Wills, Trusts and Probate

It is essential to take your time when you look into making a will, inheritance tax (IHT) planning, provision for long term care and estate administration. Properly reviewing and planning your private assets will have a dramatic impact on your personal wealth and bring you and your family peace of mind.

Our wills, trusts and probate team will provide you with precise, professional legal advice on issues such as tax planning, powers of attorney, tax efficient wills, estate planning and nursing/care home fees.

Clients welcome our practical yet sensitive approach to their private financial affairs – which is why most of our business in this area is either repeat business or comes via recommendations from family or friends of existing clients.

As your financial standing is certain to change over time, you should review your affairs regularly, and certainly before major events such as getting married, buying a home, having children or retirement. Other life changing events, like divorce or bereavement, should also trigger a review of your assets.

We offer a confidential and personal service to clients. The solicitor you see will help you to review your affairs and can advise you on all aspects of personal wealth, giving you and your dependants’ peace of mind.

Wills
Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign.  We are experienced in both writing wills and also putting wills into effect following a death.

Statistics have shown that a shocking 70 per cent of people die without a will. The rules of intestacy which apply in such circumstances have the potential to provide unexpected results and inevitably lead to unnecessary distress for the family of the deceased. As well as ensuring that your estate passes to those you intend to receive it, we can help to save thousands of pounds in inheritance tax by advising you on the most tax efficient methods of planning your estate.

Although the Administration of Estates Act provides a basic formula for the distribution of estates where no will has been prepared, most people will wish to make gifts that may not otherwise be provided for under the Act. The only way to be sure that your wishes will be carried out after your death is to make a will.

You should be aware a will becomes void following marriage (unless stated to be in contemplation of that marriage) and it will also be significantly altered following the granting of a decree absolute (divorce). It is therefore essential that your will is kept up to date and we would recommend that it is reviewed every five years.

Tax planning
Once you have made a tax efficient will, any further mitigation will be as a result of actions taken during your lifetime. We can offer advice on various schemes which can help you to avoid or reduce capital gains tax and inheritance tax, which otherwise may be payable on the transfer or disposal of your assets during your lifetime or on your death. Such schemes may be particularly relevant to the family home and interests in a business.

Trusts
The use of trusts, whether in a lifetime settlement or in a will, can have great benefits in ensuring long term financial provision and saving tax. We advise on the most favourable use of trusts and deal with their preparation and, if required, their administration. If required, the firm’s partners will act as professional trustees, although we always suggest that there is at least one lay person as a trustee.

Estate administration
We are experienced in dealing with all aspects of estate administration in a proactive, efficient and sensitive manner. This includes the application to the court to obtain probate and the preparation and submission of all necessary tax forms.

If the executors prefer to instruct us to deal with the administration in its entirety we will undertake a proactive role throughout the process, including

    • checking the terms of the will;
    • producing a schedule of the assets;
    • corresponding with the beneficiaries, the Probate Court and asset holders;
    • resolving any problems following the closure of accounts;
    • producing statements for the beneficiaries;
    • completing the final tax returns and obtaining inheritance tax clearance;
    • final distribution of the estate and production of estate accounts.

Where the executors prefer to undertake some of the work themselves, we undertake a supportive role and advise on the procedures to be followed or deal with limited aspects such as obtaining the Grant of Probate and then handing the matter back to the executors for the next stage.

Lasting Powers of Attorney
From 1 October 2007, Enduring Powers of Attorney have been replaced by Lasting Powers of Attorney. Any Enduring Powers of Attorney made before that date will still be valid but it will no longer be possible to make a new one. The alternative is to prepare a LPA. We can guide you through the additional complexity which this new system will introduce.

Living will
You may wish to leave directions to your next of kin to be appointed as your voice, when making decisions as to your medical treatment that you would wish to receive in the event of your own incapacity. A living will can specify a friend or relative of your choice, whom you trust, to advise your doctor of such decisions.

Court of Protection – Deputies (Previously known as Receivers)
Where a person has not made an Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney and has become incapable of dealing with their affairs, we can assist you as their relative or friend with an application to the Court of Protection for receivership of that person.

Long term care
Many people are becoming increasingly concerned at the possibility of using their life savings to pay for expensive care in later years. Statistics show that some 40,000 people in the UK are forced to sell their homes every year to pay for nursing or residential care home fees, and this is likely to increase. We can advise on ways in which to manage your assets within acceptable parameters, so as to maximise the benefit your family will receive from your estate.

Contesting a will
It is unfortunate that, sometimes, that the death of a loved one can lead to later disputes over the contents of a will. For example, disputes can arise where:

  • A dependant has not been sufficiently provided for. Provisions for dependants are usually dealt with under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which gives certain family members who were dependent upon the deceased at the time of death an automatic right to challenge the will
  • The validity of the will is questioned. Challenges will also occur when it is alleged that the will was signed incorrectly, or that the deceased was being influenced by another person at the time that they entered into the will or that they were not capable of understanding the terms of the will, usually through mental or physical incapability.
  • The mental capacity of the deceased person at the time they made the will is challenged. In this case, we will provide you with comprehensive advice on both probate law and court procedure assisting you in either challenging or defending the will.