We can help you face new challenges

The news of the increase in deaths during 2015 is sad indeed. It really is best to be prepared and have a will in place. Death does not only come to those with life threatening illnesses and the recent BBC article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35987316 highlighted that flu and dementia played a part in the rising figures.

As life expectancy increases we are faced with new challenges such as long term care for our elderly relatives and the responsibility as children and grandchildren, for caring for our loved ones.

Making a will is part of an important process of taking control of how we wish to live as we get older. Susan and her team approach every meeting with extreme sensitivity and discretion.

We often work with clients during difficult times in their lives, for example, when we realize a loved one cannot remain at home.

We offer kindness as well as professionalism and will always strive to put you at ease.

To find out more about how we can help please email Susan.barnes@aps-associate.co.uk

Powers of attorney are not just for when we go ga ga

We are still in skiing season – I wonder if you had a trip to the slopes in that time or have one planned before the end of the winter? Do you cycle, know anyone who plays rugby or maybe you sail?

I ask because all of these can be considered contact sports and leave you at risk of an injury which may be serious. Remember Michael Schumacher who ended up in a coma after a skiing race.

If this was to happen to you or someone you know, is there a lasting power of attorney in place to allow others to act for you while you are incapacitated?

Powers of attorney are not just for when we go ga ga.

If this is of interest to you or someone you know then please give me a call and I can explain further.

Do you recognise your family?

Mrs White has a large family

She wants to write a will and leave everything to her family in equal shares. Quite a normal request for me. However she was worried because within the family there were some everyday problems.

One was happy – but  rather too fond of alcohol and any money he got from the will would be used to buy more alcohol and he would be left with nothing after a very short time.

One was a bit dopey and had made some poor financial decisions and was now a bankrupt. If he received anything he got from the will would go to paying off his debts.

One was grumpy as he was separated from his spouse and a divorce was pending. If he received anything from Mrs White’s will it would form part of the divorce settlement.

These are issues many of my clients have happening within their families and as a professional will writer I can ensure a will is written in such a way to safeguard it for your family and that they can benefit from whatever you want to leave them.

Please get in touch to find out more

Is this a landmark ruling?

The BBC reported on a very interesting case at the end of July that was stated to be a possible landmark decision

It involved a woman cut out of her mother’s will who went to court and was subsequently awarded a £164,000 inheritance.

A link to the full report is below but I wanted to just give my thoughts.

It is always possible for someone to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants ) Act 1975 if they are unhappy with what is in a Last Will and Testament.

I therefore think it is important to address this at the stage of making a will. I always ask clients if they have deliberately excluded someone or provided a reduced benefit. Discussing this up front is beneficial.

We also produce an exclusion statement if there is an exclusion to ensure that if the case goes to court then the client has detailed why they have excluded someone.

Of course, it isn’t an easy subject to discuss so I always ensure my confidence and professionalism.

Being open and honest with the person you’ve entrusted with your Will is crucial.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-33684937

 

Can I leave money to my pet in my Will?

This is a question I am asked fairly often – after all our pets are part of our family aren’t they?

However, the law states that you can’t leave money to a pet – this is because a pet is considered to be ‘property.’

However, if you wish to include your pets in your Will there are things you can do.

You could set up a simple trust, with the income going to support them during their lifetime.

The capital can go to another beneficiary, an animal charity for example, after their death.

The trust’s income and capital gains would be subject to tax, and you would need to find someone to act as a trustee.

Another option is to leave your pet with a cash sum to a named person –  someone you can trust to give them a good home!

Or you could leave them with a cash sum to an appropriate animal charity, runs a re-homing programme.

The RSPCA provides a clause on its website for this very purpose!  Here’s a link to their scheme –http://www.homeforlife.org.uk

It’s really important to make arrangements for your pet in your Will because if you don’t your executors will have to decide what to do.

Budget 2015 – How Inheritance Tax Changes will affect you

If you own a property worth up to £1m you will be able to leave it to children or grandchildren completely free of inheritance tax from April 2017.

Chancellor George Osborne announced today that he will raise the inheritance tax (IHT) threshold from £325,000 per person to £500,000.

The report in the Telegraph – link below, is very comprehensive and tells you everything you need to know!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/how-budget-affect-me/11722864/Budget-2015-How-inheritance-tax-changes-might-affect-you.html

 

Is writing a will ‘really that hard?’

Barclays Bank have been in the news recently as it is being sued by a daughter who claims a will written by the bank deprived her of a stake in her late father’s London home.

We aren’t in a position to offer comment on the specifics of the case but share this link with you if you’d like to read the Telegraph’s report on it.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/11678261/How-a-90-will-by-Barclays-lost-half-my-house.html

However what we feel this does highlight is the pitfalls of DIY, off-the-shelf Wills. A job that many people think ‘can’t be that hard’ really isn’t as straight forward as it seems.

I am qualified to write your will.

APS Legal & Associates is one of the most recognised and trusted brands in the Will Writing & Estate Planning and we are one of the largest and most influential members of the IPW (Institute of Professional Willwriters).

You can be assured of our professionalism and quality at all times – peace of mind when making your will is surely worth the couple of hundred pounds you may save by doing it yourself?

A Valid Will

Rik Mayall was a beloved British comedian and when he died suddenly in 2014 his family, and his fans, were left shocked.

Sadly, almost a year later his family are facing potentially huge death duties on his £1.2m estate…..because he failed to leave a valid will.

