House keeping and House moving

It is most important to keep your Estate Planning documents (Will/Lasting Power of Attorney/Trust/Land Registry) under constant review. We offer our clients a review in the comfort of their home every three years; at our cost. We strongly recommend you accept our offer when you receive contact from our appointments team.

In addition, please contact us if something in your life changes. Executors may pass away ~ Guardians may move abroad ~ Family members may lose capacity or pass away. We are always pleased to review your current documents and circumstances (providing you live in the area we cover – please click here). If you live outside of the area we cover we can usually recommend a skilled and professional practitioner to you.

Does your spouse/partner/family know where your papers are in the event of an emergency? Not just your Estate Planning documents but insurance papers/investments/death in service providers/contact details etc?

If you are an existing client please contact us if you move home. Not only so that we have your up to date contact details but also so that we can discuss with you whether best advice is to purchase your new property as joint tenants or tenants in common. For further advice please do not hesitate to contact us on 01732 868190 or click here.

If you are not an existing client we would be pleased to carry out a review of your circumstances and your Will if you have one. To arrange a no-obligation appointment at our cost please contact us on 01732 868190 or click here.

money refund

Are you due a Lasting Power of Attorney application fee refund?

Did you apply to register your Lasting Power of Attorney documents between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2017? If so, you could be eligible for a refund. The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is issuing refunds to those who may have been overcharged when applying to register either their Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or their Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA).

This is because throughout this period, the OPG’s operating costs became reduced as more people applied to register a power of attorney document. The process became more efficient however the application fee charged was not reduced in line with this.

As a result, the Ministry of Justice, who are responsible for setting the OPG’s fees, reduced the application fee with effect from 1st April 2017. Subsequently a refund scheme run by the OPG, has now been launched for those who paid the higher fee during this time period.

The process for making a claim is quick and simple using the OPG’s online service. One form per donor needs to be completed and the OPG will then find all power of attorney registration fees that were paid by the donor during the relevant period.

For more information on claiming your refund, please click here. Should you need further assistance, there is also a dedicated refund service helpline on 0300 456 0330; select option 6 to be transferred to the refunds team.

Have you reviewed your Estate Planning?

Whether you are an existing client of ours or a client with another firm, it is important to review your estate planning every few years. This is because circumstances are ever-changing and what may have been best for you when you created your Will may no longer be appropriate.

You may have a Will created by Casey & Associates or it may have been created by another firm. Whoever your Will was created by, it is always important to have regular reviews. The Society of Will Writers & Estate Planning Practitioners (SOWW), the country’s largest regulatory body in relation to the Will writing industry, recommends reviewing your Will every three years. This helps to ensure that your Will still reflects your wishes and current circumstances and that the advice given to you previously has not been superseded by changes in government legislation. For example, are you aware that one Inheritance Tax Relief is available if you leave assets to children but not if you leave assets to grandchildren subject to them attaining a certain age?

If an executor or beneficiary of your Will has passed away or no longer has capacity, it is important to review the impact it will have on your Will. Do you need to appoint a replacement executor? Do you need a vulnerable persons trust for your beneficiary? Since writing your Will you have you married or separated from your spouse or life partner? It cannot be assumed that because you are no longer with them that they will not inherit from your Will if named as a beneficiary. Have you recently had a child? Do you need to appoint a guardian? Perhaps you have become a grandparent and would you like to provide for your grandchild(ren) in your Will?

Changes in circumstances may not affect only your Will. They can also affect other important estate planning elements such as Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) and trusts. If attorneys appointed in your Lasting Power of Attorney document have passed away, or are no longer able to act due to lack of capacity or bankruptcy, you may be left without a useable document. It is important to review how many attorneys, and replacement attorneys, are appointed in your LPAs and how they have been appointed. For example, if attorneys have been appointed jointly, and one of them can no longer act, then you should consider recreating your LPA as it may no longer be useable. Alternatively, somebody who you would like to appoint as your attorney may have recently reached the age of 18 and can therefore now legally act as your attorney. You may wish to consider reviewing your LPAs to include them.

