Wills

A professionally and well-prepared Will is one of the most important documents that you will ever make.  It enables you to specify what happens to your assets when you have died and who (or in many cases, which charities) you want to benefit, and what you want them to receive.

If you do not prepare a Will (and over half of the adults in England and Wales have not made a Will) you cannot control either of these important decisions.  The laws of intestacy will often dictate what happens, which may well result in people you want to benefit not benefitting, and people you may not to benefit doing so instead.

A well-planned Will can cover many subjects including:

  • Who you wish to look after your affairs after you have died?
  • Who you would like to look after any young children you may leave behind you?
  • What gifts you wish to make? These could include:
    • Gifts of money.
    • Gifts of personal belongings.
    • Gifts of property.
  • Covering more complex family arrangements, such as second families
  • Protecting potentially vulnerable beneficiaries (eg they may be in ill health, have financial difficulties, or going through family breakdown).
  • Inheritance Tax planning.
  • Asset protection.
  • Who (or which charities) you may want to benefit if your first named beneficiaries do not survive you?
  • Funeral wishes.

Despite what many people believe, preparing a Will does not have to be an unpleasant, expensive or upsetting experience! 

Preparing a Will both enables you to make matters as straightforward as possible for those left behind and, most importantly, provides you with peace of mind.

Estate Planning

Estate planning has been defined as: “the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person`s life, for the management and disposal of that person`s estate during the person`s life and at and after their death, while minimizing gift, estate, generation skipping transfer, and income tax.” (Wikipeda)

In many cases, a simple Will may be all that someone wants, or needs.

However, depending on family situations, the value of someone’s assets (or a family’s combined assets), complex family makeups, property values in certain areas and the impact of Inheritance Tax, more detailed planning is often very useful.

At the initial meeting, I will discuss a clients’ family, their assets, wishes and plans in detail.  I can then advise on the potential options and best ways of achieving their plans.  This will often include working closely with their other professional advisors, such as financial advisors and accountants (or introducing them to other advisors) so we can provide all round advice to achieve their aims.

Estate planning will often involve more detailed Wills incorporating different types of trusts, as well other lifetime planning strategies.

Estate planning covers a variety of different situations and scenarios including, for example:

  • Protecting family wealth within the family, often across generations.
  • Bypassing generations if, for example, the “next” generation do not need funds themselves.
  • Taking steps to protect the family home.
  • Covering more complex family structures, such as second families and where financial situations may be different between the families.
  • Different types of gifting.
  • Inheritance tax planning.
  • Lifetime planning making use of the various Inheritance Tax reliefs and allowances.

My aim is to find out what my clients want to achieve and provide them with the best options to achieve and implement them.

Succession Planning

For clients who have spent much time, energy and finances in setting up and running a successful business, it is extremely important to plan for when they wish to retire from the business.

I work closely with clients and their other professional advisors (especially accountants, financial advisors and commercial lawyers), in reviewing succession planning and implementing plans to assist with this.

My interest is in advising on the steps that can be taken to ensure that the business owner`s wishes regarding what would happen to their interest in the business on their death, or loss of faculties, can be carried out.  This includes preparing detailed Wills.

To be able to advise business clients on how they can leave their business assets and interests in their Wills, it is necessary to consider several factors.  These can include:

  • Finding out what the business client wants to happen to their business interests – eg pass to their family?
  • Reviewing what would need to happen to their business interest upon death – eg
    • What do the Articles of Association specify?
    • Is there a Partnership Agreement? If not, I can introduce the client to the necessary advisors to deal with this.
    • Review whether cross option agreements and / or keyman insurance are in place and introduce to the relevant advisors if required.
  • Review the Inheritance Tax position to take account of relevant reliefs, such as Business Property Relief and Agricultural Property Relief.
  • Review if they need to appoint executors in their Wills with the relevant business experience.

I also advise business clients on Commercial Lasting Powers of Attorney.  These are designed to cover who they would wish to look after their business interests (as opposed to their personal financial affairs) if they were to lose, or be losing, their mental faculties.

Later Life Advice

A professionally and well-prepared Will is one of the most important documents that you will ever make.  It enables you to specify what happens to your assets when you have died and who (or in many cases, which charities) you want to benefit, and what you want them to receive.

I believe it is important to take steps to put safeguards in place to ensure that the later years can be spent in as a relaxing a way as possible.  This includes arranging your affairs so you can have the peace of mind that you are both looking after yourself, and those who are important to you, such as family, friends and charities you may wish to support.

I work closely with both my clients and their families to ensure that this support is in place.

