Last Will and Testament

Last-Will-and-Testament

The dictionary defines a will as: “a document by which a person (called a testator) appoints executors to administer his or her estate after their death, and directs the manner in which it is to be distributed to beneficiaries specified by them”.

This is in line with most people’s understanding of the document. At its most simple, it is the instrument by which one sets out: what assets they are leaving; to whom and under whose management this distribution will take place.

What is dealt with in a will?

A will may bequeath items solely owned by the testator. It is noteworthy that items to which a relationship exists other than sole ownership e.g. pensions, jointly owned properties, may fail to enter the estate of one making a will.

In addition to leaving goods and assets, provision can be made for: guardianship of minors, funeral planning, business continuation, charitable gifts, pet care and a range of other matters.

How do I make a will?

There are three main approaches to creating a will: via an online DIY service; via a professional will writing service and via a solicitor.

DIY Services

DIY services typically cost between £15 and £30. Such processes are low in cost but comparatively high in risk. Elements of the will writing process are somewhat arcane and if managed incorrectly, may lead to failures. Commentators attribute the 60% rise in court disputes pertaining to wills, last year to the use of these services. Such battles may incur six figure fees and harm family relationships irreparably.

Professional will writers

Costing in the order of £150-£250, these are firms and individuals, typically bound to societies such as the Society of Will Writers or the Institute of Professional Will Writers, who are trained specifically in the documentation and creation of wills. They usually provide a face to face service and have the support of a legal back office for drafting, as well as appropriate insurances. Many favour this route for cost effectiveness and reliability. Always verify membership of professional bodies and insurance.

Solicitors

Charging is hourly, so fees may reach thousands of pounds. Such fees arise from simple market forces, namely that, when drafting a will with a client, solicitors commit time that might be spent on more directly lucrative activity. The approach is detailed, driven by risk aversion (a good thing) and usually of a high a standard.

For clarity, Legal firms occasionally offer a lower cost service. These offers tend to rely on, for example, paralegals rather than solicitors, to achieve such fees. This is not the same as a solicitor driven service.

Individuals with whom you deal in creating this critical document, should always be questioned on personal training and possibly membership (rather than affiliation) of professional bodies. An under qualified drafter failing to grasp your wishes may lead to trouble later.

Lasting Power of Attorney Guidence

Lasting Power of Attorney Guidence

A Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’) is sometimes known as a ‘living will’. This is because it is the means by which you are able to appoint someone trusted to make key decisions for you should lose the ability to do so yourself, this is called a ‘loss of capacity’.

The person you appoint to make these decisions is known as the ‘attorney’ (you would be known as the ‘donor’ when making such a document).

Types of LPA

There are two types of LPA: a ‘Health and Welfare’ LPA and a ‘Property and financial affairs’ LPA. These are separate documents intended to guide your attornies in the management of health and financial matters, respectively.

Health and Welfare LPA

The ‘Health and Welfare’ LPA permits your attorney to make a range of decisions with respect to your welfare including (but not limited to) matters as critical as the delivery of ‘life sustaining treatment’. Remember, life sustaining treatment may include things you consider mundane, such as provision of asthma or diabetes medication.

Property and Financial Affairs LPA

The ‘Property and Financial Affairs’ LPA permits your attorneys to make decisions about the management of your money and property. This might include matters such as payment of bills, collection of benefits etc.

A really important difference between the two is that the ‘Health and Welfare’ document may only be enacted when you can be shown to have lost capacity. The ‘Property and Financial Affairs’ document applies as soon as it is registered with the authorities (this is because such documents are often used by those travelling abroad to permit management of assets locally).

Registration

To take effect, these documents will need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. You will need to make decisions around matters such as :

  • Who will make decisions on your behalf?
  • How these are to be made?
  • Who should be notified when these LPA’s take effect?

Act Now

These documents are more important than ever for two key reasons.

 

Cost

If you do not have these documents in place, bodies such as the Local Authority may have free reign to provide you with services at costs determined by them. We are aware of cases where four figure fees have been withdrawn for doing little more than signing a letter once a month.

The process of negotiating (and occasionally litigating) around such procedures can elevate expenditure to another level altogether.

Risk

Put simply, more people than ever need these documents. Historically infrequent afflictions are now common place. Leading reasons for loss of capacity include: dementia; stroke/brain injury and mental health problems. This year in the UK, one person was diagnosed with dementia; hospitalised with brain injury or deemed lacking in capacity under the mental health act, every minute.

If wrangling or indecision affects enactment of your wishes, the impact may extend well beyond the administrative costs described above. Deadlines may be missed, penalties incurred, benefits lost. Medication depleted.

Fees for creation of these documents are minimal, costs of failing to do so great – Feel Free to Speak to Confidence Wills for Guidance

The Role of an Executor

the-role-of-an-executor

An executor(s) is the individual or group of individuals who are charged with administering estate distribution under the terms of a will. Up to four may be appointed. The tasks associated with this function may be onerous, it is for this reason that one benefiting from the will (and so interested in its taking effect) is often appointed to the role.