Do you have a trust in your Will, and have you moved since creating your Will? Whilst moving does not always impact upon your Will, if you have a testamentary trust it is important to ensure the trust can protect your new property. A review will also mean a check is carried out on your new property to ensure that you own it in the correct way for your trust to work properly when you pass away.

It is also important to consider that the circumstances for which you created the trust may have changed. Do you have the best trust for your current circumstances? For example, if you have married since creating your Will with a trust, it may be best advice to consider switching from a Nil-Rate-Band trust to a life interest trust. You will need a new Will, anyway, because marriage revokes a Will.

If you would like an appointment with one of our Consultants to discuss Estate Planning or if you have further questions regarding a Consultant visit, please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

property relief

Agricultural Property Relief & Business Property Relief

The starting point

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is payable at 40% of the value of what you own when you die – over and above the nil-rate band allowance, available to every individual, of £325,000 (we will ignore the Residential Nil Rate band for the purpose of this article). There are, however, two notable exceptions to this if you should own, for example, a working farm or a particular type of business. In these instances it may be possible to reduce the value of any such assets for IHT purposes or to exempt it from IHT altogether. Depending on how the assets are owned, their value could be reduced by either 50% or 100%. However, if other assets are owned that would put your estate over the threshold, some IHT may still be payable at the usual rate of 40%.

Current position

The findings of a recent review by HMRC show that Agricultural/Business Property Reliefs are being used for their intended purpose – preventing family businesses from having to be broken up and sold off to pay IHT bills. However, the research may also be a means of the Treasury assessing how much revenue it is missing out on and could be a precursor to a review of the Reliefs, which are a substantial cost to the Treasury. So, in the event that such Reliefs are done away with at some point in the future, is there anything that can be done now to ensure that we can benefit from them while they’re still available? The answer to that is yes.

Future – proofing your reliefs

We know that the results of the research carried out by HMRC show that Agricultural and Business Property Reliefs represent a very positive thing for Joe Public. We also know that, due to the substantial cost to the Treasury, those very same results may mean that the days of the Reliefs are numbered. So, what if there was a way to preserve the benefit of the Reliefs while they’re still available so that they can be utilised at such a time when they may not be available anymore?

Given the nature of business assets, during our lifetime we may not wish to risk passing them directly to our intended ultimate beneficiaries in case their circumstances change which may jeopardise their ability to continue to own the asset; divorce, for example. Such potential pitfalls could be avoided by instead gifting the asset to a trust for their benefit, allowing the beneficiaries to access to the assets but without them having beneficial ownership. This setup also allows time to amend, if necessary, who ultimately owns the trust asset if circumstances change over time. Control over this type of decision can be retained by you being one of the trustees.

Gifts in to trust are usually restricted to a value of £325,000 every seven years. However, if the asset qualifies for Agricultural or Business Property Relief no such restriction applies. So, where applicable, IHT can potentially be mitigated altogether even if the reliefs were later made obsolete by the Treasury. This is because, as long as you live for seven years after making the gift, its value will be cease to be counted as part of your estate for IHT purposes and, ultimately, pass to your intended beneficiaries free of IHT.

What next?

If you feel that you may own assets that qualify for either Agricultural or Business Property Relief, you should seek advice to ensure that the asset is being run in the correct way to ensure that it meets the qualifying criteria. Your accountant should be able to assist you in this regard. Having established that your assets qualify, we would be delighted to offer bespoke advice on how best to implement the right type of trust to preserve your Agricultural and/or Business Property Relief.

If you would like an appointment with one of our Consultants or if you have further questions regarding a Consultant visit, please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

visit consultant

Preparing for a visit from a Casey & Associates Consultant

If you are either an existing client, or a prospective client and you have elected to have a visit from one of our Consultants please see below the number of ways to prepare for your visit.

Our Consultant will always ask to see a form of photo ID such as your passport or driving licence. This is so that our Consultant can be sure who they are discussing affairs with. There are a surprising number of occasions in our industry where someone tries to impersonate someone else and make a Will on the other person’s behalf. You can probably guess who the main (or only) beneficiary is intended to be in such circumstances!