Rules around intestacy, which is when someone dies without a will, changed in October 2014.

The following scenarios set out how the assets of someone who dies intestate are now distributed. Married, no children, and you die without a will Everything goes to the spouse or civil partner

Married, with children, and you die without a will Assets up to £250,000 go to the spouse or civil partner. Assets above that limit are split 50/50 between the spouse and the children. On their death this share passes to the children.

Unmarried, living with someone, with or without children, and you die without a will The cohabitee receives nothing. Where there are children and/or grandchildren, they get everything. Where there are no children, the deceased’s assets go to their siblings and parents. Where there are no children or other dependants, and no parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, nephews, nieces or aunts and uncles, the whole estate goes to the Crown.

We can provide clear advice on all of the above and of course our message is clear – everyone should make a will!

I can’t emphasis enough to people that it is really simple and easy for me to provide a will for you and even a simple basic will is better than no will at all.

Most people do not understand or are even aware of the laws of intestacy and when I meet married couples with no will they seem to believe that their spouse will inherit everything even without a will – this is not true.

Have a question about making a Will…we may have the answer for you!

I’m married with children – what happens to my estate if I don’t make a will?

If you have assets of less than £250,000, and die intestate (i.e. without making a will), then your spouse or civil partner will be entitled to the whole of your estate (i.e. what you leave). The children get nothing.

I’ve been with my partner for years, but we’re not married. Do I need to make a will?

If you and your partner are not married or legally united in a civil partnership, your partner will not be automatically entitled to any of your assets when you die – no matter how long your relationship has been – unless you make a will

Do I need a professional to make a will for me?

If you own relatively little, and intend to make straightforward bequests, you may feel that you can make a will without using a solicitor. Bear in mind, however, that there are pitfalls if you get the formalities wrong & you may leave a mess behind for your loved ones.

What kind of people can be witnesses?

They must be over 18, of sound mind, and able to see; but apart from that there are no restrictions. However, witnesses – and their spouse or civil partner – are not allowed to benefit under a will.

What is an executor?

Your executors are the people who make it all happen after your death. Among other things, they have to:

  • apply for a ‘Grant of Representation’ from the Probate Registry
  • notify the bank(s), pension agencies, solicitor, utility companies, and other relevant parties
  • arrange your funeral and pay for it (the money comes from your estate)
  • arrange for the payment of any debts outstanding on your death

Being an executor can be a very demanding job. If you want one of your family or friends to do it, be sure to ask them first whether they are willing to take on the responsibility.

If you can’t think of anyone among friends or family who could cope with being an executor, you can appoint a professional executor who has the expertise needed. Fees are typically between 1-6% of the value of the estate, with banks tending to charge higher fees than solicitors.

Did you know that you can make provision for your pets in your will.

For example, you can state who you would like to care for your cat, dog or other pet & you could set up a simple trust, with the income going to support them during their lifetime.

Own a property abroad?

The law in England and Wales says that the law governing foreign property (land, buildings etc.) is the law of the country in which the property is situated.

If I leave something to someone who dies before me, what happens?

Generally it becomes part of your residue (i.e. what is left over, after any specific bequests have been satisfied) and will pass to whoever your will says is entitled to the residue, unless you make specific provisions.

The process of writing your will

Sometimes, my clients find the prospect of writing their will daunting. Often it is the fear of the unknown that is worrying. Therefore this blog will run you through what happens after you make that first contact with me.

When a date is made for me to visit a client I confirm it in writing with various papers to be completed before our first meeting.

The letter includes some guidance notes on things to think about before I arrive which helps keep the meeting as swift as possible if couples have had a discussion about who is to get what before I sit with them.

This helps to eliminate any unpleasant surprises, like the meeting with one couple and when I needed the details of the children, he admitted to 3 other children that she had no idea about!

Sending out that letter is part of my code of conduct within the Institute of Professional Will Writers and it ensures clients have all the details about me. It also includes my price list so that there are no shocks.

At the first meeting with a client I have to get them to sign my Terms of Engagement – this is again part of our compliance. It gives them a cooling off period if they have a change of mind after they have paid me and before their wills are worked on. The terms of Engagement also explain that I operate a two visit system – I see them on visit one to get their details of what they want to do and help and guide them through who should get what and which people who be best as executors and also Guardians for children under 18.

After that meeting a draft version of the documents is prepared and sent over to the clients so that they can check that I have everything correct. I try and make it simple to understand by detailing all the clients’ personal points in red ink and only the legal wording is printed in black.

I ask them to check that the names and addresses are correct – that can be interesting when dealing with foreign names which I may not be familiar with. I can change any of the red ink if required but not the black legal words.

I ask the clients to contact me within 10 working days so that any amendments can be dealt with or the original documents issued.

This is often a stumbling block in the process as many clients delay this stage. I do get anxious here as if they were to die at this stage they may not have a valid will.

This could be the first time they have written a will and if any of their family or friends were not inheriting something that they were promised because the will was not completed, they could try and sue me. Finally when everything is agreed I make a new date and visit again to be present when the wills are signed and witnessed. This is visit number two.

Again this is also part of our code within the Institute. If I am present I can oversee the signing in front of two witnesses to ensure that it is all signed correctly and that the witnesses are not mentioned in the will. If the clients were just sent the documents to deal with them on their own the chances are that they may not be signed correctly and this may only be discovered when they die and it is too late.

The process is smooth, transparent and I try to make the process as enjoyable, and of course professional, as possible!