Wills, Trusts and Probate
At some point in our lives, we will all have to deal with this sensitive area of law. Our solicitors show empathy and understanding to every individual who walks through the door and all matters are dealt with carefully and efficiently.
Our Wills and Probate department deal with all matters with compassion and empathy. They will help with the organisation of affairs before and after death.
This can involve Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning which provides you with peace of mind. In the event that you may become incapable of making decisions for yourself, you can appoint an attorney to make decisions regarding your finances, your health and your care during your lifetime.
If you are concerned that your loved one ‘lacks the mental capacity’ to manage their property and financial affairs or their personal welfare, the team can help you apply for a deputyship order.
Our friendly lawyers can help you efficiently deal with any after death and probate issues. During an emotionally distressing time, we’ll ensure we help you apply for probate, administer the estate or resolve any Wills, Trust and Estate disputes.
Wills and Trusts
When a loved one passes away it can be a very emotional and stressful time. If you do not have a valid up to date Will in place it can cause loved ones many problems.
Creating a Will is essential during your lifetime
Everyone over the age of 18 should have a Will in place which they should review every few years. Additionally, it should be reviewed if there is a significant change in your life such as marriage, children, the purchase of a property or divorce.
There are legal requirements for a Will to be legally valid; it is not enough to make verbal promises or to write down how you would like to divide your estate. Make your wishes known within a valid Will.
Mediation is not just about disputes. If you are involved in complex contractual negotiations, property mediation can help you and your negotiating partner get over any hurdles that are making it more difficult to do a deal. This can happen at any time of the business relationship from the very beginning or simply renewing a lease.
Important things to consider:
- If you own property outside of England and Wales your foreign assets may have to be distributed according to the laws in that country. This means that you may require more than one Will.
- If you have jointly owned assets it is important to note on death the jointly owned asset will automatically pass to the survivor regardless of what is stated in your Will. There are however steps that can be taken in order to overcome this issue.
- A Will only takes effect after you pass away. If you lack capacity during your lifetime you will require separate documents known as Lasting Power of Attorney. However, you must create this while you have the capacity to do so.
If you die without having a valid Will in place, the Rules of Intestacy will determine how to distribute your estate.
You may be surprised to learn that the Rules of Intestacy do not cater for unmarried couples, even if they are engaged or living together, the law will not take this into account.
If there are no surviving blood relatives your estate will go to the Crown.
If you are excluding a certain individual from your Will, it is important that the relevant steps are taken in order to protect your estate from any potential claims.
There has been a rise in contentious probate claims recently, therefore if you believe your estate could be challenged, certain steps should be taken to reduce the risk of a successful claim.
If you have young children, you are able to appoint one or more guardians within your Will.
Furthermore, if you are leaving your children an inheritance and they have not reached the age of 18, they will require someone to look after this money until they are old enough to inherit.
Lasting Power of Attorney
No-one wants to think about a time where their loved ones are incapable of making decisions for themselves after a serious illness or accident.
However, the unthinkable can happen and our team of lawyers can help you to create a Lasting Power of Attorney.
If you lose capacity through accident or illness, either temporarily or permanently, your loved ones will require your legal authority to manage your affairs on your behalf.
At some point in your lifetime, you may find that you require the help of someone else to assist with your day-to-day tasks.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows a nominated decision maker (an Attorney) to make certain decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.
There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney:
- Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Care Decisions; and
- Lasting Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions.
You should not confuse Lasting Powers of Attorney with your Will; they are completely separate documents. Lasting Power of Attorney can be used during your lifetime but end on your death. At this time the Executors named in your Will take over from your Attorneys named in your Lasting Powers of Attorney.
An Attorney appointed under a Health and Care Decisions Lasting Power of Attorney can make decisions relating to:-
- Where you live
- Day-to-day care
- Consenting or refusing life sustaining treatment
You should nominate somebody you trust to act as your Attorney. It may be a sensible idea to appoint more than one Attorney to prevent the possibility of misuse of the power. You are also able to nominate a replacement Attorney. They can act in the event your chosen Attorney can no longer act, respond to due diligence, making changes to investment funds and independently setting up a review committee. Furthermore, we can also assist with conducting acquisitions of other businesses and making updates and amendments to documents.
If you lack capacity and do not have Lasting Powers of Attorney in place you may find that your assets, including joint assets, are frozen and Local Authorities and Medics make decisions regarding your welfare without consulting loved ones.
This will be until a time that your loved ones make an application to the Court for a Deputyship Order.
As you can imagine this is a costly and time-consuming process. However, it is avoidable by preparing the necessary legal documents in advance.
An Attorney appointed under a Financial Decisions Lasting Power of Attorney can make decisions relating to:-
- Buying and selling of property
- Operating bank accounts
- Claiming benefits
After Death and Probate
Our lawyers will help you at this distressing time to deal with all probate issues efficiently and compassionately
We are here to support you through every stage
When someobody dies it is undoubtedly a very emotional time for family and friends. This can make it hard to know what you need to do next.
However, there are some clear steps that loved ones can take when dealing with Probate, and our team are experienced in providing compassionate and reliable advice to relatives.
If you are unsure where to start, do not hesitate to contact our team 24 hours a day.
In the first few days after death, you must obtain a medical certificate from a GP or a doctor from the hospital. You will then be able to collect death certificates and arrange the deceased’s funeral. However, this may differ if the death was reported to a Coroner or happened abroad.