It is important to obtain a full picture of current and recent family members. Someone who has previously been a widow or widower and then remarried may be entitled to extra Inheritance Tax allowances. It is also really important to distinguish between children/stepchildren and grandchildren/children of stepchildren. This can affect the way that assets are distributed.

Whilst we do not need to see bank statements, it is useful to have in mind an overview of your estate (such as shares, ISA’s, property, bank accounts etc.). Our Consultant will also need to know who owns the family home and how, and an approximate value. All this is so that our Consultant can give you the best possible personalised advice for your circumstances.

Prior to our visit, it is important to consider who you would like to leave your estate to. If you are a couple, would you like to pass your estate to each other in the first instance? If your partner pre-deceases you, who would you like to inherit? As well as thinking about who you would like to inherit from your estate, it is equally as important to consider how much, or what percentage you would like them to inherit. This can be a particularly difficult, lengthy decision for blended families so it is advisable to have a rough idea before our Consultant visits.

Will you want to discuss Trusts with our Consultant? Trusts play an important part in protecting assets between the death of the first and the death of the second of a couple.

You may also wish to consider who you would like as your executors. Executors are the people you nominate to distribute your estate after you have passed. These are often people you trust such as family members and must be over the age of 18. Whilst this is something our Consultant will discuss with you, if you are still unsure as to whom you would like to appoint, we can suggest professionals we work with who can act as your executors. Please see here for more information regarding choosing your executors and trustees.

If you have children under the age of 18, it is important to consider and discuss guardians. This can be a sensitive and important discussion, and not a decision to be rushed. You may wish to even discuss this with the people you believe you would like to nominate before doing so.

Our Consultant will also discuss Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) documents with you. Have you thought about appointing somebody to look after your affairs if you are otherwise unable to do so? If you would like more information regarding LPAs prior to our Consultant’s arrival, please click here to read the experience of one of our clients.

If you are an existing client, you may wish to read through your Will prior to our Consultant’s visit. This may help to refresh your memory as to your current wishes and also give you the opportunity to note any change in circumstances that may result in you wishing to amend your Will. It is also recommended that you have any paperwork from us available for our Consultant to review upon their arrival. If you are storing your Will yourself, it may be useful to have this to hand so that the Consultant can check the attestation and ensure the Will is valid.

If you would like an appointment with one of our Consultants or if you have further questions regarding a Consultant visit, please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

An LPA for any occasion

Lasting Powers of Attorney ~ Case Study 1

Existing client Wendy telephoned us in the middle of last year. Wendy advised us that her husband, Harry, had been diagnosed with early onset dementia and ask for a consultant to visit. Our consultant met Wendy and Harry a few days later at their home. We advised the couple to create Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) for Property and Financial affairs as well as for Health and Welfare whilst Harry had the mental capacity to do so. Our advice was accepted and Casey & Associates facilitated the creation of full LPAs for both Clients; with Wendy and both of the Client’s children appointed as attorneys for Harry and the children only as attorneys for Wendy.

As Harry’s mental condition declines the LPAs are becoming more and more useful; Wendy has benefitted from unrestricted access to bank accounts jointly held with her husband as well as the solely held account that his pension is paid in to. Furthermore, as a family, Wendy and her children have been able to make decisions about Harry’s increasing care needs. Without having the LPAs in place the situation would have been very different; Wendy may not have been able to continue to access even jointly held back accounts and certainly would not have been able to access Harry’s sole account. Furthermore, decisions about Harry’s care would not have been so easy had it not been for the Health & Welfare LPA we had helped to put in place.

