Jane Hunter, Author at MLP Law

Why a £59 Facebook Will Isn’t the Answer

“You are too expensive – I can get a Will for £59 on Facebook.”

Perceptions needs to change. A will should not be cheap – you do not want it to be cheap. 

This is a document that dictates who the guardians of your children are and who cares for them if you are not here.  Think about that.  This is a document that deals with every single item that you own. Think about that.   

Your house, your car, your jewellery, your investments, your money in the bank, your shares in the business… EVERYTHING. Think about what they mean to you and how hard you have worked to achieve them.  Do you still want your Will to be cheap?

Every family is different, every situation is different and what each person needs in their will is different – it is bespoke to you, your family and your personal situation. 

Your Will is an investment. The upfront expense saves cost and heartache later.  

Inheritance tax efficient save hundreds of thousands of pounds, care home fee efficient will save hundreds of thousands of pounds, trust wills protect your entire wealth.  

Cheap usually means it’s prepared by someone who isn’t legally qualified, is not regulated, cannot advise on tax, sells you things you do not need or that do not work and is not insured.  

So what are you paying for? 

Bespoke advice tailored to you which includes inheritance tax advice and advice on mitigating this.  Business property and agricultural property advice and advice on mitigating exposure.  Advice and assistance on income tax, capital gains tax, ensuring property is owned in the correct way so it goes exactly where you want when you are not here.  Making sure your business goes exactly where you want when you are not here.  Protecting you estate from attack from third parties.  You are dealing with experienced qualified insured lawyers who understand you and your family inside out.  

To book an appointment, contact the team via wtp@mlplaw.co.uk or for further information visit https://www.mlplaw.co.uk/wills/

 

Why would I? I’m only 20

I watched a film last night called ‘The Beekeeper’, which is a typical Jason Statham action/thriller but a good escape from reality in our downtime of being “sensible lawyers.” The essence of the plot is that when his good-natured boss commits suicide after losing all her own money plus that of her charities to a massive scam, he sets out on a vengeance campaign against the scammers.

The 20-year-old owner of the scamming operation is threatened by Statham, who delivers the following line before administering “justice”: “So I hope you have your estate planning in order,” to which the scammer replies, “Why would I? I’m only 20.” I laughed out loud at these lines while my partner just looked at me like I was crazy. Why is that funny?

We are trying to instill in clients and potential clients all the time the importance of estate planning: making a will, putting your powers of attorney in order, tax planning, pensions, savings, life assurance, all the hard work you put into your career, property improvements, caring for your family—you need to make sure this is all protected. Yes, things change, and so does the plan.

Speak to an expert here, and we can start you on your estate planning journey.

Case Study: How Legal Guidance Could Have Made a Difference

One of our new instructions this week led me to think again and highlight the importance of taking legal advice when you are not 100% sure what to do or that you are doing the right thing.

I met with two new clients this week—a mother and daughter. The mother’s husband had died some years ago, and at the time both parties had mirror wills, had done a severance of tenancy, and created life interest trusts in their wills, essentially ring fencing their ½ share in the total marital estate, enabling the surviving spouse to use the income, interest, and property until her death, at which point the estate passes to the two children. So far, so good—all pretty standard stuff and what you would expect to see. However, it’s never that simple, is it?

Since dad’s death, the family has fallen out with the son, and he subsequently died.

First question: do the deceased son’s children now take their father’s share of the estate? The family does not want this to happen, as they are also estranged from the grandchildren.

We look at the construction of the will and interpret it for the family. Answer: Yes, they do. This is not what the family wants to hear, but it is important to know the correct legal position and what you are dealing with.

Second question (from me): where are the trust assets?

Answer: in trust.

Question (me): Where exactly?

In an account with xxx

Ok, how much is in there?

£200k (should be £300)

Ok, how is that made up from the assets you declared at probate (done in person without legal representation)?

It then comes to light during the conversation that the estate assets have not been invested correctly, which would leave the executors and trustees open to a claim from the ultimate beneficiaries.

