What exactly does a Will And Estate Planning Consultant do?

A few people have asked me lately how I got into the business of will writing, so here’s my story.

My early career was in banking and whilst working for HSBC I studied and passed my exams to be a financial adviser. It was doing that work which brought me into the world of wills. Financial advice is a very targeted profession and I had a target to write two wills per month. When I left I wrote 100 wills in my last year. So, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

I then went to work for an Independent Financial adviser practice and was writing wills for the clients of that practice. Then six years ago I became a Grandma and decided that I wanted to be in control of when I worked and when I could be Grandma so I set up my own business.

It is my earlier career background that helps me today knowing banking rules and financial advice.

Some of you may have seen my recent Facebook post when I wrote that I have now dealt with over 1000 clients in the last six years.

You might gather that I love my work but what I love most is seeing how reassured clients are when they have all the important paperwork in place and legal.

What exactly does a Will And Estate Planning Consultant do?

When I meet my clients it is usually because they need to write their very first will or sometimes it is to bring up to date an existing will. I talk about what they want to happen when they are no longer alive but I also cover various trusts which can be put in a will.

One of the most popular ones is for a residential property and ensures that when the first person of a couple dies, their half share of the main home is ring fenced in a trust to stop the survivor passing it on to a new spouse if they married again. It also stops it being used for care costs.

Another popular trust is a discretionary trust which can be put in a will if someone wants to pass assets to someone in receipt of benefits or maybe an adult child is going through divorce.

Assets put in trust are not actually owned by the recipient so then the funds couldn’t become part of a divorce settlement or in the case of someone receiving benefits- it would prevent the benefits being stopped because of an inheritance.

This is estate planning.

Another aspect of my work is to encourage everyone to get their Lasting Powers of Attorney written.

These are legal documents that ensure you have nominated people you trust to be able to act for you if you are unable to act for yourself.

Most people think these are for when you are old and doddery or have dementia.

Not true.

They can help you when you just cannot deal with matters yourself. I have just done them for a couple in their 40’s whose work has caused them live in India for a couple of years and they have rented out their house in Aylesbury. Nominating her sister as an attorney means that she can deal with any of the paperwork needed for the rental and move funds around from their UK bank accounts if needed.

This again comes under the umbrella of estate planning.

To give you an idea of costs – I charge £199 for a single basic will and £299 for a pair of mirror basic wills. This gives a couple a will each and my figures already include VAT and my advice and visits.

Quite often most peoples concern is that there is someone in the family that they really don’t want to benefit so then it is vital to get a will in place.

This year I dealt with my richest client so far with an estate over £30 million and on the other side of the scale I have dealt with a single mum in a rented flat.

We all need that important document no matter where you are in the scale of wealth.

If you feel I can help you don’t hesitate to get in touch.



Why you should choose your executors carefully

Deciding to make your Last Will and Testament is just one step in the process – there are many decisions to be made and one of the most important is appointing executors.

An executor is someone named in a will, or appointed by the court, who is given the legal responsibility to take care of a deceased person’s remaining financial obligations. This means taking care of everything from disposing of property to paying bills and taxes. Most executors are immediate family members, with spouses, children and parents being the most common executors

Executors, as part of winding down an estate, will often perform the following functions, with the money to perform these duties comes from the estate itself: Distributing assets according to the will, maintaining property until the estate is settled (e.g. upkeep of a house,) paying bills for the estate, paying taxes on the estate, making court appearances for the estate and keeping estate accounts.

Once you accept the job of executor you have it for life. So as an example if HMRC have questions some years later the executor still has to deal with the matter.

If an executor feels they are not able to deal with the estate they can choose to appoint a professional to act instead.

When someone dies who has left a will with a trust in it, it is extremely important that the executors do apply for probate and do set up the trust. For example, complications can follow if the survivor of a couple needs care and the trust hasn’t been set up then all the deceased estate can be taken for care costs which was not the intention.

We are available to give more bespoke advice to you about the issue of executors – just get in touch.

Why is it important to store your will in a safe place?

It may sound like an obvious question – of course storing a document as important as your Last Will and Testament in a safe place is common sense but many people will still just have their will in their filing cabinet at home or in a drawer.

