Author Archives: admin

empty office

Where there’s a [need for a] Will, there’s a way [to get it signed]!

As we all get to grips with home working, home schooling and staying up until midnight to get a supermarket delivery slot, we are all becoming a more au fait with the ‘new normal’.

Like many other companies, we are seeing a surge in the number of clients who want to make Wills and those who are finally ready to provide those last few instructions that they have put on the back burner. We understand that there’s always something nicer to think about, something else that sits higher up the priority list – but, really, what’s more important than protecting our loved ones and making sure our wishes are followed in the event of a crisis?

Solicitors who make Wills and who need to therefore ensure the valid signing of those Wills are now classed as ‘key workers’. Good news. But, how do we cope with the draconian rules around signing? Well, where there’s a Will, there’s a way!

We are having to be creative here and our ability to engage with our clients over video conferencing helps us a great deal. We can fully address issues around mental capacity assessments and ensure clear taking of instructions so that we can be sure our clients’ Wills are valid and less likely to be challenged.

As our regulators grapple with potential changes in the law, we can provide advice relevant to your circumstances as to how best to sign your Will in the ‘presence’ of two (socially distanced) witnesses!

So, challenging times for us all – but here at legalmatters we are keeping our (latex gloved) finger on the pulse and are here to help.

If you would like to speak to an expert in LPAs and Wills, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

We hope you all remain safe and well.

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We love our NHS

Making Wills and Reduced Rates for NHS Staff…

These are challenging and worrying times for us all, and all our staff at legalmatters send best wishes to all who are suffering in any way as a result.

We’re following the government health advice to make sure our clients and our colleagues stay safe and we are putting all the necessary measures in place to ensure this advice is followed by everyone.

We are however continuing to provide a full range of services via our website and by phone, and we will continue to ensure you have access to all the legal advice you need.

We have also thought about what we could do to help individuals and families at this difficult time, and to help bring a degree of peace of mind in areas where we can.

So we wish to offer a reduced price for anyone who would like to make a Will.

In recognition of the fantastic work that our NHS staff are doing, we want to reduce the cost of this service (which would normally be £216 (single person) or £360 (couple)) to £172 (single person) or £288 (couple) for all health service staff.

For all others, we wish to reduce the rate to £194 (single person) or £324 (couple). .

This is available for everyone who instructs us by the end of June.

We hope that this helps in some small way, and will serve to bring peace of mind to individuals who may be concerned about their particular situation.

To take advantage of this offer, please contact us on info@legalmatters.co.uk or call us on 01243 216900.

We hope you all remain safe and well.

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Coronavirus - LPA

Why a Property and Financial Lasting Power of Attorney is so helpful in times of crisis such as the coronavirus

A Property and Financial Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be an incredibly helpful way of allowing a person you trust to manage your financial affairs if you are not able to do this yourself.

We are all witnessing how our massive sophisticated planet and civilisation can be brought so low by the tiniest organisms and are living through very challenging times.  We will also know people who are self-isolating and who are ill and these individuals are very vulnerable indeed and need all of the help they can get.  An LPA can provide just that help, enabling trusted individuals to carry out key tasks that may just be too difficult for individuals at the moment.

Ideally, an LPA should be executed well in advance of any period of illness or incapacity.  But so long as the person signing the document still understands its full meaning and effect, it is still possible for them to sign a valid LPA.

The benefits of a property and financial LPA

Trusted individuals can (as soon as the document is registered with the court) step into your shoes and carry on your financial life for you, involving you in all decisions but otherwise relieve you of the day to day burden of managing your financial life while coping with the crisis in hand.

The best option is usually to sign an LPA well in advance of when it is needed.  It does not need to be put into force until such time as capacity is lost but you will need to bear in mind that the court will take about 8 weeks to register a document and so the sooner you start the process, the better.

If you would like to speak to an expert in LPAs and Wills, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Skeleton staff

Legalmatters continues to support its clients during trying times

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.

You can ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Inheritance Tax

Is Inheritance Tax payable on gifts made from income?

Gifts made before someone dies may be liable for inheritance Tax (IHT) unless they are made from income or are in an exempt category.

When an estate is administered, the Executor or Administrator will have to assess gifts that have been given by the deceased during their lifetime and decide whether or not they should be included in IHT calculations.

Gifts given during the last seven years of a person’s life may be liable for IHT. There are some exceptions to this, including the giving of gifts from surplus income.

Inheritance Tax on gifts

A maximum of £3,000 can be gifted each year free of IHT and, if not used, this allowance can be carried over for a single year. Single gifts of £250 do not attract IHT when made to different people.

Money can be given to family or friends who are getting married or entering into a civil partnership, in the sum of £5,000 for children, £2,500 for grandchildren and £1,000 for anyone else.

Payments made to support children under 18 or elderly relatives are usually exempt from IHT.

Gifts given from income may be exempt from IHT where they can be shown to be normal expenditure out of income.

