Monthly Archives: May 2020

Help with funeral expenses

How to get help with Funeral Expenses…

Grieving the loss of a loved one is already one of the most stressful times in a person’s life without the additional burden of paying for their funeral expenses.

Thankfully, funeral expenses can be paid for from the estate. However, this can only be claimed after the probate process has finalised which could take up to a year.

This means that loved ones are left to find the money needed to pay for the funeral until the probate process concludes.

This can be a difficult sum of money to find. Especially when the average cost of a funeral in the UK in 2019 cost £3,986.

What are the options to help cover the costs of a funeral?

Firstly, executors of the estate or the deceased’s family or friends need to assess whether a funeral plan was purchased before death.

In this case, the funeral costs will be taken care by the policy provider.

The deceased may also have a life insurance policy which could have a clause, contributing towards the funeral.

If this is not the case, then the executor, family members or friends of the deceased will need to cover the costs in the short term. Whilst any bank account in the deceased’s sole name would freeze upon notification of death until the probate process is finalised, they frequently release funds for funerals.

If you are unable to pay for the funeral, many probate and funeral care providers offer services to cover the costs which are then recouped once a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration – the legal document permitting a named person to wind up the estate – have been authorised.

The government also offer a number of options to help low income earners. These include:

  • Funeral Expenses Payment – This option is open to people who claim a number of benefits. The amount offered will vary depending on the deceased’s estate and money available from loved ones. It is unlikely to cover all costs but will help towards funeral expenses.
  • Budgeting Loan – This option provides an interest free loan to cover funeral costs for those receiving certain benefits for more than 26 weeks. The money will then be repaid through a person’s benefits.
  • In the unfortunate event of a child under the age of eighteen dying, the government will now pay the majority of the costs on the family’s behalf. The Children’s Funeral Fund for England will pay burial and cremation fees and will contribute towards the cost of a coffin, helping to ensure grieving families are not burdened with financial distress.

Services from legalmatters during Covid-19 pandemic

Here at legalmatters, we continue to do everything we possibly can to service our existing and new clients during these very difficult times.

Our ability to provide remote services makes us stand out from the crowd.  This means that you can deal with your will, power of attorney, probate, trust and tax advice etc all over the phone or by email and documents are sent to you by post.  We are also advising our clients on signature processes bearing in mind social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, the office continues to operate with minimal skeleton staff for the protection of our staff, clients and visitors, enabling us to still process physical documents for our clients.  If you do find that you need to call into the office for instance to have documents witnessed when it is otherwise difficult for you to arrange that with family and friends then do please get in touch.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and Probate lawyers, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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How to get a house and contents valued for probate

How to get a house and its contents valued for probate…

How to calculate the value of a property and its contents for probate

Probate is the legal process where you manage a deceased person’s possessions and allocate their money, assets and belongings once they have passed away – this is known as their ‘Estate’.

From the outset of probate it will be essential to calculate the total value of the Estate to find out if inheritance Tax is required to be paid.

More often than not, one of the largest assets that a person will own is their home and all their belongings inside. So, how do you work out how much everything is worth in readiness for probate?

Valuing a property and assets throughout the Probate process

One of the most crucial parts of the Probate process is valuing the deceased’s home and possessions. Throughout the administration of the Estate, you will need to keep a log of how much money is being transferred into and going out of the Estate in order that you can pay in total remaining debts owed and work out how much inheritance remains to give to the beneficiaries who are entitled to it.

When making these calculations it makes it clearer in terms of inheritance tax (IHT) and whether the Estate is liable for it or not. If the estate is accountable for tax, you will be able to calculate how much. You will then need to pass all the information to HM Revenue & Customs.

Valuing a house and its contents can be a difficult task but there are processes in which you can follow to make it easier. Following processes will help you in the long run as it lessens the risk of a dispute with HM Revenue & Customs.

How to calculate the value of property during probate

It is important to remember when calculating the value of a property or land that there are various factors impacting the price of it. These factors include development land opportunities, remedial maintenance needed to the property and sales of properties alike in the surrounding area.

If the Estate is liable for IHT, it would be prudent to seek a valuation from a Chartered Surveyor as they are skilled and experienced in providing valuations specifically for IHT so are much more likely to be approved and acknowledged by the HMRC.

How to Get a Property Valuation in Probate

To ensure the accuracy of a property valuation, the District Valuer Service (DVS) of HMRC would need to check and examine the valuation presented to them. If the DVS think the valuation is wrong, they will contest it and ask for additional evidence to back up the valuation given. If Executor(s) of an Estate negligently obtain a property valuation they could be at risk of being fined. Equally, if Executor(s) found the valuation sent to HMRC was too low, they will have to contact the HMRC in writing to advise them of the correct value.

If the deceased person’s property was jointly owned with someone else, known as ‘Joint Tenants’, then the property value will need to be split down the middle to find out what the deceased owned. However, if the property was owned jointly with someone else as what is known as ‘tenants in common’, then the value will need to be worked out along the lines of what proportion of the property the deceased owned e.g. 60/40 split between owners.

Working out the value of the house belongings

The first stage when valuing the contents of a house is to make a list of items which you think might be worth something e.g. cars, jewellery and furniture. Next, do some research on the internet to find out how much the items are worth or sold for, taking into consideration their age and condition. For specialist antique items it is advisable to seek a professional valuation who have the expertise and specialise in valuing these items.

Working out the Value of the Estate for Inheritance Tax

IHT will only need to be paid if the value of the Estate surpasses the nil-rate band. At the moment, the nil-rate band is £325,000. If the Estate is worth less than £250,000, HMRC will probably be happy with an estimated value. However, if the estate is worth more than £325,000, it will be obligatory to pay IHT, although there are some exceptions whereby you could end up paying less IHT by increasing the threshold due to certain factors.