Having your will stored by a professional in a safe (we offer this service) provides peace of mind and ease of accessibility for the named Executors when the time comes.

However another reason that is likely to be not on your radar is the increase in Probate fraud. A recent report by the Society for Trust & Estate Practitioners (STEP) has stated that probate fraud is predicted to be in the region of £150 million! This is £100 million in excess of previous estimated figures. Quite a frightening thought.

Not all bereavements are surrounded by mourning and love. Some individuals see the death of a loved one as an opportunity to take advantage of the intended beneficiaries. This can occur after death or when a person is close to death, by committing fraud resulting in an individual obtaining assets, cash and personal possessions that they are not entitled to.

Of course these cases are a minority but with alarming frequency cases are being brought to court, so please ensure your Will is safeguarded.

Five years young!

APS Wills Buckinghamshire is five years young this month! What a five years it’s been! I wanted to share some of my highlights with you.

Firstly, it’s quite amazing to put this into black and white but in the past five years I have worked with over 700 clients! No, I haven’t added an extra zero on by accident – 700 clients!! I am so proud of this and I hope it shows you how much experience I can draw on! Most of my work comes from referrals and during the past five years I’ve worked with many people who are related so I end up getting to know whole families. This is just lovely and adds a real personal dimension to the work I do.

Some of my very sensible clients have called me back to review and update their wills and it is always nice to see how the children have grown or that they have moved on to bigger and better properties. Reviews are more important now than ever as the law on Inheritance Tax changed in April 2017 (read my blog for more information)

Continuing professional development is part and parcel of my role of course but I have studied and am now able to offer a probate service.

The way probate works is that Assured Probate Services can take over the probate work if executors do not wish to do it. Or if someone has died without a will then we can apply for letter of administration to wind up the estate and distribute the assets.

I visit families and get details of what estate consists of then I am able to send over a fixed price fee quote and if accepted then I visit again to collect all the relevant documents.

It is very sad when I hear that a client has passed away but I know families get some comfort in the legal side of things being smooth sailing – stress over a will is not welcome at all! One testimonial that has stayed with me is when a client’s will passed through probate so easily that the daughter then appointed me, she said she was so impressed with the professional will her parents had had.

A lovely piece of feedback from someone going through a very difficult time personally – I always offer a very gentle and thoughtful service to all of my clients.

I have been lucky enough to see my own family expand in the past five years – I am now a proud Grandmother to seven grandchildren, all born in the last four years! This serves as a reminder that a great deal of change can occur in a short amount of time and that we should reflect these changes in our Wills.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and here’s to the next five years!

Yet another reason to get old wills reviewed!

Big news for 2017 is the fact that The Finance Act 2017 will come into force in April.

One aspect of this act will give everyone an increase in inheritance tax allowances if you have a residential property that has been lived in by the deceased.

It is important to stress that the allowances do not come into play if the family have sold your home while you are in care home and they have bought another.

If the deceased’s home is still owned then you will be eligible for an uplift in the IHT allowance if this is passing to direct lineal descendants.

If people have old wills with a Nil Rate Band discretionary trust in them they will not be eligible for the uplift.

Yet another reason to get old wills reviewed in particular those written prior to the end of 2007.


Probate…..how I help families

You may be aware that I visit clients in their own home to guide them to write their wills but do you know that I can also do Probate work?

Probate is needed for anyone who has died and left a will and for those who haven’t left a will then the probate court has to be approached for Letters of Administration.

A grant of probate is the official piece of paper that allows the named executors to gather in the deceased’s assets and distribute them according to the will.

People often name members of their family to be the executors but it can be hard work especially if you have no knowledge of the proceedings.

If you are named as an executor and do not wish to take the role you can pass this to a professional, which is quite often the reason I see families for our probate service. You may not know how to carry out the executor role, you may not have the time or you may be feeling too bereft to be able to cope with it.

I can also get involved if someone has died with out leaving a will. In this case Letters of Administration are applied for so that the estate is wound up.

The way the service works is that I meet the family and get the details of what the deceased’s estate consists of. It could be very simple with a property and bank accounts or more complex if they are a business owner or assets held overseas.