Other gifts given in the seven years before death will be liable for IHT on a sliding scale where the value of the estate exceeds the IHT threshold, which is currently £325,000.

Gifts given out of income

For a gift given out of income to qualify for exemption from IHT, it must be possible to prove the following, to the satisfaction of HM Revenue and Customs:

  1. The gift is normal expenditure

The giving will need to be a regular or usual event. The estate Executor or Administrator can look for a pattern of giving over several years to try and establish whether it is an habitual occurrence.

  1. The gift is given from income

An exempt gift would usually be made from cash, or possibly from life insurance or pension income. Gifts from assets are not exempt unless the gift was purchased from income specifically to be given.

  1. The giver did not need it to live

The gift needs to be given out of income that is deemed surplus to the donor’s requirements. This means that the donor must be able to subsist on their remaining income without resorting to assets.

The rules around the giving of gifts are complicated, so to ensure you make the best decisions for your loved ones and your estate it is advisable to seek expert advice.

If you would like to speak to a Wills and estate planning expert, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Protecting ourselves during coronavirus pandemic

Protecting ourselves, our families and our businesses…

With the spread of coronavirus being ever more present, thoughts turn to protection in all its guises. We need to protect ourselves, our families and our businesses. Here at legalmatters, we are taking recommended precautions to enable our business to continue so that we can provide great support to our clients at a time when they may need it most.

Our ability to provide remote services (i.e. or by phone and email) makes us ideally placed to support our clients in times of uncertainty. Making a Will has never been easier. Our new online Wills service is an easy, convenient and secure way to ensure that your estate is protected for your loved ones.

Using state-of-the-art smart technology, you simply engage in an adaptive online experience that disregards irrelevant information, so you only have to provide details about the things that are relevant to your personal situation.

Once completed, your circumstances are reviewed fully by a solicitor, so you can have peace of mind that your Will meets your wishes.

There is even an online ‘chatbot’ to answer your legal questions, and we can provide guidance over the phone or via video conference if required, without obligation.

All this for a competitive fixed fee, wherever you are in the country, at any time of the day or night.

To speak to us call 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk for more information.

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Avoiding a Statutory Will

Who can write my Will for me if I am not able?

The appointment of an Attorney can help you deal with your affairs once you are no longer able. But they are not allowed to write a Will on your behalf.

By appointing an Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), you can have someone you trust to deal with both your financial affairs and your health and welfare, should you become unable to manage them yourself.

If you do not make provision for an Attorney to act on your behalf, then your loved ones may have to make a lengthy and expensive court application in order to appoint one if you lose the ability to deal with your affairs.

You can choose to appoint an Attorney to deal with your health and welfare and in respect of your financial matters, or you can appoint an Attorney for only one of these aspects.

With regard to health and welfare, the Attorney can only act for you once you have lost the capacity to make your own decisions. In respect of a financial affairs LPA, you can choose to implement this while you still have capacity. This means that your Attorney could, for example, help you by going to the bank on your behalf if you find it difficult to go there yourself.

If you do not have a Will in place, and you lose the capacity to make one, your Attorney or anyone else cannot write one on your behalf. The process of putting a Will in place in this situation can be complicated and lengthy. An application would need to be made to the Court of Protection by your Attorney, asking them to put in place a Statutory Will.

Applying for a Statutory Will

The Court of Protection will need to see all the details of your financial situation when an application for a Statutory Will is made. This will include details of exactly what is in your estate, your outgoings, for example, care home fees, and also information regarding your family relationships.

The Official Solicitor will act on your behalf to review the information provided and put in place a Statutory Will that they consider to be fair. Anyone who may have expected to receive an inheritance from you can be involved in the process and will have the right to have their views considered.

Avoiding the need for a Statutory Will

By putting a Will in place while you still have the capacity, you can avoid the difficulties of potentially having a Statutory Will. Having a Will drawn up by a qualified professional means that you can be sure that your loved ones will receive what you wish them to have. You can also discuss estate planning, to ensure that your assets are protected as far as possible from expenses such as Inheritance Tax. You may also want to ensure that loved ones have the benefit of living in any property you own for as long as they need to.

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

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contents of a will

Can anyone see the contents of a Will?

When someone dies, often loved ones would like to see the document that they have left outlining their wishes and stating who is to benefit from their estate. We look at who is entitled to see the contents of a Will.

Immediately following a death, the only people initially entitled to read the Will are those who have been appointed as executors under its terms.

If the document is held by a firm of solicitors or a bank, they will be able to let you know who the executors are and will also let you know if there is anything in the Will or in an accompanying letter regarding the deceased’s funeral wishes.

The executors are responsible for the winding-up of the estate, to include listing all of the deceased’s assets, obtaining valuations of them, selling assets, which may include property, accounting for any tax liabilities, preparing estate accounts and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries named in the Will.

They should also contact all of the beneficiaries and advise them of the date of the deceased’s death, the names of the executors and what they are to inherit.

Who is entitled to see the Will?

