Probate fees – will common sense prevail?

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Probate fees – will common sense prevail?

Please oh please, let this be true! JC

The STEP Blog

George HodgsonThe government’s threat to radically increase probate fees next month (Probate fee rise ‘a new tax on bereaved families’) may be receding, following a meeting of the House of Commons Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on 29 March.

Using some very welcome common sense, the committee raises the issue (para 1.12) that it is a constitutional principle that there should be ‘no taxation without the consent of Parliament’. This is something I suspect 99% of people will agree with.

It finds that the proposal from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is clearly a tax, not a fee, in every normal definition of the term, and should therefore be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, rather than brought in via the back door through a Statutory Instrument.

The committee also finds (para 1.13) that ‘charges’ of the magnitude proposed by the MoJ were probably never envisaged when the original legislation…

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New probate fees: a guide for the public

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De-clutter part 2

Inspiration, please strike here

I’ve finished reading the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo, and have started to tidy. The KonMari method, as she calls her techniques for tidying (nothing scientific, just a nickname based on her name), is a radical re-assessment of the relationship between you and your possessions as well as a simple how-to guide. Aspects of it are over the top, there is no way I’m going to be hunting round the house for every item of a particular type before I start tidying, and I’m not necessarily going to tackle the whole house in the ‘right’ order, but the basics I agree with and am going to try.

To summarise the method, Marie recommends that you put everything you’re going to sort in a pile, handle each item, and only keep it if you feel positively towards it. At first glance it sounds nuts, there are things…

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Your life right now is a result of your dominant thoughts and your daily actions (Robin Sharma)

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To the woman who tutted at me using the disabled toilets…

So Bad Ass

Dear lady who loudly tutted at me using the disabled loos,

I know you saw me running in, with my able bodied legs and all. You saw me opening the door with my two working arms. You saw me without a wheelchair. Without any visible sign of disability.

You tutted loudly as I rattled the handle with my hands that work perfectly and my able voice call to my kids that I’d be out in just a minute.

My lack of wheelchair may have suggested to you that I was some lazy cow who didn’t care. Some inconsiderate bitch who was using something I wasn’t entitled too. (I actually carry a card to explain that I’m entitled to and have a disability key if you’d have cared to ask). You may have seen my face blushing as I caught your eye and assumed I was showing guilt at blagging the…

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3 lies we tell ourselves to put off doing our Will

A Will is seen by many as a very private affair.  And how long will it take?  Will you have to take time off work?  All that uncertainty, and we end up convincing ourselves that it makes sense to put it off for another week, month or even year.Tortoise JC Independent Wills & Probate

Do you find yourself saying any of the following?

I’m too busy, I’ll do it later

Of course you’re busy.  Guess what?  As long as you’re alive, you’ll always be busy.

Just ask anyone who’s retired – they’re busier than they’ve ever been.

Once you accept that you’re always going to be busy, and there’s never a perfect time, you’ll be able to prioritise your Will, in the same way that you prioritise all sorts of other things, such as making dinner for the family even when you’re tired, booking your car in for its MOT even though your diary is packed and getting your hair cut before it reaches your knees.

It won’t make any difference

There are some families where this is true.  Sometimes, particularly since October 2014 when the Intestacy Rules changed, the law does what you would want to happen, so there’s some merit in not having a Will.

However, things are always clearer when there is a Will, and generally anyone sorting things out after you’ve gone, would not have to go to the same lengths as they might, when there’s a Will.  By making sure your Will is in place, you make things so much easier for your loved ones.

I might tempt fate and die, because I started talking about my Will

This thinking process surprised me when I first heard it, but time and again over many years in practice, I have heard it over and over, said by intelligent, thoughtful people.

In case scientific evidence is persuasive to you, I confirm that I am not aware of any study which establishes a link between dealing with your Will and premature death.

If you want to finally get your Will done, might I suggest a first action step, to get the ball rolling?

I recommend you phone three professionals within easy travel distance of you.  Have a chat, and see if you connect with any of them in a way that makes you happy to book your appointment to discuss your requirements.

If you need your professional to fit in around your family life, ask if they can come to your home, and whether they can see you in the evening or on a Saturday, if that means you’ll get on with it.  And don’t be shy about asking about what it’ll cost.  Most professionals can give you a good idea of their fees after a 5-10 minute chat about whether your circumstances and requirements are straightforward or not.