This is highlighted, and the clients are told what “homework” we need from them to bring back so that all this can be corrected properly before either the life tenant (mother) dies or the trustees decide to appropriate the trust assets to the beneficiaries to eliminate any claim.

The main takeaway from this meeting was that this could all have been amended to the family’s benefit; had they taken legal advice within 2 years of death, the estate could have been varied to ensure the grandchildren were not beneficiaries of the estate. The clients did not take advice and were not aware of this.

It also highlights the importance of keeping good records and ensuring that you do, in fact, understand how estates are devolved in the legal document.

Changes to care fees and social care – will it affect me?

The white paper on social care in England and new cap on care fees brings more confusion to an already confused system. It’s unlikely to save many people any money and does nothing to alleviate the immediate crisis facing social care.

The government announced a cap on the amount that people have to pay for the cost of care. It is proposed that from October 2023, no one will pay more than £86,000 towards the costs of their own care during their lifetime.

The lifetime cap of £86,000 only applies to care costs and people will still be expected to contribute towards their accommodation and daily living costs. Contributions that have been paid before October 2023 will also be excluded.

The current means-tested cap provides that those with assets and savings less that £14,250 do not have to pay for their care. The new system provides the lower threshold is increased to £20,000. In addition, the upper capital limit will rise to £100,000.

This means people above the upper capital limit (£100,000) will have to pay full cost as they are a self-funder. People with assets between the capital limits will contribute on a sliding scale depending on their assets. And those below the lower limit (£20,000) will no longer contribute from their assets.

There may be a positive difference for a very limited number of people but certainly not poorer pensioners.  It’s clear the safety net for individuals has some significant holes in it. None of us can rely on it and each of us should make both a health and a wealth plan. It’s time we stopped thinking of planning for the future as something we do in later life.
 
When thinking about protecting your home when it comes to paying for the cost of care, there are a few things to consider:

1. If you need to move into a care home, you’ll usually have a financial assessment to work out how much you’ll need to pay yourself. If you own your house and your spouse, partner or civil partner is still living there then a ‘property disregard’ could apply which means your home won’t be used to fund care costs.
2. However, the local authority will take income, including pensions, into account when they decide how much people will pay towards their own care. This may reduce the household income available to the spouse/partner who continues to live in the property.
3. In most cases, couples tend to own a property as joint tenants so that when one partner dies the property automatically passes to the survivor. One of the primary reasons people change this is to ensure their 50% share of the property passes to their children, rather than it automatically passing to a surviving spouse / partner (and consequently the whole value of the property being taken into account for the costs of care of the surviving partner / spouse). You can sever the joint tenancy over your property by written notice and then updating the ownership position with the Land Registry. You should then make a Will to ensure that your share of the property passes in accordance with your wishes. However, as an alternative, you may consider your home as an investment to fund your care. This would give you a greater ability to choose where you would like to be cared for (close to loved ones and relatives perhaps) and how (any preferences you may have that would incur a greater care cost).

How can MLP help me?
Each individual’s circumstances are very different, so we’d always recommend speaking to a specialist solicitor.

MLP Law have specialist solicitors who can advise clients on protecting assets and planning for your future.  We have solicitors who are members of SFE (Solicitors for Elderly), the membership organisation for specialist solicitors who support older and vulnerable people.

Our offices are open for covid-19 safe appointments, alternatively we can discuss your instructions via telephone, video call or email.

Contact Details for Wills, Trusts and Probate Team: 0161 9269 969 or WTP@mlplaw.co.uk

Deathbed gifts and transfer of property in times of crisis

MLP Law are advocates at ensuring our clients’ needs are provided for, including preparing them for events during lifetime as in death, to ensure peace of mind. Given the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in, at the time of a global crisis, it is now more important than ever to ensure you are fully prepared and have taken the necessary legal advice. At MLP Law our team of experts are here to talk you through the process, guaranteeing a service which is tailored to your individual needs.