It is crucial to understand that when valuing the Estate for IHT that you calculate the ‘gross’ value of the taxable Estate. The taxable estate includes all assets which are owned by the deceased, plus any gifts too in the 7 years before they passed away.

Apart from the deceased’s home and contents, other assets will need to be looked into such as bank accounts, pensions, investments, shares and life insurance.

Services from legalmatters during Covid-19 pandemic

Here at legalmatters, we continue to do everything we possibly can to service our existing and new clients during these very difficult times.

We work with specialist valuation companies who continue to provide formal valuations of property during Covid19 by providing desktop valuations.  These valuations are thorough and rarely lead to enquiries from HMRC. Our ability to provide remote services makes us stand out from the crowd.  This means that you can deal with your will, power of attorney, trust and tax advice etc all over the phone or by email and documents are sent to you by post.  We are also advising our clients on signature processes bearing in mind social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, the office continues to operate with minimal skeleton staff for the protection of our staff, clients and visitors, enabling us to still process physical documents for our clients.  If you do find that you need to call into the office for instance to have documents witnessed when it is otherwise difficult for you to arrange that with family and friends then do please get in touch.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and Probate lawyers, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Stepchildren in your Will

What do I need to consider when I have stepchildren?

Family structures are complex in the 21st century. Increases in second marriages over the past decade has led to more blended families and testators having to consider stepchildren.

Whereas people marrying for the first time have fallen from 176 thousand marriages in 2012 to 159 thousand in 2017, remarriages have held firm at a five year average of 37 thousand up to 2017, the most recent figures available, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

As more people cohabitate and blend their families, what do people need to consider when making a Will?

What to consider when writing a Will involving stepchildren

It is important to understand that inheritance laws in England and Wales do not automatically recognise stepchildren in intestacy law. This means that if you die without a valid Will your estate will not necessarily be inherited by your stepchildren.

The only way to ensure your express wishes regarding your estate are considered is to write a valid Will.

English and Welsh law offers ‘testamentary freedom’ which allows the testator the right to leave your property and belongings to whomever you choose. If you fail to write a Will, your estate will automatically pass to your spouse and biological children. By writing a valid Will, you are able to specify who will inherit and how much they will receive.

If you are looking to create complete fairness and equality in the amount biological and stepchildren inherit, a Will is crucial.

A valid Will can also avoid contentious probate issues arising after your death. If you die and your property is passed to your children’s stepparent, animosity or concern may develop, but your Will and estate planning considerations can help to pacify any feelings of concern. Afterall, if a Will passes the entirety of an estate to a spouse, then your children may be disinherited after your spouse dies.

Adding a Trust in your Will could allow your spouse the freedom of living in the property whilst also providing certainty that your children are provided for in the future.

Asking a professional to draft a valid Will and Trust has never been so important, especially when living through such uncertain times. Rest assured that the services provided by legalmatters are efficient, easy and individualised to the unique needs of each testator.

Services from legalmatters during lockdown

Here at legalmatters, we continue to do everything we possibly can to service our existing and new clients during these very difficult times.

Our ability to provide remote services makes us stand out from the crowd.  This means that you can deal with your will, power of attorney, trust and tax advice etc all over the phone or by email and documents are sent to you by post.  We are also advising our clients on signature processes bearing in mind social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, the office continues to operate with minimal skeleton staff for the protection of our staff, clients and visitors, enabling us to still process physical documents for our clients.  If you do find that you need to call into the office for instance to have documents witnessed when it is otherwise difficult for you to arrange that with family and friends then do please get in touch.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and Probate lawyers, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Can I still make a Will

Can I Still Make A Will Whilst In Lockdown?

Many essential services have struggled in recent weeks as traditional ways of working become increasingly difficult.

Social distancing measures introduced to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have hindered the way legal professionals are able to facilitate the increased demand for Wills.

However, rest assured that Wills are still being written. Legal professionals have just needed to become a little more creative in the ways they ask testators and witnesses to sign a Last Will and Testament.

What has changed?

Wherever possible, people should stay at home and avoid meeting others to stop the virus from spreading and overwhelming the NHS.

This has had a huge impact on the way legal practitioners complete the Wills process where face to face meetings were usual practices.

Under Section 9 of the 1837 Wills Act, a testator must sign their Will in front of two independent witnesses (witnesses who are not beneficiaries or executors of the estate). Whilst this was fairly easy in the past, quarantine advice makes this process almost impossible.

Here at legalmatters, we continue to do everything we possibly can to service our existing and new clients during these very difficult times.

Our ability to provide remote services makes us stand out from the crowd.  This means that you can deal with your will, power of attorney, trust and tax advice etc all over the phone or by email and documents are sent to you by post.  We are also advising our clients on signature processes bearing in mind social distancing measures.

Meanwhile, the office continues to operate with minimal skeleton staff for the protection of our staff, clients and visitors, enabling us to still process physical documents for our clients.  If you do find that you need to call into the office for instance to have documents witnessed when it is otherwise difficult for you to arrange that with family and friends then do please get in touch.

How can I comply with government advice and make a valid Will?

Testators should ensure that witnesses remain at least two metres from the testator and other witnesses and make sure that separate pens are used to sign the document.

Before this stage, legalmatters has embraced video technology as a way for the legal practitioner to make sure the testator has the mental capacity to make the Will and to understand whether the Will request is being made without undue influence.

This will also be a key opportunity to use technology to ensure the testator’s final express wishes are considered and documented.

Whilst the approaches in creating a valid Will are much changed at present, the process remains the same and we remain dedicated in ensuring virus-based restrictions do not prevent such an important document from being written.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and Probate lawyers, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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