I’d love to hear about any creative ways you find, to make the time to get your Will done.  Do you need to persuade your spouse it’s a good idea?  Give me a call on 01727 840 240 or send me a message via my website at http://www.jcwillsandprobate.co.uk which I’ll be sure to respond to.

Posted in 2 week Will, busy, Couple Wills, evening visit, home visit, Intestacy, later, October 2014, procrastinate, Saturday, take action, tempt fate, Will | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where to store your valuable documents?

Master padlock JC Independent Wills & ProbateIf your valuable documents such as your Will and Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs), are in your bureau under the stairs, that’s not my idea of safe.

A safe place means fireproof, animal nibble proof and where people can’t get hold of it who may not want the Will that you want, to stand.

Your original Will is the only one readily accepted by the Probate Registry, so it’s worth taking care of it.  There are rare occasions when the Probate Registry will consider allowing a photocopy, but generally the original is required.

Your Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) can be an absolute God-send in your lifetime, if your attorneys need to use them on your behalf.  Again, it’s worth ensuring that they are kept safe in case they are required.

The other documents it’s worth taking good care of, are what us lawyers call the documents needed to make use of the transferable nil rate band.  That was a bit of a mouthful, wasn’t it?

The transferable nil rate band is available to a married couple.  When one person dies, they normally give their whole estate to their surviving wife or husband.  There is a total spouse exemption on what you give your wife or husband, so there’s never any worry about Inheritance Tax on the first death.

However, on the second death, there may well be Inheritance Tax to pay, and the nil rate band which is available in relation to the first death can be used to reduce the Inheritance Tax bill.  But it’s not automatic.  It has to be claimed, and you want to have your documentation ready to use.  40% of the current nil rate band of £325k is a reduction of £130k on the tax bill, so it’s worth having.

The documents you want to store safely to make use of the transferable nil rate band, are the deceased’s Will, Grant of Probate if obtained, Death Certificate and any Deed of Variation which may have been effected following their death.

This is all reasonably straightforward for a professional dealing with this on a regular basis, but it’s important that these documents are stored safely, because it may be many years until the documents need to be produced.

If you’d like to discuss the professional storage of your own documents, give Jane of JC Independent Wills & Probate a call on 01727 840 240. We’re always happy to have a chat.

Posted in fire proof, Lasting Powers of Attorney, LPAs, nibble proof, people proof, safe, Storage, Transferable nil rate band, valuable, Will | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dabbler vs Specialist

Sometimes, using a dabbler can save some money and still get a decent result.

Sometimes, a specialist is essential.

At JC Independent Wills & Probate, we specialise in all things related to Wills & Probate.  In practice, this means that we often deal with Wills, and when we do, we also like to at least discuss the question of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).  We deal with Probate, generally on a fixed fee basis, and as there’s often an unoccupied house involved, we deal with the insurance of empty properties, so that our clients don’t have to worry about a thing.  Occasionally, there’s a dispute over an estate, which we lawyers call Contentious Probate, and we can certainly help with that.

Why would you seek the advice of a generalist, when you would benefit from the advice of a specialist?

Specialising in Wills, means that you are aware that sometimes, preparing a Letter of Wishes, separate from the Will but kept with it, is the right thing to do.  It can make your client’s wishes abundantly clear, without putting their dirty laundry in their Will, which is likely to become a public document.

Specialising in Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) means that you don’t have the documents you prepare, rejected by the Office of Public Guardian.  They are incredibly fussy about various details of LPAs, and boxes not crossed through where required, or dates being out of the required order, can cause the rejection of an LPA.  Depending on the timing of the rejection, this may mean someone loses the opportunity to have an LPA.

Probate is something that’s worth doing well.  I have heard clients claim that this area of law is “not rocket science” and just occasionally, when a family tries to be a bit too clever, they then have to get through the stress of an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs.  It’s worth doing things properly, particularly when the Revenue is necessarily involved, whether it’s lifetime tax affairs that have to be tidied up, or the sale of some rented properties which haven’t had their rent declared.  When things have been untidy during a lifetime, you want the details taken care of by a professional, especially if you are becoming personally responsible as an executor, which is quite a responsibility.

Contentious Probate is a highly specialist area of law, and you definitely want the right professional on your team, whether you’re set to make a claim, or find yourself in the position of defending a claim made by someone else.  Generally, a good lawyer will not wish to take your case all the way to Court, because of the uncertainty and costs involved.  And a good lawyer will put the “other side” on the back foot from the start, just by the details and style of their initial letter.  If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a Contentious Probate case, you need the right specialist on your team.