Lasting Powers of Attorney ~ Case Study 2

We carried out a client review appointment with Dorothy early last year. Dorothy has been a school teacher for her lifetime. She never married and never had children. After retiring she became very active in the local community. Dorothy has a bungalow and quite substantial savings. Having previously been very sprightly, she was becoming increasingly unable to get out and about as easily as she had been and, as a result, was becoming increasingly reliant on a good friend who lived locally. Our consultant advised Dorothy that now was the time to put LPAs in place before her health declined any further. Our advice was accepted and Casey & Associates did the rest. Dorothy appointed her friend, Margaret, as her attorney and, on our advice, Dorothy appointed her niece as well. Although Dorothy’s niece lived quite a distance away, Margaret was not much younger than Dorothy and we felt a “backup” was needed should anything happen to Margaret.

Just before Christmas Margaret unfortunately had a fall and broke her leg. Although she is now discharged from hospital she will be housebound for quite some time. Dorothy has not suffered as a result of Margaret’s accident, however, as her niece has been able to continue to look after her aunt’s affairs.

Last week Margaret gave us instructions as she recognised that her change in circumstances would be best addressed by having LPAs herself. Margaret’s three children were all appointed as attorneys. Once the LPAs are registered Margaret’s children will be able to look after all aspects of their mother’s affairs while she continues to convalesce.

If you would like one of our Consultants to visit you to discuss LPAs please telephone 01732 868190 or click here to arrange an appointment.

funeral plan

The True Value of a Funeral Plan

Vivian (54) had her life turned upside down when her father, Joseph (84), passed away suddenly in November last year. Vivian’s mother, Juliet (82), had been housebound for some years due to dementia and Joseph was her carer. Joseph was very fit and well for a man of his age and his death was totally unexpected, leaving everyone in the family somewhat shell-shocked.

Due to her mother’s ill health Vivian was faced with the prospect of having to administer her late father’s estate on her own. Whilst her brother, Neil (58), was also an executor of Joseph’s estate he lived at the other end of the country to his sister and would not be able to readily assist her. Joseph left a valid Will but the Will did not contain any funeral wishes. Vivian was unable to get any guidance from her mother in this regard and so had to make all of the pertinent decisions herself.

When I discussed the administration of her late father’s estate with her, Vivian advised that the most difficult aspects of the role were all funeral related. She confessed to being in a “daze” most of the time and being upset about the sudden loss of her father and having to deal with such things straightaway was very difficult for her. Firstly, she had the task of deciding what type of funeral her late father wanted. Perhaps understandably, it had never come up in conversation during his lifetime and Vivian had no idea what her late father’s preference was between burial and cremation. Having decided upon a cremation for her late father, Vivian then had to visit an undertaker to choose a coffin and the type of service required. Vivian found this particularly upsetting as it was a constant reminder to her of the loss of her father, coupled with the uncertainty that she was perhaps choosing something that he would not have wanted.

The cost of the funeral was close to £6000. This was money that Vivian simply did not have. On top of everything else she had to contend with, she was now under added pressure to somehow come up with the money to pay for her late father’s funeral. Thanks to a benevolent neighbour who lent Vivian the money, the funeral was eventually paid for but she is now paying the neighbour back in instalments which is not ideal. “In hindsight I wish my father had put a pre-paid funeral plan in place. If he had done so, it would not only have saved me the upset of having to arrange everything at a time when I was very upset indeed, but I would also not have had to get in to debt in order to cover the cost. Above all else, I would have had the peace of mind to know my father was getting exactly the funeral he wanted. As soon as I am able, I will definitely be purchasing a funeral plan for my mother. I can’t go through all of that again.”

If you would like further information on funeral plans please do not hesitate to click here or telephone us on 01732 868190 requesting details of the options available.

consultant

A day in the life of a Casey & Associates consultant

Every client we meet has a different set of circumstances, needs and requirements. That is one of the reasons why being a Casey & Associates consultant is so interesting. Here is a snapshot of the clients one of our Consultants met last week. Client names are changed to protect privacy and identity.

