Our range of Personal Estate Planning services includes: –
A Will is a legal declaration of how you wish to dispose of your property on your death which, amongst other things, allows you to: –
- formally appoint Guardians for your children
- make specific gifts of property or money
- give someone the right to live in your property
- help you save up to £130,000 in inheritance tax
- set up trusts to protect disabled relatives
To make a Will, you have to be over the age of 18 and have what is known as Testamentary Capacity (being of sound mind) which the law describes as being able to; “understand the nature of the act and its effects, understand the extent of the property of which he is disposing and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect”.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you (the Donor) to officially nominate someone (your Attorney) to speak and act on your behalf if you become physically or mentally unable to do so yourself. It has to be ‘completed’ while you still have capacity, and it cannot be used before it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).
There are two types of LPA: Property and Financial affairs (allowing an Attorney to make decisions about paying bills, dealing with the bank, collecting benefits, selling your house, etc.), and Health and Welfare (allowing decisions on treatment, care, medication, where you live, etc.). In simple terms, an LPA allows you to plan in advance the decisions you want to be made on your behalf if or when you lose capacity to make them yourself, the people you want to make these decisions and how you want the people to make these decisions.
Advance Directives / Living Wills
Advance Directives are a statement about what you would like to happen in the event that you lose the capacity to take informed decisions about your own medical care and is designed to provide reassurance to a person worried about their future healthcare. When healthcare professionals are faced with difficult decisions about what treatment or care to give, an Advance Directive will provide the best possible guide, and help to ensure that your wishes are taken into account.
Preparing an Advance Directive can open up a dialogue with doctors and nurses that might otherwise be delayed until it is too late. The process can stimulate conversation with family and close friends, relieving them of some of the burden of decision-making at what can be a distressing time.
Protective Property and Asset Protection Trusts
Asset Protection Trusts are used to ‘ring fence’ assets and provide peace of mind that the assets are protected for your chosen beneficiaries. These trusts are lifetime settlements used to provide for a surviving spouse, civil partner, co-habitee and future generations and to protect hard earned assets against the possible claims of as yet unknown third parties by splitting the beneficial enjoyment of assets from their legal ownership. The beneficiaries are the beneficial owners of equitable interests in the trust assets, but the legal title to the assets is held by the trustees.
It is not just the family home which can be put into the trust. Other assets such as building society accounts, bank accounts and equities can be placed into the trust for the use of the settlor and surviving spouse during their lifetimes and for other beneficiaries after the death of the survivor. Income and capital can be paid to the survivor for his or her welfare at the trustees’ discretion.
Inheritance Tax mitigation (Discretionary Pilot Trusts)
It was Julius Caesar who first implemented Inheritance Tax (IHT). However, it wasn’t until 1796 that ‘death taxes’ were introduced to the U.K. to finance the war against Napoleon Bonaparte. Death Duties, as we know them, were introduced in 1894 as a way to breaking up large estates as part of a politically motivated way of curbing the influence of the landed gentry. Since then, the law of unintended consequences and rampant house price inflation means that an increasing number of us are subject to IHT. In fact, official figures show that the revenue from Inheritance Tax now stands at £3.4 billion per year.
Each us is allowed to give away free of IHT an amount equivalent to what is called the Nil Rate Band (NRB), which currently stands at £325,000. Apart from certain exempt gifts (see below) everything above the NRB is taxed at 40%. One thing to remember is that in calculating how much tax is payable, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will take into account everything you own including your family home.
Children / Disabled Children Protection
In general, children are a wonderful thing but sometimes problems occur with drink, drugs, gambling, poor financial discipline or simply physical disability or learning difficulties. It is sometimes possible to provide a secure environment and / or income by using Discretionary Trusts.
Parents and grandparents of children with disabilities should take steps to ensure that assets they want to leave to their disabled child do not deny them means-tested benefits when they become adults.
Flexible Life Interest Trusts
A Flexible Life Interest Trust allows you to put your assets into trust for the benefit of your children or other nominated beneficiaries. It offers greater peace of mind if you have significant assets or investments as well as property, and wish to protect their value for future generations.
A FLIT allows for adequate provision for the surviving spouse/partner, whilst incorporating flexibility into the Will whereby other family members/beneficiaries may benefit should the survivor not require the provision after the first death, as well as bring flexible enough to allow the Trustees to advance capital as well as income to the survivor, if required.
Deeds of Gift/Tenancy in Common
For the majority of people the largest asset that they’ll ever buy is their family home, yet most of us own that property in the least efficient manner.
Being Joint Tenants means that each joint owner (whether two or more) owns 100% of the property. The only advantage of this method of ownership is that, upon the death of any such owner, whether or not they have made a Will and regardless of the provisions of any Will, the property passes directly to the survivor(s). Joint Tenancy offers no other benefit.
Tenancy in Common
Tenancy in Common provides far greater protection and flexibility and is the modern way of owning property. Being Tenants in Common means that each party has their own Protected Share in a property which is owned individually and can therefore be left directly to children, or other beneficiaries, as appropriate.
Where this basis of ownership is correctly reflected in accompanying Will planning, the surviving property owner(s) can enjoy complete security of tenure during life, whilst the capital value of the property value is safeguarded for their chosen beneficiaries. This can be especially helpful, for example, when protecting the interests of children of a former relationship, or those of a current relationship in the event of the later remarriage of a surviving parent. In the right circumstances, this allows each owner to protect their share of the equity within their property from the charging procedures allowed under the NHS & Community Care Act (1990).
Pre-paid Funeral Plans
Pre-paid funeral plans are a secure and cost-effective way of ensuring that your funeral is arranged and paid for in advance at today’s prices. It’s a thoughtful way to make things easier for your family at what will be a distressing time. You’ll have arranged everything in advance: chosen your funeral director, specified your wishes and taken care of the funeral costs.