Small estates do not need a Grant of Probate, and in that case, the Will does not have to be shown to anyone other than the executors.

If all of the executors agree, then it is possible to show the Will to another party.

Where a Grant of Probate is needed, then once this has been issued by the Probate Registry anyone can apply for a copy of the Will.

If Probate is not required, then you can make a formal request to the executors to see the Will. If they refuse to provide a copy and you suspect that you may be named as a beneficiary, you may wish to take legal advice as to how to proceed. The executors might then be compelled to apply for a Grant of Probate, making the Will a matter of public record.

Appointing an executor

The role of executor is an important one, not just in respect of the fairly onerous tasks involved in winding-up the estate, but also in the care and consideration provided to the deceased’s beneficiaries.

You should take this into account when choosing who to appoint. Carrying out the administration can be lengthy and time-consuming and there is personal liability for dealing correctly with the estate and accurately accounting for tax and estate funds.

If you do not have anyone willing or able to take on the role, you can consider appointing a professional executor. This would usually be a solicitor who is experienced in the administration of estates and who could prepare the necessary accounts and distribute the funds to the named beneficiaries.

If you are thinking of making a Will, speak to one of our experts on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Life Interest trust

Protecting your assets with a Life Interest Trust

Leaving someone a life interest in your Will means they will have the benefit of the asset, for example a property, for the rest of their life following which it will pass to a beneficiary chosen by you.

There may be times when it is better to leave someone a life interest, rather than give them an asset outright. By setting up a trust in your Will, you can arrange for a loved one to have use of the asset for as long as they want or need, then give it to a third person. There are two main reasons why someone might wish to proceed in this way.

To prevent the ‘sideways disinheritance trap’

The so-called sideways disinheritance trap occurs when someone with children from a previous relationship remarries. If their estate passes to their new spouse when they die, then their children may receive nothing. This can happen either because their new spouse makes a Will leaving the estate elsewhere, the new spouse fails to make a Will meaning that the estate passes to their relatives (this does not include step-children) or because the new spouse uses all of the funds, for example for care home fees.

To protect assets from care home fees

If a couple leaves all of their assets to each other, then there is a risk that the last to die will use up all of the funds in paying for care home fees. The local authority will not provide financial support until the value of a person’s assets, to include any home, falls below a set threshold, currently £23,250. This means that very little from the joint estate may be left to pass on to any children.

Using a life interest trust to protect assets

By including a life interest trust in a Will, rather than simply leaving the whole estate to a spouse, the sideways disinheritance trap can be avoided.

You can leave your new spouse the right to live in a jointly owned property for the rest of life. They would still be able to move house if they wanted, and retain a life interest in the new home. But on their death, your interest in the property or other assets would pass to your chosen beneficiaries as detailed in your Will. To pass only a life interest in a property, it must be owned as tenants in common and not as joint tenants, otherwise the property automatically becomes solely owned by the other joint owner on the death of the first to die.

Similarly, by leaving a spouse the right to live in a property for the rest of their life, but not passing them your share outright, you can prevent your half of the property being included in local authority calculations for any care home fees they may incur.

It is advisable to seek professional advice to ensure that your assets are adequately protected and that they will ultimately pass to your choice of beneficiary.

If you would like to speak to one of our wills and probate experts, ring us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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Small estate

Dealing with a small estate where a Grant of Probate is not required

Normally when someone dies, their executor or administrator needs to apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. If the estate is small, however, it may not be necessary.

After a death, an executor or administrator is responsible for collecting in the deceased’s assets, valuing them, arranging for sale, preparing estate accounts, to include payment of any tax that may be due, then distributing the funds to the beneficiaries named in the Will or under the terms of the Rules of Intestacy.

The job usually includes application to the Probate Registry for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, unless the estate is small enough to be wound up without this document.

What constitutes a small estate?

There is no exact legal definition of a small estate and whether a grant is required depends on individual asset holders.

For example, each bank has its own probate threshold, which can vary widely, with limits usually ranging from £5,000 to £50,000.

The same applies to share registrars, life insurance companies and pension administrators. Some institutions take account of the amount held with them, while others look at the entire value of the estate when making their decision.

Where a property was jointly owned by the deceased with another person and it was held as joint tenants, then it will automatically become owned by the survivor, with no grant needed to transfer ownership.

If a property was owned in any other way, then a grant of representation is usually required.

How to decide whether to apply for a grant

By making enquiries of all of the individual asset holders, the deceased’s representative will be able to gauge whether a grant is needed. If it is not certain, then it is worth obtaining professional advice, as it can complicate matters to find out partway through an administration that a grant should have been applied for.

Winding up a small estate

Where it has been established that a grant of representation is not needed, then most financial institutions will need to see a certified copy of the death certificate and will require a Small Estates Declaration. This is a document executed by the executor or administrator, stating that the estate’s value is below the threshold of the financial institution.

The Declaration will include an indemnity whereby the representative agrees to indemnify the institution against any claims as well as an agreement to provide a grant of representation in the future if required.

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

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