Client 1

Jim (79) & Mary (76) – married couple and existing Casey & Associates Clients who recently underwent a three-yearly review of their circumstances. Previously supplied with Life Interest in Property Trust Wills and Property & Financial Affairs Lasting Powers of Attorney by Casey & Associates. Mary had asked me to visit because Jim had very quickly developed advanced dementia since the review. My advice focussed on Mary, who was keen to take care of whatever she needed to on her side of things. Her son and daughter were also present and I recommended some Will amendments to remove reference to her husband to avoid the potential for assets to unnecessarily be assessed for care fees and a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney to compliment the financial version she already has. My advice has been accepted and instructions have been duly taken. Mary was so pleased Jim had previously signed a Lasting Power of Attorney Property and Financial affairs. Without it the family would have found the current situation even more stressful. Mary and her children are happy everything is now in order.

Client 2

Martin (47) & Janet (45) – unmarried couple. No existing estate planning provision. Janet has two adult children from a previous relationship and solely owns the property the couple live in. I advised the couple to have Wills, with Janet’s Will providing Martin with a life interest in the principal private residence with her children as its ultimate beneficiaries, and full Lasting Powers of Attorney. We also discussed Inheritance Tax which can be more harsh for unmarried couples than married couples. For the moment their assets keep them below the Inheritance Tax band. However, Martin and Janet are now aware of their position and know to contact me if their situation changes. They requested some time to consider their options and have subsequently contacted me to advise that they would like to proceed with my advice and a follow-up meeting has been arranged. They advised that they feel my advice covers everything they thought they needed and was explained in a way that made sense.

Client 3

Barbara (70) – divorced. Has an old Will and an Enduring Power of Attorney. Barbara’s daughter is an existing Casey & Associates Client and wanted me to meet her mother to discuss protecting her home against long-term care fees. I explained how putting her home in to a protective trust could safeguard against this and she decided to proceed. Furthermore, the trust will help Barbara’s family when Barbara passes away because the family home can be sold before Inheritance Tax needs to be paid which means the family will have funds to pay the tax without having to obtain a loan. Barbara also gave me instructions for a pre-paid funeral plan which would take away the financial burden on her family when she passed away. We discussed Lasting Powers of Attorney. Barbara felt she would like more time to consider the benefits of Lasting Powers of Attorney compared to her Enduring Power of Attorney. I handed her a “factsheet” and will contact Barbara in due course regarding this. As a goodwill gesture I included a “refreshed” Will as part of the service and Barbara was very happy with the outcome of our meeting, as was her daughter.

Client 4

Clive (75) & Violet (73) – married couple and existing Casey & Associates Clients, recently underwent a six-yearly review of their circumstances. Previously supplied with Life Interest in Property Trust Wills by Casey & Associates. I recommended full Lasting Powers of Attorney to compliment the Wills they already have. They had already heard that Lasting Powers of Attorney would be a good idea and were therefore pleased to have this view endorsed by me. Clive and Violet liked the fact that I would personally be taking them through the entire process of creating their LPAs from start to finish and this was a big determining factor in them deciding to proceed with issuing me with their instructions. Sadly their only child had recently died and so we talked about how assets could be distributed to their grandchildren. I was able to give Clive and Violet some special technical advice which will ensure that their grandchildren can inherit whilst still making use of the maximum Inheritance Tax allowances. Although Clive and Violet were desperately sad at having lost their only child they were comforted to know that their Estate Plan had been brought “up to date”.

bruce forsyth

Nice to reduce Inheritance Tax, to reduce Inheritance Tax nice!

With inheritance tax (IHT) never far from the headlines, it came even more to the forefront earlier this year with the news that Bruce Forsyth had left his £17m fortune to his wife “to avoid inheritance tax”. Various media outlets reported how Forsythe had exploited a legal loophole in order to avoid the taxman, but did he really?

The reality is that what amounts to lazy journalism sensationalised what was actually a very straightforward estate planning strategy. In a nutshell, an individual can leave their entire estate, regardless of value, to their spouse or civil partner and there is no IHT to pay. This is known as “spousal exemption” and there is no upper limit.

