Organ donation

Funeral Wishes & Organ Donation

Funeral wishes can be simple or complex. One place to note your wishes is in a Will. When creating a Will, it is a prime time to consider your wishes. By denoting them in a Will, it makes it easier for your family to ensure your wishes are being upheld.

You may also want to consider if you would like any flowers at your funeral. If not, you may wish for charitable donations to be made instead. By stating in your Will that you do not wish to have any flowers, your family will feel comfortable knowing this is what you wanted. You can also state particular charities that you may wish to receive donations, or you may state that the charities can be decided by the guests attending your funeral.

You may wish to note further instructions in your Will, such as where you wish to be buried or where you want your ashes scattered. You may note that you wish to have an environmentally friendly green burial or that you wish for the least amount of money to be spent as possible.

If you wish for your organs to be donated you can advise as such in your Will. You can also state if there are any organs that you do not wish to be used, for example your eyes or your heart. The law is changing in 2020 for organ donation. All adults will be deemed to have opted in for organ donation unless they have opted out. You will not be opted in if you have lived in England for less than 12 months prior to your death or if you lack the mental capacity to have understood the change in law or take the necessary action. This makes it more important to ensure that your family and friends know your wishes, which can be done when creating a Will.

You may want to complete your funeral planning by purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan. You can make all of your arrangements yourself removing this daunting task from your loved ones. You can choose the level of service you would like and pay for the majority or all of the fees ahead of time.  Casey & Associates offers a range of market leading pre-paid funeral plans.

If you own your home solely, or jointly with your partner, and want to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic with one of our consultants, please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

Will you leave your partner homeless without a Will?

There are various ways to protect your property from sideways disinheritance or long term care fees assessment but have you considered whether your death may leave your partner homeless?

Firstly you will need consider what you would like to do with your property or your share of the property. You can own your property jointly so that the survivor automatically owns the property. But you may want to own “your” share of your home. If so, what do you want to happen if you die before your partner? Do you want to gift your property to your partner, or give them the ability to live in the property for a specified period of time, or give them the opportunity to purchase the property?

If you wish to gift your property or your share of it to your partner then you will need to leave them a gift of the property in a Will to ensure this happens. Partners cannot inherit through the laws of intestacy, therefore the only way to leave them anything will be through the creation of a valid Will.

Alternatively, you may not wish to gift your property to your partner but you may want them to have a home to live in. Through a trust in your Will, you can give your partner the right to live in a property either for a specified period of time or for life. The length of time you specify is your decision; this may be for one year so they have time to find a new home, or it could be for 30 years or until they pass away.

Another option is to give them the opportunity to purchase the property from your estate. This would mean they could continue to live in your property but your beneficiaries would receive the monetary value of the property instead.

To be able to dispose of your property, you will also need to ensure you own your property correctly. If you own your property solely, then you will be free to dispose of the property through a testamentary wish. If you own your property jointly with another, the surviving proprietor(s) will inherit the property through succession and you will not be able to dispose of your ‘share’ how you wish. In this instance it will be important to consider “severing the tenancy”.

If you own your home solely, or jointly with your partner, and want to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic with one of our consultants, please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

Business man

Lasting Power of Attorney for Business Affairs

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) document allows you to appoint the people you trust to manage your affairs if you can no longer do so yourself.

There are two types of LPA, one for Property & Financial Affairs and one for Health and Welfare.

For more information on these click here.

But what happens when you have a business?

The people you nominate and trust to manage your personal affairs and finances may not be the same people who you would want to manage your business affairs. This may be simply because they do not have as much knowledge of the business; or they may not have the time to manage the business and you do not want them to have to worry about it.

Therefore, you may wish to consider creating two separate LPAs. They would both be for Property & Financial Affairs but they would include preferences and instructions to control what the attorneys can manage.

For the first LPA you may appoint the people you wish to manage all of your personal finances and affairs. The LPA can be restricted to personal finances only and exclude all business affairs.

In the second LPA, you can appoint those who have knowledge of your business or the time to manage it. This LPA can be restricted to business affairs only and exclude all personal finances.

You may wish to appoint the same attorney in both your personal LPA and your business LPA but you may wish for them to act with different people.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

Vulnerable child

Do you have a disabled or vulnerable child?