I hope that the above summary of our specialist work, gives you an idea of why you need to think about your team carefully.  If your Wills & Probate matter is important to you, you need to find a professional who finds it as important as you do.

If you would like to chat through any of these ideas, please call JC Independent Wills & Probate on 01727 840 240.

Posted in 2 week Will, Capacity, Charity, Children, Contentious Probate, Couple Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney, Fixed fee, Grief, Health & Welfare, Intestacy, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Parents, Probate, Property & Financial, Simple, Wills | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Probate work is “not rocket science.”

retro-rocket-vector_629528Time after time, I hear some people say that Probate work is “not rocket science.”

Some of those families are rather too clever for their own good, and I have observed some of them try to hide assets, so that the Revenue won’t charge Inheritance Tax on them.

Actually what tends to happen when a family feels superior to HM Revenue & Customs, is that some detail or other, alerts the Revenue to some inconsistency, and a full blown investigation happens, which means that various members of the family literally lose sleep.  On an ongoing basis, for several months.

When someone dies, the first thing to work out, from a legal perspective, is whether a Grant of Probate is required.  It’s a common misconception that if you have a Will, you won’t need a Grant.  That’s absolutely not the case.

If you have a Will, if you need a Grant, it’ll be a Grant of Probate.

If you don’t have a Will, and you need a Grant, it’ll be a Grant of Letters of Administration.

The generic word is Grant of Representation.

What’s involved in dealing with an estate, is to work out what all the assets are.  Assuming the person was domiciled in England / Wales, they will have Inheritance Tax charged to their worldwide assets.  The value used, is the value as at the date of death.

Next, the liabilities of the estate need to be established.  These may include credit cards, telephone bill, and perhaps a payment due to the Department of Works & Pensions, depending on what day of the week the person died.

There may be lifetime tax affairs to sort out.  Maybe the deceased prepared their own tax return, or maybe an accountant is involved.  That’s not an aspect of the estate that you want to leave in limbo.  A Form R27 tidies all the details up, and it’s worth making the effort to finalise this aspect of an estate correctly.

There may be properties, which will need to be transferred or sold, and if any length of time passes after death before this is dealt with, Capital Gains Tax (CGT) should be considered.  CGT is not chargeable on death, as there’s what’s called an “automatic uplift,” but it may be payable if there’s a big rise in property prices around this time.  Alternatively, if the property value has suffered a loss since the death, it may, depending what else is going on in the estate, be appropriate to formally record a CGT loss.

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is often thought of as one of the most unfair taxes.  When the second person of a married couple dies, there may well be two Nil Rate Bands available at 0% IHT.  However, it is not automatic, and the previous Nil Rate Band has to be claimed, with supporting documentation.  It’s worth getting this correct, as the difference in your Inheritance Tax bill may be as much as 40% of £325k, which is £130k.  That’s a big difference.

One of the biggest stresses to a family when someone dies and the property is left empty, is that insurance companies are often unhelpful in sorting out insurance that covers the property when family members are unable to visit the property frequently, perhaps because they live in a different area geographically, or they have significant parenting commitments.

With JC Independent Wills & Probate, we have access to property insurance that provides peace of mind when an unoccupied property needs to be insured.  This is one of those things that should not be overlooked, and the policy we use, cuts no corners.  That would be potentially dangerous.

Once the estate has been sorted out, the final piece of the jigsaw, is to distribute the estate – give the money out.  This sounds simple enough, but there are a few details like ensuring no-one has a claim against the estate, or making sure that no-one you’re paying money to has become bankrupt, that you need to be mindful of.  People don’t tend to publicly share with the family when they become bankrupt, but whether you as an executor are aware or not, you will be liable if you give money out when you shouldn’t have.

We’re all in favour of empowering families to deal with an estate if they feel able and willing.  But we’re here for those people who need the support.  People who have to get back to work, or can’t function because of the grieving process, or simply want us to take care of all the details.

If you think you may need help but you’re not sure, don’t be shy.  Give JC Independent Wills & Probate a call on 01727 840 240.  We’re here to help.

Posted in Fixed fee, Intestacy, Parents, Probate, Uncategorized, Wills | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment