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Writing a will is something you should do at any time, however, the Coronavirus outbreak has served to concentrate minds with regards to this important issue.
Approximately 70% of us die intestate, that is, without a will. Even if you have a will, it is important to update it after a major life event such as buying a home, getting married or getting divorced.
Having an up to date will gives you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out and your loved ones will be looked after financially. If you die intestate, in many cases your property will not necessarily pass to the people you would have chosen. Your next of kin under the rules of intestacy
will inherit, just because they are nearest to you, even though they may not be your “dearest”.
● A will allows you to decide on how you leave your property on death rather than having this determined by the intestacy rules.
● A will is a flexible instrument, which permits the person making it to make more varied and complex provision than is offered under the intestacy rules.
● You may select your own Executors and Trustees.
● You can incorporate additional powers for your Executors and Trustees
which will facilitate the administration of your estate.
● You may appoint a Guardian for your minor children.
● There may be tax advantages resulting from a carefully drafted will where tax planning through wills is considered in conjunction with wider lifetime tax and financial planning.
● If you are at all concerned about the terms of your current will or the fact that you do not have a will or lasting power of attorney in place, please do get in touch and we can talk you through the next steps.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)
Lasting powers of attorney are legal documents registered with the Court of Protection enabling you to appoint representatives to act on your behalf. These documents ensure that decision making rests with those you trust if you are no longer able to make important decisions yourself. By making a lasting power of attorney, you are able to appoint nominated persons to act on your behalf, should the need arise. You may limit the power to suit your particular circumstances.
There are two different types of lasting power of attorney. One covers property and financial decisions (property and finance) and the other covers decisions about your well being (health and welfare). You are able to make just one or both and you can always make another if needed. Lasting powers of attorney and wills are more often that not regarded as one of life’s administration tasks which can often come at the bottom of the list of those things that we need to do. The current pandemic has brought the need to prioritise this task into “sharp focus”.
We have seen an increase in the number of people getting in contact to write a will or update an existing will.
During the Coronavirus outbreak, there are difficulties to overcome as this area of law is one which usually relies upon face to face meetings between legal advisors and clients. It is also important to have the will legally witnessed.
This may not be easy if you are self-isolating or observing social distancing rules. Wills must be signed by two independent witnesses who are not your beneficiaries or the spouses of your beneficiaries.
Given most of us are restricted to contact with those in our household, this can create some difficulty.
Sussex Law are committed to doing whatever we can to help you in this difficult time.
Our solution has been to take instructions from clients over the telephone or by Skype and then, to act as your witnesses, at your door or through your window observing social distancing measures at all times.
Further precautions include using your own pen, wearing gloves, and conducting the process quickly and washing hands and sanitising.
If you are concerned to get your affairs in order but you are unable or worried about leaving your home, we will do our utmost to help.
Reasons For Making a Will
Please contact our private client manager Sally Taylor or Linda Tomsett if you wish to discuss your Will or LPA’s and find out how we can help you.
Have peace of mind • Protect your assets
Please contact our helpful and friendly
team for more information on 01273 561312
Single Basic Will: £200+ VAT
Joint Basic Will: £350+ VAT
Living Will: £200+ VAT
Trust Wills: starting at £400+ VAT
LASTING POWERS OF ATTORNEY
For a single person
Health & welfare only: £275+ VAT
Property & Financial Affairs only: £275+ VAT
Both Types of LPA: £500+ VAT
The task of administering the Estate of a loved one can seem insurmountable, especially at a time when you may still be coming to terms with your loss. The procedures can be quite complex and there are a number of duties and responsibilities of an Executor you should be aware of.
If you have been appointed as an Executor we can provide assistance with as much or as little of the administration of the Estate as you feel you may require.
If you have acted as an Executor before you may be familiar with the Probate process and simply require assistance in completing the relevant tax returns to be submitted to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. Alternatively, you may be able to provide us with the majority of information in connection with the assets and simply require us to obtain the Grant of Probate on your behalf. We can also deal with the administration of an Estate from start to finish if you so wish.
Our charges will be discussed from the outset and if the Estate is not complex we can sometimes agree a fixed fee. We also offer a fixed fee if you only require assistance in obtaining the Grant.
Please contact our Probate Manager, Sally Taylor, if you wish to discuss the administration of an Estate and find out how we can help you.
What is Probate?
The validation of the Will by the Probate Registry confirms the appointment of Executors. The Probate Registry keeps the original Will and issues a sealed copy attached to the Grant of Probate (often called “the Probate”). It is this document which proves the rights of the Executors to deal with the deceased’s estate.
How is Probate obtained?