As the parent of a disabled or vulnerable child, it is likely that one of your many concerns is how your child is going to be taken care of after you die.

If you die without a valid Will, your assets will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules. Contrary to popular belief, your whole estate does not pass automatically to your spouse or civil partner. Your children may inherit part of your estate. On the death of the surviving spouse or civil partner, everything passes to your children.

When you have a disabled child, there are many reasons why it may not be appropriate for that child to directly inherit a potentially large sum. Firstly, it may adversely affect any means tested benefits or local authority funding that your child receives. As they are a vulnerable person, it may also leave them open to financial abuse from others. Last but not least, they may well not have the capabilities to manage their inheritance.

Preparing a suitable Will is the best way to ensure that your disabled/vulnerable child is provided for in the best way possible.

How to benefit your child

It might be tempting to ring-fence a sum in your Will and leave it to a relative, with the hope or condition that they ‘look after’ those funds on behalf of your disabled child. This is not something we usually recommend and involves an element of risk. The request is not binding and they are not obliged to use the funds in the way you wish. Those funds will be treated as part of that relative’s estate and may no longer be available to your child if they die themselves. The fund could also be depleted in the event of that relative’s bankruptcy or divorce.

Trusts

An alternative to leaving a sum with a relative is to include a trust in your Will, to which your whole estate, or your disabled/vulnerable child’s share would fall on your death. This would protect the funds from the risks outlined above as the trustees have a legal obligation to manage the funds in accordance with the terms of the trust. It also provides flexibility to cater for uncertainty over what your child’s needs are going to be in the future. You can also provide for what happens to the ‘trust fund’ when your child passes away.

It is also helpful to have a Letter of Wishes alongside your Will, in which you explain the reason for the Trust and how you intend for it to be used. Whilst such a letter is not binding, it serves as useful guidance to your trustees.

Trustees

Your choice of trustees is key, as these are the people who would look after funds for your children. Ultimately, you should choose individuals that you trust completely. You can choose two family members or perhaps a family member together with a professional. We can discuss all of the options with you.

Guardians

If your children are only young, you may state in your Will who should act as guardians in the event that both parents die while they are under the age of 18.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

letter of wishes

What is a Letter of Wishes?

When writing a Will, it’s important that you get your wishes down for who should be appointed as executors, trustees or guardians and how your estate should be distributed in a binding fashion. But what about your more general wishes for your estate, or for your children?

There are so many uses for a “letter of wishes” ~ here are some examples:

  1. Give your guardians some guidance

You’ve probably considered who you would want to care for your children if you died while they were still minors, and you’ve probably appointed these people as guardians in your Will. In your letter of wishes you can express exactly how you would prefer your children to be raised and how you wish the guardians to support them.

  1. Make your funeral wishes clear

A letter of wishes could include your preferences for burial or cremation, for what kind of ceremony you want. You could even include everything down to what music should be played, what readings should be read, and what kind of flowers displayed.

It is important that you make your funeral wishes known to your family as well as including them in a letter of wishes though. This avoids the funeral being carried out before your wishes are found.

  1. Give instructions to trustees

If you have included any trusts in your Will that give your trustees wide powers over how the trust is distributed, known as ‘discretionary trusts’, a letter of wishes is recommended. Under these types of trusts it is totally up to the trustees how they manage the funds and which of the named potential beneficiaries they benefit. In a letter of wishes you can include how you want the trustees to use their powers. For example if the trust could benefit your spouse and children you could request that the trustees treat your spouse as the main beneficiary for the rest of their life.

What you write in a letter of wishes isn’t legally binding, it is just guidance. The trustees should consider it when managing the trust though, and professional trustees will certainly try to stick to your wishes wherever possible.

  1. Distribute small personal items

You likely have lots of personal chattels. These are defined as ‘tangible movable property’ except money, and items held as an investment or mainly for business purposes. It’s quite a broad definition that could include your household ornaments, jewellery, furniture and cars. If you have a lot of personal items that you want to gift to specific people the easiest way to do this can be by including a clause in your Will that gifts all items fitting that definition to your executors with a wish that they distribute them following your letter of wishes.

Once this clause is included you can then write a separate letter of wishes to list the items you want to gift and who you want to gift them to. This is a very flexible way of dealing with your personal items so if you change your mind you can simply write a new letter without having to make a new Will.