The responsibilities are broad and the summary below should be viewed as neither chronologically strict nor technically exhaustive.

Assume the role of executor

As an executor you must first acquire the powers necessary to begin work, obtaining a grant of probate from the courts (unless the estate is very small in which case this may be dispensed with).

In practice, you should register the death, obtain a certificate and locate the most recent version of the will.

The person who has passed may have left notification of the will’s location. If not, search the National Will Register. NB. you are advised to use copies of the will wherever possible as damage to the original may result in its rejection by the courts.

You must then value the estate including all property and debts. Where appropriate professional valuations should be obtained.

An application for a grant of probate can then be made. This is performed by completing form PA1 and appropriate inheritance tax (IHT) documentation. You must send these forms, together with the original will (plus three copies of it), an official death certificate copy and a fee (currently around £200) to the local probate office.

IHT MUST THEN BE PAID! It is noteworthy that this is required prior to distribution of the estate.

A grant of probate will then be dispatched to you. Make several copies as these will be required when engaging asset holders.

 

Arrange the funeral

Check the will for any funeral wishes, these are not legally binding, though should be respected. Find out if a funeral plan has been put in place and contact the provider immediately, since this may provide finance for the event.

Funerals are viewed as an expense of death, with proper documentation i.e. an invoice from a funeral director, the bank of the deceased will issue a cheque to settle these costs.

Notify family and friends of the time and date of the funeral, consider advertising in local press.

 

Secure Assets and Identify Beneficiaries

In order to ultimately distribute assets, you’ll need to identify and engage: debtors, creditors and beneficiaries.

Sending an original death certificate to all asset holders e.g. banks, you can request cancellation of any active charges (e.g. direct debits) and access to the assets. Likewise, cessation of salaries and pensions should be sought.

Enquire of creditors as to outstanding debts, including HMRC. Place statutory advertisements in publications such as the London Gazette (these must be allowed to run for two months). Debts must be settled prior to distribution, and clearance from HMRC to proceed, obtained.

 

Distribute the estate

Before beginning distribution draw up comprehensive accounts for the estate and maintained them throughout the process. Interrogate the insolvency register to identify any beneficiary in bankruptcy (and so potentially unentitled to benefit from the estate).

With respect to any trust or minor beneficiary, ensure at least two trustees are appointed.

You should wait at least 6 months prior to distribution to allow for any claim against the estate. Distribution may then proceed. Provide tax forms to all beneficiaries (R185) and leep records of your work/expenses since the latter may be reimbursed by the estate.

For more information or to book a consultation feel free to get in touch- https://confidencewills.co.uk/#contacts

Cost Of A Will?

Cost Of A Will?

A will is the means by which an individual (one making a will is known as a testator) sets out what is to happen to their assets on death.

The cost of a simple will may range from £20 for a ‘do it yourself’ (DIY) product to several thousand pounds for a document drafted by a solicitor, at an hourly rate.

In the case of DIY options there is typically no direct support during the process. Since clarity of intent is central to an effective will, problems may arise leading to future failure. Conversely, the time taken to establish such clarity with a solicitor, may be great. Moreover, several elements of the will writing process are fairly arcane and it is certainly possible to fall foul of technical error, even with the best of intent.

Professional will writing services offer intermediate options (typically in the £1-200) range. These may include face to face meetings, in which a trained advisor seeks to understand your position and wishes prior to drafting. Such organisations are often associated with trade bodies and should be selected with care.

The value of face to face interaction when conveying complex information cannot be underestimated. Humans simply have not evolved to communicate only verbally, this is why translation into words of seemingly simple wishes, in a manner capable of withstanding all contingencies, is prized and lawyers costly.

 

The Cost of no Will?

Dying with no will whatever, is known as ‘intestacy’.  The impact of this on those you leave, is entirely dependent on your personal circumstance and their character. There is a legal process by which your estate is allocated. In the case of a small estate’s being left to a sole heir or spouse, the process might prove perfectly adequate. Where the estate is larger, or family arrangements more complex, key individuals, in need of care, may be neglected. Seek advice on the matter if possible.

A poorly drafted will, may actually prove more harmful, than one’s absence. Challenges to wills in court routinely attract six figure legal fees, the 60% rise in such cases seen last year has been attributed to the use of DIY systems. The reasons for challenge broadly relate to either technical issues (improper drafting/execution) or the will’s content (concerning, for example, who has been left what, and how it has been done).

It is worth remembering, however, that impropriety might be perceived, even when not pursued legally. Simmering resentments may thus colour interactions between grieving loved ones at an emotionally charged time. I myself have seen families rent apart in such cases, years of ensuing silence, arguably outstripping the harm of a costly but potentially cathartic court case.

A good will writer will seek to understand your position, your wishes and the reasons underlying intent, reflecting these in a document which is practical, robust and sensitive.

For more information or to book a consultation feel free to get in touch- https://confidencewills.co.uk/#contacts