The Executors sign (and swear the truth of) an oath and pay a fee to the Registry. Solicitors deal with this through the post; you do not have to appear in Court or attend the registry. In some circumstances and for higher value estates the Executors have to complete an Account of Assets and Liabilities for HM Revenue and Customs. If there is Inheritance Tax to be paid the Executors will normally have to pay the tax first before Probate can be obtained. If there is no access to cash/bank, the Executors may have to take out a temporary loan at the expense of the deceased’s estate.
What if there is no Will?
There are rules to show who is the legal next of kin and thus who can deal with an estate. Provided they are over 18, they can apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant called “Letters of Administration”. Until this is done no-one has any authority to deal with the deceased’s estate.
Do I need a Solicitor?
When someone dies there are many decisions and arrangements to be made. The Executors or Administrators should see a Solicitor as soon as possible after getting the death registered. Occasionally it is wise to do this even before arranging the funeral or accepting custody of any possessions. For instance, if it is not clear whether the person has left a Will naming Executors; or there is likely to be a dispute about the Estate; or if there could be a claim for damages in connection with the death.
What do Solicitors charge?
A solicitor’s bill has to be fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. There is no set scale of charges because cases vary enormously in value and complexity. We can estimate these factors and give you a quotation. This will take into account the amount of time we would expect to spend on dealing with the matter. The value of the estate is also relevant.
Interim bills are submitted during the course of the matter and costs and disbursements are deducted from any funds we hold on behalf of the estate. Very occasionally it is necessary to ask for a deposit towards payment of initial expenses and fees.
Please do not hesitate to ask for further details.
What is the difference between Executors and Administrators?
Executors are named in the Will as the persons whom the deceased wishes to organise the funeral and deal with financial and property matters (the “estate”). Administrators do the same job but are authorised by the Probate Registry (a branch of the High Court) where there is no Will or where there are no executors named in the Will or they have already died. Grants of Administration are usually taken out by the deceased’s next of kin or, if a Will has been left, by a named beneficiary.
Is an Executor obliged to take on the Responsibility?
No. You can “renounce” and step aside (without losing the right to benefit under the Will) provided you have not interfered with the deceased’s estate or accepted liability.
What is involved in being an Executor or Administrator?
As the Executor or Administrator it is your job to:-
- make the funeral arrangements
- pay Inheritance Tax
- find out what assets and liabilities the deceased had
- collect any monies due and pay any outstanding bills
- transfer any assets to beneficiaries (if so directed in the Will) or convert the assets to cash and dispose of the estate in accordance with the Will or the Inheritance Rules.
Do Executors need to take the Will to Probate?
Not always. Some small accounts and personal possessions can be dealt with by showing a death certificate and a copy of the Will. This is particularly useful for National Savings investments or Building Society accounts with less than £5000 (or according to the limit set by a particular financial institution).
What about Trustees?
Executors or Administrators can become Trustees of money or property left by the deceased, either specifically in a Trust created by the Will or by virtue of Act of Parliament in some cases. An example would be where there was no Will and the deceased’s estate having to be shared between a surviving spouse or registered civil partner and children under 18.
Is this a heavy responsibility?
It can be and it is not always possible to cease acting as a Trustee once you have started acting as the Executor or Administrator. It is a position of trust where you are responsible for looking after what could amount to be a large sum of money. If you make a mistake you could be personally responsible to make up any loss.
It may prove to be time consuming when dealing with an estate and usually you can only recover your out-of-pocket expenses. You cannot charge for your time and effort. However, obtaining the help of a Solicitor will remove much of the responsibility and worry. Legal fees and other expenses such as valuation fees can be paid out of the deceased’s estate.
What steps should I take with regard to property?
If the deceased owned any property the deeds will be required for checking. If they are currently being stored at our office they will be retrieved from our storage department. Alternatively, we may need to establish the whereabouts of the deeds. If there is a mortgage on the property then the deeds will be retained by the Lender. An application to the Land Registry can be made to check whether the title relating to the property has been registered (The cost of this application is currently £3).
Is it important to maintain the property insurance?
It is essential that the buildings/contents are insured. Details of any current Insurance Policy will need to be checked. The Insurance Company will have to be notified if the property is unoccupied as they may place certain restrictions on the Policy.
If the property is un-insured, it will have to be placed on cover immediately and we can arrange this on your behalf.
What should be done regarding the house contents if the property is unoccupied?
If the property is unoccupied, you must make sure that it is secure and that all valuables are removed and placed in a safe place. We can also advise about house clearance if necessary.
What should I do about obtaining valuations?
Whether or not there is Inheritance Tax to pay, you need to have accurate values for house, contents, car, shares, jewellery, etc. We can advise about obtaining valuations and recommend suitably qualified agents to assist in the sale of any assets. Alternatively, you can arrange the valuations and provide us with details.
How do I protect myself from personal liability in respect of claims being made against the estate?