  1. Exclude someone

If you have chosen to exclude someone from benefitting from your Will, your Consultant will have advised you whether to include a phrase in your Will or not and what the consequences are that the exclusion could have for your estate. You should also write a letter of wishes to detail your reasons for the exclusion, as this may be considered by the court if the excluded person did try to bring a claim against your estate. In these circumstances the letter is sometimes referred to as an ‘exclusion letter’ or a “letter to executors” instead.

Letters of wishes aren’t legally binding, but they’re useful for making sure you have got your less-formal wishes for your estate across to your executors, trustees and family.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

The risk of miscalculating Inheritance Tax due to HMRC

The Telegraph reported that ordinary individuals inheriting assets from overseas could risk criminal charges if they miscalculate the tax owed. New legislation was introduced in 2016 which meant that beneficiaries who inherit offshore money could see their income wiped out completely due to new penalties and punishments. The clampdown is part of HMRC’s latest attempt to close a ‘tax gap’ reported to be worth £34bn per year.

A loophole in the law meant that anyone owing UK tax for income earned abroad could come forward without fear of criminal charges or paying punitive penalties. However, the so-called ‘Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility’ (LDF) ended on December 31st, 2015 and meant that HMRC could impose penalties of at least 30% of the tax due and could investigate cases going back 20 years, in contrast to the current limit of 16 years.

In addition, the larger financial sanctions will be compounded by the fact that anyone miscalculating overseas taxes could be branded as a criminal. This position was confirmed in the Chancellor’s last Autumn Statement. “This won’t just affect serial evaders but ordinary people who make a mistake with their tax or bury their heads in the sand”, said John Cassidy, a tax investigations partner at Crowe Clarke Whitehall. “After the amnesty ends HMRC will become more vigilant and less sympathetic.”

It is reported that tens of thousands of Britons underpay tax on offshore assets each year. However, this is often due to a lack of understanding, as in the case of a 92 year old woman who discovered that the Swiss bank account she inherited from her late husband was liable for back taxes. As she was a joint holder of the account, she would be branded a criminal under the new laws. Dealing with the tax implications of an estate can be a complicated process even if overseas assets aren’t involved. Many people think that they have enough knowledge and experience to deal with the estate but often end up requiring professional assistance at some stage in the process. Executors are financially and legally responsible for the distributions that are made, so you must be 100% confident that you know what needs to be done; otherwise there could be a nasty shock waiting after the estate has been distributed.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

civil partners mixed sex

Civil partnerships will soon be available to mixed-sex couples

Theresa May has taken a Bill through parliament that will mean all couples in England and Wales will soon be able to choose to enter into a civil partnership, instead of getting married. Currently, the law allows same-sex couples to either marry or enter into a civil partnership but mixed-sex couples can only choose to marry.

Civil partners benefit from a legally recognised relationship which includes many of the same rights as married couples with regards to inheritance, tax benefits, social security and pensions. However, they avoid the religious connotations of marriage and could be a popular option for those who believe that marriage is an age-old institution. The process of getting married varies from that of forming a civil partnership. Firstly, no ceremony is required like in a traditional marriage but both parties must sign a civil partnership document in front of a registrar and two witnesses. Secondly, vows do not need to be exchanged and the father is not required to ‘give away’ his daughter. In addition, marriage certificates only include the fathers’ names of the parties getting married but on a civil partnership certificate, both parents of the couple are named. Civil partners are also not allowed to refer to themselves as ‘husband’, ‘wife’ or ‘married’ but would instead call themselves ‘civil partners’.

Without a valid Will, your estate would be deemed intestate and your assets would be distributed following the rules of intestacy. In England and Wales, that would mean that your husband, wife or civil partner would keep all of your assets (including any property) up to the value of £250,000. In addition, they would be entitled to all of your personal possessions, no matter what their value. If the estate is worth more than £250,000, anything above this amount would be divided in half between the spouse or civil partner and the deceased’s surviving children. If a child had predeceased, their children would inherit in their place.