On top of the standard £325,000 nil rate band allowance available to all, an additional allowance was launched earlier this year; the residential nil rate band. This applies where a house is being left to a person’s direct descendants and equates to an additional £100,000 which can be claimed against the value of the house in order to keep it out of IHT calculations. In the same way a deceased’s spouse or civil partner’s unused nil rate band may be claimed against the estate of the second spouse or civil partner upon their death, so can the residential nil rate band also be claimed, giving an overall exemption, by tax year 2020/21 of up to £1 million; £325,000 + £325,000 + £175,000 + £175,000 = £1m

So, whilst the Forsyth family has avoided IHT for now, his wife will have to be creative during her lifetime in order to mitigate the liability her estate faces on her death if she doesn’t act. Again, lazy journalism states she is limited to giving away up to £650,000 free of IHT, but the reality is she can gift away as much of her inheritance as she wishes during the course of her lifetime. This is not thanks to any shady underhanded dealings, but rather taking advantage of the 7-year gift rule available to the common man and the rich and famous alike; give away as much as you like, survive seven years and the asset no longer forms part of your estate. Given her age, it is not unlikely that Bruce Forsyth’s widow will survive long enough for any assets she gifts away to pass to the beneficiaries free of IHT…a real Brucie bonus!

If you would like personalised advice concerning IHT please do not hesitate to contact us so that one of our consultants can visit you to discuss your circumstances. Please telephone 01732 868190 or click here to book an appointment.

disinherit will

Do you want to disinherit a member of your family?

If you live in England and Wales then the administration of your estate will be carried out according to the law of England and Wales. You may leave what you want to whom you want. This is known as testamentary freedom. However, you need to be aware of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which gives certain people the ability to challenge a Will if they feel they have not received sufficient provision in the deceased’s Will. Only certain people are entitled to make an application to the court for an order. Broadly speaking, these are the immediate family of the deceased, or their partner if they were living together as husband and wife (or as civil partners).

There is only one ground for a claim under the Inheritance Act, which is that the disposition (or division) of the deceased’s estate does not make reasonable financial provision for the applicant.

Where the applicant is a spouse, or a civil partner, of the deceased, ‘reasonable financial provision’ means such provision as would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for a husband or wife or a civil partner to receive, whether or not that provision is required for his or her maintenance. The court must consider, but is not bound to follow, the likely settlement that would have been made within divorce proceedings, if the parties had divorced rather than the deceased having died. You may hear this referred to as the ‘divorce fiction’.

For all other applicants under the Inheritance Act, ‘reasonable financial provision’ means such provision as it would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the applicant to receive for his maintenance. Thus the court will not make an order in these circumstances only because the applicant feels that the Will or Intestacy is unfair or is not as they expected. The applicant must show that he had a reasonable expectation of having his living costs met by the deceased. If the applicant was financially independent of the deceased before the date of death, it may be very difficult to show such an expectation.

Soaring property prices, rising levels of dementia and second marriages have prompted an increase in legal disputes over wills. The courts treat each claim on the facts of the case, so is there anything that can be done to try and ensure a claim is unsuccessful?

If you have strong views about not providing for someone it is very tempting to put a phrase in your Will such as “I have deliberately not made any provision for my son John Smith”. Sometimes we are asked to include a phrase such as “I leave my son John Smith five thousand pounds on condition that he does not challenge my Will”. However, please remember that every Will becomes a public document and you may not want future generations of your family to see such phrases in your Will.

Each client has their own wishes and circumstances but normally, in such circumstances, we tend to favour that the person concerned is not mentioned in the Will. We suggest to our clients that they then create a side letter addressed to their executors explaining why they have made no provision for this person. If a claim was made against the estate, then the executors would bring the letter to the attention of the Court.

Non-provision claims can be lengthy and complex. The Ilott v Mitson case which received much media attention earlier this year had been in the courts for some ten years before the UK Supreme Court made the final ruling.

If you are thinking of not providing for a close family member please do not hesitate to contact us so that one of our consultants can visit you to discuss your circumstances. Please telephone 01732 868190 or click here to book an appointment.

Thank you to our clients Mr & Mrs I of Colchester who asked us to post an article on this sensitive subject. If you would like us to post an article on a particular subject please do not hesitate to contact us.