TRUSTEE ACT NOTICES
Trustee Act advertisements can be inserted in the local newspaper and the official London Gazette. These require anyone who has a potential claim against the estate to make their claim known within two months of the date of the appearance of the notices. It is advisable that executors or administrators insert the notices as they will then be protected against personal liability in the event of a valid claim being made against the estate after payment has been made to the beneficiaries. The cost of the notices would be in the region of £200. Unless you are able to make payment personally, we will therefore have to wait until we are in funds from the estate assets.
INHERITANCE (PROVISION FOR FAMILY AND DEPENDANTS) ACT 1975
It is possible for an ex-spouse, family member, civil partner, co-habitee or other dependant to make a claim against the estate under the above Act if they consider that insufficient provision has been made for them in any Will or the Intestacy. Any such claim would have to be commenced within 6 months of the date of issue of the Grant of Representation. It may be wise therefore to delay making payments to beneficiaries until the expiry of the 6 month period. Where this firm are appointed as executors no distribution of the estate funds will be made prior to the said period.
What happens now?
There is information we need from you to be able to commence the administration of the estate. This is contained in our standard Questionnaire. Once you have completed this Questionnaire and we are in possession of any relevant documents we will be able commence work.Paragraph
How long will it take?
As each case is different it is difficult to say. In general terms, however, obtaining the Grant of Probate or Administration normally takes approximately 2 – 4 months. Sales of any properties owned by the deceased are subject to the general housing market restrictions. Where a Trust has been created administration is, of course, an ongoing process.
How do I get further information?
Please ask for further advice and assistance when worried or doubtful about what to do next.
Sussex Law specialise in Wills, Probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney
Should you require any further information or assistance regarding your will, power of attorney or a probate matter please call us on 01273 561312 and ask for Sally or Linda or if you would prefer email
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A person’s Will may be the single most important legal document they ever prepare. But, they will not be alive to see it come into effect.
A Will deals with what someone owns, who is to get it, wishes for funeral arrangements, requests in relation to guardianship of any minor children, and the people trusted to bring that all into effect. The importance of the document really can’t be overstated, but statistics show that many people are in the dark about the important function a Will performs, or do not wish to face up to their own mortality by contemplating their death.
Recent research by Royal London and Macmillan Cancer Support has found that:
• As many as 54% of adults do not have a Will;
• 1.5 million people who did have a Will in place may have accidentally voided it by getting married since making that Will; and
• 5.4 million adults have no idea how to go about making their Will.
Making a Will is not the end of the story however. A Will is only of use if the original can be located after the Will maker has died. Sadly, finding the original Will is not always easy.
Most clients are advised by their solicitors to leave the original Will with the firm, and to let their family and executors know where the original is held. In that way, the firm can keep the document securely and ensure that it is only released to the correct executors after the Will maker’s death. The firm is also then able to advise the executors on the process of administration. The difficulty with this arrangement is that the firm may move, merge or close making it difficult to track down the Will years later (although the Solicitors Regulation Authority should be able to help to identify what has happened to a firm).
Not all clients choose to leave their original Will with solicitors though – sometimes preferring to keep the original at home, or with their bank. These arrangements can be risky as people often misplace the document, accidentally throw it away, or change banks without claiming the documents held. This can make administration of the deceased’s estate much more complicated, as the executors will have to try to locate the original document. If it cannot be found, this might leave open questions about whether it was intentionally destroyed or simply lost – and if the latter, then the executors may have to try to admit a draft or reconstructed copy to the Probate Registry for approval. These applications can involve a lot of additional cost and time delays which could otherwise have been avoided.
Recent headlines about the great Aretha Franklin’s estate have shown how easily documents can be lost. Ms Franklin had been involved in litigation in her later years, and apparently the relationship with her legal advisers had broken down. Possibly as a result of this poor relationship, Ms Franklin chose to prepare handwritten documents herself instead of a final single professionally drafted Will. When she died, her family and solicitors found three different documents. Two of the documents were found locked away in a safe at Ms Franklin’s home, with a further document hidden in the home under a pile of cushions. The documents themselves are now likely to be subject to scrutiny in order to determine whether they are valid Wills, but at least being able to find them at all means Ms Franklin’s last wishes can be known and considered.
The simplest method to make sure a Will is secure is to leave it with the solicitor who prepared it, and to notify family and executors where it is. It may be worth providing a photocopy to the executors directly. Registration of the Will using Certainty the National Will Register is also a great idea to ensure the will can be found. Certainty the National Will Register is the Law Society of England Wales endorsed provider of a National Will Register where Will makers record that they have made a Will, and where the original Will is located. Family and executors can request a search of the National Will Register and easily find the document. The costs of such a search would ordinarily be treated as an estate expense, and so paid from the estate funds rather than by the executors personally.
Preparing a Will is an important step in the estate planning process. Registering the document and notifying the relevant parties is the best way to ensure that the effort of preparing the Will is not wasted.