Later Life planning covers several areas and include the following;

  1. Wills
  • A professionally and well-planned Will can ensure that you decide who looks after your assets after you have died and who you wish to benefit from your estate, and how you would like them to benefit. (Please see Wills in Individual Services for more details).
  • For example, we can take steps to protect your assets, especially your home. With couples, you may well want to ensure that the survivor of you has the security of being able to remain in your home, but also want to protect the home for your family as well in due course.  This could be arranged using trusts in your Will.
  • We can also plan to make use of the various Inheritance Tax reliefs and allowances to ensure that your family, friends or charities can inherit as much of your estate as possible, rather than paying any unnecessary funds to Inheritance Tax.
  1. Lasting Powers of Attorney
    • Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) are documents where you can decide who you would like to help you look after your affairs should either you want them to do so, or should they need to do so.
    • If you do lose, or are losing, mental faculties, no-one can help look after your affairs for you without having been appointed by you as an attorney in an LPA. The alternative would be for someone – not necessarily who you would have chosen yourself – to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as a Deputy. This can take several months and is costly.
    • Preparing LPAs can help avoid any delays in the people you want to look after your affairs being able to do so and avoid any unnecessary stress or difficulties.
    • There are 2 types of LPA available:
      1. Property and Financial Affairs LPA.
      2. Health and Welfare LPA.
    • (Please see Powers of Attorney in Individual Services for more details).
  2. Enduring Powers of Attorney
    • Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs) were replaced in 2007 by LPAs. However, they are still valid.
    • EPAs give attorneys the authority to look after your property and financial affairs, but not your health affairs.
    • Some clients with EPAs have found difficulties in these being accepted by third parties and are preparing Property and Financial Affairs LPAs instead.
  3. Care fees and investments
    • Although I am not authorised to advise on either investments or care fees, I work closely with other professionals, such as financial advisors, and can introduce you and your family to experienced professional advisors who could advise and work with you in these areas.

Powers of Attorney

We all take out car, house and contents insurance, but how many people take steps to provide security for themselves and their family if they were to lose mental faculties?

Many people believe that losing mental faculties is only something that happens with age, however this is not always the case.  People can unfortunately lose the ability to look after their own affairs for several reasons, such as an accident or illness, which can strike at any time or age.

If you were no longer able to look after your own affairs, either financial or health, then no-one is authorised to do so on your behalf without either having been appointed as an attorney by you in a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)  (or an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), which were the documents we had before LPAs came into force in 2007), or being appointed by the Court of Protection as a deputy.

Even in long term relationships where people have a combination of joint assets and assets in their individual names, if one person loses (or is in the process of losing) mental faculties, their other half will often not be able to deal with that person`s individual assets without an LPA or Deputyship.  This can also include dealing with a sale of the family home where it is held jointly.

If no steps are taken to protect against this it can cause significant issues, hardship and upset, both for the person who may have lost (or be losing) their mental faculties, and their family and what is already a stressful time.

You can protect against this by preparing LPAs.

There are two types of LPAs available:

  • Property and Financial Affairs LPA

This allows the person or persons you have appointed as your attorney(s) to deal with your financial affairs on your behalf.  This can be either because you would like them to act, or because you may no longer be able to do so yourself.  (This is basically the “new” EPA).

  • Health and Welfare LPA

This allows your attorneys to make decisions about health matters such as, what medical treatment you have (or don`t have) and welfare decisions, such as where you live.  Unlike the Property and Financial Affairs LPA, this LPA can only be used if you have lost mental faculties.

(Please be aware that EPAs do not give attorneys the right to look after health and welfare matters.  If you want someone to be able to do this, you need to prepare a Health and Welfare LPA.)

By preparing LPAs, you decide who you want to look after your affairs in the, hopefully unlikely, scenario of you no longer being able to do so yourself.  Not only do you make matters easier for yourself, but also for those who need to help you.  As with Wills, LPAs provide you with peace of mind.

So, like car and house and contents insurance, LPAs can be viewed as a possibly unnecessary expense – until you need them!

Estate Administration

Having to both come to terms with and deal with the death of someone close to you, is clearly a very difficult and stressful time.  That is without taking account of the steps that then need to be taken to administer the deceased`s estate, which can be confusing, daunting and upsetting.

With over 20 years’ experience in specialising in this area, I can guide you through this worrying, and sometimes complex time.

I provide an initial free meeting to discuss the terms of the existing Will, if there is one, or outline how the law dictates what happens when there is no Will.

As well as covering what the Will says, and what it actually means, I explain the steps that need to be taken in order to obtain the grant of representation (which is often needed before any of the deceased`s assets can be collected in), the question of Inheritance Tax and related matters,  and the procedure to administer the estate.

I will then outline the various options of how the estate could be administered, such as the client dealing with it themselves, our working together, or my carrying out the work on their behalf.  Once the client is happy what needs to be done, and the different options available to them, they can then decide how they wish to proceed.

My aim is to make what is a very difficult and upsetting situation as straight forward and stress free for the client as possible. If you wish to discuss questions regarding the administration of an estate, or require assistance, please contact me.