There has been increased focus on Wills and estate planning as more people take time to consider what would happen to their estate if they passed away. However, under the current circumstances it may not be possible for all individuals to undertake full estate planning and Will instructions due to ill health and the rigorous legal requirements which need to be met for a Will to be validly executed. In these circumstances, it may be necessary to view what other options are available to vulnerable individuals who may not have the ability to undertake full estate planning advice and validly execute a Will.

In contrast to the legal formalities of preparing a Will, lifetime gifting and deathbed gifts are less stringent in their requirements to be valid. One thing that individuals may look to, is whether deathbed gifts are effective and transferring property to individuals, as opposed to the formalities of making a gift under a Will.

Deathbed Gifting:

To make a valid deathbed gift, the donor must have met criteria set out in the earlier case of Keeling v Keeling. The case determined that to be satisfied the deathbed gift is valid the person making the gift must have:

  1. Contemplated impending death when making the gift;
  2. Made the gift conditional upon contemplated death; and
  3. Physically transfer the gift to the recipient

It is important that the individual’s capacity is assessed so that it is clear they fully understand the effect of making a gift on their deathbed and ensuring that the individual intends to make such a gift, without any undue influence from third parties.

Given the confusion over such gifts being made, with the minimal formality at a time where the donor is most vulnerable and near to death, it is advisable that the individual seeks professional advice on how best to deal with any deathbed gifts being considered.

Transfer of Property:

Again, under the current circumstances it may not be possible for someone to execute a valid Will with such strict formalities which must be met together with the in-depth planning sometimes required.  Where this is not possible due to individual circumstances, it may be necessary to look at alternative options to ensure your wishes are met following death.

Individuals may look at transferring ownership of a property prior to death as a way of ensuring the property passes to the intended beneficiary(ies). Transferring property prior to death must be done with the advice and guidance of a professional so that various considerations and risks including tax implications can be considered.

Having reviewed the wishes of the individual and discussed the consequences of making the transfer of a property, the transfer can be completed by Deed.  The requirements for the execution of a deed are less formal to that of a Will and may mean that individuals are able to ensure that their wishes are met, particularly in the current circumstances.

In the age of social distancing and lockdown of the nation, it is important that individuals get the correct advice and guidance. 

How can MLP help me?

If you’re thinking about making or updating your will or require assistance with estate planning needs, please get in touch with our Wills, Trust and Probate solicitors who would be happy to have a chat with you to discuss the best way to do this, whilst following all the guidance and protocol on staying safe during the coronavirus.

Please contact either Jane Hunter on 0161 926 1542 janeh@mlplaw.co.uk or Samantha Kennedy on 0161 926 1514 samanthak@mlplaw.co.uk.

A widow has been allowed to claim against her husband’s estate 26 years after grant of probate

The case of Thakare v Bhusate [2020] sets a new landmark in the length of time Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (IPFDA) claims can be brought after death. The previous record of six years was set in 1994, and normally claims must be brought within six months.

Mr and Mrs Bhusate married in 1979 when the deceased was 61 and the widow was 28. The deceased was twice previously married and had five children. The couple went on to have one child before Mr Bhusate died without leaving a will. The case differed from many intestate cases because of the widow’s acrimonious relationship with her step-children, which left the estate ‘in limbo’, meaning 25 years passed after the claimant’s husband died without a will before she was able to claim from the estate.

While the facts of this case are extremely specific, the circumstances highlight the importance of writing a will. Many people still believe that their estate will default to their spouse if they die without a will, but this case goes to prove that this often not what happens in reality. In order to gain from her husband’s estate, Mrs Bhusate will have had to pay years of legal fees all of which will have been deducted from the estate, leaving less money for everyone entitled to a share.  

If you don’t have a will or your family circumstances have changed since you last made one, please get in touch with our Wills Trusts and Probate team on wills@mlplaw.co.uk or 0161 926 1592.