After that visit I provide a fixed price fee quote and the family can then decide whether to accept the fee or not.

If they accept the quote then I visit again to collect in all the relevant papers and these are submitted to my head office probate department. I do not do the actual probate work, this is handled by the trained professionals and I am the liaison between clients and head office.

To obtain the grant of probate and wind up someone’s estate is a long process and can take many months and sometimes more than a year.

The fee for the service is taken from the deceased’s estate so no one has to find this upfront.

If you would like to discuss an individual case please contact me.

My aim as always is to give families peace of mind in a friendly professional way.

One tip – if you advertise the death in the local paper and the London Gazette it is considered that the executor has discharged their responsibility to contact any creditors


Why do I need a Will?

Last year, approximately 70% of the people who died in the UK did not leave a Will, potentially reducing the value of their families’ inheritance, and causing untold stress, problems and additional costs.

Making a Will does not need to be stressful, time consuming or expensive.

Not making a Will can leave your family feeling stressed, with endless meetings and needless expenses.

In fact, one client recently said of working with me:

“Susan made the process seem relatively simple and painless.”

 Still not convinced? Read on:

  • Without a Will your spouse may not inherit everything, and may be left to cope with the distress and delays of intestacy. If anything happened to you both, the guardianship of your children would be out of your hands.
  • Unless you write a Will to structure your assets appropriately, children from previous relationships may never inherit as you intended.
  • If you are not married and you die without a will the law will treat you as though you are single, and your partner would receive nothing. You may also be liable for inheritance tax.
  • If you are separated and die without a Will, you may unintentionally leave your property and all your assets to an estranged spouse or partner.
  • Without a Will, guardianship of children under 18 may be unclear, leaving the courts to decide on their welfare.

Don’t put off making a will – call me today and make an appointment – I can come to your home or place of work.


We are officially an aging population!

According to the World Health Organisation between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 will nearly double from 12% to 22%. By 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years.

In addition to this the Alzheimer’s Society states that there are 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, this translates to 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 suffering from the disease.

There are also over 40,000 people in the UK under 65 with dementia.

With numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025 and 2 million by 2051, it is essential to start planning and having conversations with family members early.

Encouraging parents or loved ones to set out clearly what they would like to happen in the event they lose capacity and making the necessary arrangements can save time, costs and a lot of worry further down the line.

With an ever-aging population the risks that a parent or loved one will eventually lose mental capacity are increased. In such circumstances, someone else – usually a family member will need to make decisions on their behalf.

A lasting power of attorney is a way of giving someone legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another person if they lack mental capacity at some time in the future, or no longer wish to make decisions for themselves. A person must have mental capacity to set up an LPA.

I can help you with what might feel like a daunting process. If you would like to book a consultation please email me on susan.barnes@aps-associate.co.uk or call 07543 033953

Is making a Will top of your to-do list this Summer?

It is that time of year when many of us are intending to go on a summer holiday and with that goes a lot of planning.

Booking the holiday , making sure the passports are available and in date,  buying travel insurance and  sorting out the pets to ensure they are looked after while you are away.

In that planning have you considered to make sure your will is up to date or the fact that you should have a will?

We have had a lot of uncertainty in the world over the last month – Referendum, shootings in the US, runaway lorry in Nice and attacks on trains in Germany and now the death of a priest.

One thing that is certain is that we are all going to die sometime.

Make it easier on those that are left behind by leaving a will. This can detail who is to look after the kids and also your pets.

Not nice to think about but as always better to plan.

Contact me and let me give you some peace of mind.

Does your will need updating? Don’t delay

I am having a busy time right now and unfortunately several of my clients need my services due to the fact that they are terminally ill. They are either needing to write a will for the first time or updating an existing one to reflect their latest wishes.

Do you have a will that needs updating? Please arrange to get this changed now rather than having to do something in a rush.

You may be aware that the rules on inheritance tax are changing next year and if you or someone you know has a will written before October 2007 then it could be out of date and need updating to ensure you do not miss out on the increased benefits of the inheritance tax allowances. These new allowances come into force next April.

So get ahead of the crowd and let me review your existing will for you now. Giving you peace of mind is my piece of cake.