‘Legacy Contact’ who will look after your account when you die. The Legacy Contact section can be found by clicking the arrow at the top right, then going to Settings, General, Manage Account and finally selecting Legacy Contact.
Your chosen legacy contact will be able to pin posts on your timeline, update your profile picture, request to have your account removed and respond to friend requests. However, they won’t be able to post anything, remove / add friends, change past posts on your timeline or view your inbox messages.

When choosing your legacy contact, you also have the option to allow them to download a copy of what you shared on Facebook. This includes timeline posts, shared posts, videos and the About section, but it doesn’t include your messages.

Once you’ve chosen your legacy contact, Facebook will notify once a year to check whether or not you still want that person as your legacy contact. If you don’t want to choose a legacy contact, then your family can request to have your account deleted instead.

In the event of your passing, your Facebook account can be memorialised. The word ‘Remembering’ will appear just before your name to signify that your account has been memorialised. No one will be able to login to this account, but people may still post on your timeline from their own accounts to write tributes and share posts.

Twitter
At present, there isn’t a memorialisation option for Twitter accounts, although your friends and family can request to have your account removed. Once your loved ones have submitted a privacy form requesting the deactivation of your account, Twitter will send a confirmation email with further instructions.

Instagram
Instagram also offers the option to memorialise a loved one’s account. Your friends and family can also request the removal of your Instagram account providing they have proof of your passing such as your death certificate or proof that they’re your lawful representative.
Once memorialised, your account can’t be changed – this includes followers, likes, tags, posts and comments. Your posts are only visible to your chosen audience. For example, if your profile was set to private then it will remain private.

Should you include social media details in your Will?
In conclusion, you’re very much in control as to what happens to your social media accounts when you die – you just need to make preparations in advance.

It can be upsetting for loved ones to see your social accounts after you’ve gone. That’s why it’s always a good idea to leave certain details in your Will such as links to your social media accounts and other online entities.

For guidance on including social media account details in your Will please give us a call on 01243 216900 or e-mail us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.