If the person has died abroad, you must register the death according to the regulations in the country the person died.
The document you will be provided with can be used in the UK although the death can also be registered with UK authorities if you so wish.
Once the death has been registered you can arrange the deceased’s funeral. This is something you are able to do yourself, or you can contact a funeral director. If you arrange the funeral through a funeral director, you will be responsible for the costs. However, you can recover these costs from the deceased’s estate. Bear in mind that the deceased’s Will may include special instructions for their funeral.
After the funeral is probably the right time to begin the administration process.
If the deceased had a valid Will in place, it should nominate at least one Executor. This is the person, or people if more than one, with a duty to administer the deceased’s estate. This process involves collecting in the deceased’s assets and distributing them in accordance with the deceased’s Will.
If the deceased did not have a valid Will in place, the Rules of Intestacy set out the order of relatives entitled to administer the estate. Similarly, these rules establish the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.
Contested Wills, Trusts & Estates
Contested Wills, Trusts and estates make the grieving process even harder having just lost a loved one. During this emotional time, our trusted lawyers are here to support you.
Solving disputes with efficiency and empathy
Our highly experienced practitioners provide you with practical and objective advice in relation to the particular dispute at hand and provide you with a cost sensitive and solution-focused resolution to your dispute.
Contested probate is a growing phenomenon for a variety of reasons, influenced by:
- A considerable build-up of wealth for a large section of the population,
- family relationships becoming more complicated,
- home-made wills, will writers and online will writing services which can produce a greater number of mistakes,
- a heightened awareness of people’s rights and a willingness to pursue them through litigation if required.
There are three basic types of contentious probate claims;
- Claims where an individual seeks to challenge the will itself and how it was made;
- Claims where an individual seeks to challenge the content of a will;
- Claims where an individual seeks to challenge the assets of a will.
We understand dealing with contested probate is not easy. Emotions often run high and the underlying law is far from straightforward. The procedure is also not familiar.
We can help you if you feel you want to take further action or are questioning the content of a Will.
It is important to note that there are strict time limits that need to be adhered to when disputing a will. Therefore, we recommend you seek legal advice as a matter of urgency.
There can be a variety of situations which cause a Will to become open to challenge. These could include:
- that the correct formalities have not been followed and the will was not properly executed;
- the individual who made the will did not have the capacity at the time to make the Will, or;
- that the person making the Will was unduly influenced by other people to make a Will which was not in accordance with their own wishes.
In addition to the above, it may be the case that you have been left out of a Will. In light of your relationship to the deceased individual who has made the Will you may be entitled to a share of the deceased’s assets even if you are not included in the Will.
We understand that becoming a deputy can be a daunting and difficult task to deal with. However, our team of lawyers are here to help you with any matters related to deputyship orders.
We can help you in the process of providing quality care.
If a loved one ‘lacks mental capacity’ to manage their own personal finances or health and care needs, you may be required to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order.
A person lacks mental capacity if they are unable to make decisions they need to make. A person may lack capacity because of an accident, illness, dementia or due to severe learning difficulties.
If the individual in question does not have a valid Lasting Power of Attorney in place they may find that their finances are frozen and professional bodies such as Medics or Local Authorities are making decisions for them instead of loved ones.
In order to legally manage a loved one’s finances or personal affairs, you’ll need to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order. Once this Court Order has been granted you will have the authority to act on behalf of your loved one as their ‘Deputy’.
A deputy is someone who can manage their loved one’s finances or personal affairs.
There are two types of Deputy
- Property and Financial Affairs Deputy; and
- Personal Welfare Deputy.
You can apply to become one type of deputy or both. Once the Order is granted it will tell you exactly what you can do.
We appreciate the personal and sensitive nature of inheritance, tax and estate planning. Therefore, we work in an understanding way to ensure we achieve the right solution suited to your needs and situation.
Protect your estate and manage your tax liabilities
During the course of having your Will drafted, you should consider whether your estate will be subject to inheritance tax on your death and if so, how will it be paid?
You may be able to reduce your inheritance tax liability by seeking legal advice.
Currently, the inheritance tax threshold Nil Rate Band (this is the total amount tax free) is £325,000. If you are married and leaving assets to each other, as a couple you have an allowance of £650,000 between you before inheritance tax is payable. Generally, all assets over this amount are taxed at 40%.
If your estate will be subject to inheritance tax, there are steps that can be taken to minimise the liability. It is important to seek legal and financial advice on these matters.
We are able to assess your personal circumstances and provide inheritance tax advice if we feel this is necessary.
Our advisors are able to provide full HMRC tax compliance service in estate administration and ensure the most tax-effective devolution of your estate.
Due to a change in the law there is now an additional inheritance tax relief, namely the Residential Nil Rate Band (RNRB). This relief will apply to individuals if:
- The individual dies on or after 6 April 2017;
- The individual owns a home, or a share of one, so that it’s included in their estate;
- The individual’s direct descendants such as children or grandchildren inherit the home, or a share of it; and
- The value of the estate is not more than £2 million.
If the above applies to you, namely you are leaving your home or a share of your home to your children or grandchildren, you will be able to claim the RNRB.
For deaths in the following tax years, the Residential Nil Rate Band for each individual will be:
- £100,000 in 2017 to 2018;
- £125,000 in 2018 to 2019;
- £150,000 in 2019 to 2020; and
- £175,000 in 2020 to 2021.
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