If you do have a valid Will, your estate will be administered in line with the wishes you’ve left in your Will and the Executor you’ve appointed is legally and financially responsible for the correct distribution of your estate. However, if you were one half of a cohabiting couple and you were to die without a Will, your partner would not receive any of your assets. Instead, your estate would be distributed as per the rules of intestacy. Where the deceased has no surviving relatives, the whole estate goes to the Crown. These intestacy rules apply to England and Wales and differ from those in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

grant of probate

Fees to obtain a Grant of Probate are expected to increase

In November 2018, the Ministry of Justice announced that legislation to introduce tiered probate fees had been presented before Parliament. We expect to see these changes to probate fees coming into effect sometime during 2019. These increases in probate fees have been in the news since February 2017, when the plan to introduce a banded structure of fees based on the estate value was originally revealed. After a delay, it now appears that the government will finally move forward with the changes this year.

The current fee for obtaining a Grant of Probate is £215 for individuals and £155 for professional bodies. The new fees will instead be based on the value of the estate as follows:

Estates worth less than £50,000 will typically not require a Grant of Probate. The estate threshold will rise from £5,000 to £50,000 when the legislation is introduced.

  • from £50,000 up to £300,000 = £250 fee;
  • from £300,000 up to £500,000 = £750 fee;
  • from £500,000 up to £1 million = £2,500 fee;
  • from £1 million up to £1.6 million = £4,000 fee;
  • from £1.6 million up to £2 million = £5,000 fee;
  • and over £2 million = £6,000 fee.

The planned fees have been largely criticised by the House of Lords.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

Simplified

Inheritance Tax could be simplified

It is expected that there could be some changes to simplify Inheritance Tax this year or next year. In November 2018, the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) released their first report following a review of the current Inheritance Tax system. The Chancellor requested the review and the OTS provided recommendations to simplify Inheritance Tax from an administrative and technical standpoint.

The OTS recommended that “The government should implement a fully integrated digital system for Inheritance Tax.” We predict that the government will start to create a digital system this year but this will be a time-consuming task. It is probable that the government may first proceed with some of the other recommendations made by the OTS that will be quicker to implement.

These include simplifying the current Inheritance Tax forms, establishing a short form for the simplest estates, introducing an automated payment receipts system, and streamlining the probate and payment process with HM Courts and Tribunals Service. The current guide to completing an Inheritance Tax account runs to 92 pages.

It is also expected that the OTS is to release a second report covering wider areas of concern during 2019.

One little known fact is that you must pay any Inheritance Tax and interest that is due before you can get a grant of probate. However, you need the grant of probate to be able to gather in assets to the estate. So an executor may have to raise funds to pay the Inheritance Tax due on the deceased’s estate.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.

Property

What happens to property when someone dies?

“What happens to a property when someone dies?” is a very popular question and it’s important that we all understand the answer when it comes to estate administration. When someone passes away, the responsibility of the property automatically falls to the Executor (when there’s a Will) or the Administrator (when there’s no Will). This means they are accountable for the entire estate administration period. If there is a Will they must follow the instructions in the Will or, if there is no Will, they must distribute the estate according to the rules of intestacy.

If anything was to happen to the property after the owner had died, they would be responsible for dealing with any issues. Most household insurance policies do not cover unoccupied properties upon the policyholder’s death, or they have very strict conditions where the Executor or Administrator will not be covered if they breach any of the terms. The Executor or Administrator also needs to take care of the contents and belongings in the deceased’s property and deal with any utilities such as water, electric and gas. They must also arrange a valuation and, once a Grant of Probate has been obtained, transfer the property to the beneficiary/beneficiaries or sell it if it forms part of the residue of the estate.

It is important to ascertain how the property was owned. It could be that the property was owned solely by the deceased or they co-owned it with someone else, so the deceased only had a share in the property. Procedures are different depending on who owned the property and how they owned it. If the deceased was the sole owner, the Executor or Administrator can, once they have received a Grant of Probate, transfer (assent) the property to the beneficiary/beneficiaries. However, the Executor or Administrator must check to see if there are any trusts involved.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to dealing with the property when someone dies. That’s why it’s important to know what to do when the time comes and to ensure you have planned ahead to make things easier for the person appointed to administer your estate, as well as reducing the stress for your loved ones at an already difficult time.

If you would like to meet with one of our Consultants to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or any other Estate Planning topic please telephone 01732 868190 or click here.