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Avoiding Will Disputes

Nowadays, with a growing trend in people not marrying, and roughly 60% of the adult population not having a Will, Will disputes are on the rise.

So what can you do to ensure this doesn’t happen, and your wishes are abided by?

1. Make A Will

This is the only way to guarantee your wishes are documented. Unfortunately, unmarried couples are not recognised in the eyes of the law. If you die without a Will, your partner may not be provided for no matter how long you’ve been together.

2. Keep Your Will Up To Date

Circumstances change, and Wills may become out of date. If you do not update your Will, it may not actually reflect your dying wishes, leaving family and close friends upset and disappointed.

It is important to update it every time something changes and don’t leave it for another day. Anything could happen!

3. Professional Advice

Sometimes, to abide by your wishes, the family circumstances may suggest a dispute. Take professional advice when writing your Will.

This may be a cost you wish to avoid, but it will be far better than the costs incurred to the family when contesting the Will.

Not only this, the professionals will not only ensure your Will reflects your wishes, but it is valid too.

In the case of a dispute, it is harder to challenge and invalidate a Will that has been prepared by a professional.

By all means, a family member is allowed to help, especially if they’re elderly or vulnerable, but without the assurance of capacity, and the professional seeing the individual alone, it can be viewed as suspicious and raise the question of undue influence.

4. Write An Accompanying Letter

Think about why you are writing your Will as you are, and record your reasons for this in a separate letter.

It is better to have inheritance discussions before death, however if this is too hard, an accompanying letter clearly explaining your reasons will reduce the stress and upset of the situation.

Sometimes, people just need to understand why, and if you aren’t there to ask, that becomes impossible.

5. Reasonable Financial Provision

No matter what, under the Inheritance Act 1975, a beneficiary could claim financial provision from your estate.

If you firmly believe a disgruntled beneficiary may do this, it may be a good idea to include financial inheritance for them.

It may end up less expensive, and you can ensure it is provisional on them not making a claim.

6. Trusts

Assets can be left in a Trust specifically designed to be left to a particular person under the protection of Trustees.

This could be the case if your child is in a difficult marriage and you don’t wish the money to be included in a divorce, or if your beneficiaries are of an age deemed to be too young to inherit.

For information regarding any of the above, contact LCS now on 0345 017 8250 and ensure you have peace of mind this Christmas.

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Don’t Forget Your Digital Estate!

With technology at the forefront of most people’s lives and a new generation of “social media techies” being brought up surrounded by tablets and smartphones, is it time we started thinking about what will happen to our technology profile after our death?

Currently, the U.K. has no formal procedure regarding digital assets and what happens in the case of death or incapacity.

Under the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014, personal assets (chattels) do not include digital assets.

It may be the case that some accounts cannot be legally accessed, and assets cannot be passed on. But some, normally those containing money can be, if the correct procedures are followed.

This of course doesn’t just refer to accounts containing assets.

Nowadays, it is normal for people to have at least one form of social media account. Facebook for example, now allows you to grant someone access to your account in the case of death.

This is called a “legacy contact”, and will allow your chosen contact access to memorialize your account.

It is also vital for those who hold their own online business, especially those who own intellectual property rights to address this issue.

For example, under the act, those who own a photography business may leave their hard copies to a beneficiary in their Will, however, they may not be given access to them digitally.

To prepare for this, you need to figure out your assets, your rights, and if this can all be passed on.

So, what can you do?

– Review the terms and conditions and find out what happens in the case of death or long periods of inactivity.
– Ensure your next of kin knows how to access your phone, tablet, laptop etc. And keep a note of your passwords and logins for these, ensuring that they are kept safely or encrypted.
– Ensure your legacy contact knows they’re your contact and know what they need to do to manage your social media.
– Keep your bank statements organised.
– Ensure your executors know where your tax information is, but do not give it to them. Keep it securely as an up to date hard copy.
– Be specific about your digital assets in your Will, and leave additional powers in there.
– You may wish to accompany your Will with a separate letter of wishes if you feel you’d like to maintain privacy between you and your digital executor.
– Always ensure that you have an anti-virus cover on your computer, laptop etc.

To receive more information regarding Wills and your estate, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250

Text Message Wills

According to research by unbiased.co.uk, in 2016, 59% of UK adults did not have a Will.

Nowadays, with technology taking over, the majority of the population does everything on their phones or tablets, people can be forgiven for leaving instructions over what happens to their assets when they die.

What people may not realise, is that in the UK, this is not a legal and binding Will.

Recently, there has been some press regarding an Australian Court accepting an unsent text message as a binding Will.

The message was found in the drafts section of the deceased’s mobile phone, leaving “all that I have” to his brother and nephew, this was compiled shortly before he took his own life.

Although his widow contested the decision (as the text was never sent), it contained the phrase “my Will”. The court ruled that this phrase showed the deceased’s intention.

With an appreciation for modern times, the English Law Commission is currently consulting over the legalities regarding Wills; video Wills may be on the horizon!

As it stands however, the old rules apply.

Capacity

You must be of sound mind and capable of making decisions when you sign your Will. You must also be under no external influences to be compiling your Will.

Intention

You must intend to distribute all or part of your estate. There are particular expressions that must be used eg. “I leave the residue of my estate to X”.

Subscription

The Will must be signed by the Will maker. This ensures it is clear the Will reflects your wishes.

Document storage is also an added security measure.

The Will should also be witnessed by two independent people.

Without all these requirements, your Will won’t be valid and may cause unnecessary stress and heartache to your loved ones upon your death.

For more information regarding Will Writing, Lasting Powers of Attorney, and Document Storage, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250 and let us help you, to help yourself.

Have You Appointed Guardians?

We often hear from younger people that they will make a Will once they have children. Yet, so many people with children have not actually made a Will. According to Will Aid, this is the case with 57% of parents.

Although most younger people don’t believe they have the assets to create a Will, many do not realise that a Will is more than just dividing assets after your death.

If you have children under the age of 18, it is vital that you appoint trusted Guardians within your Will to look after your children under 18 should you and your partner both die. Otherwise, the Courts will decide what happens to your children, running the risk of them entering care.

It is important for you to discuss everything with potential Guardians, as they may decide the responsibility is one they don’t wish to bear.

One worry may be that they don’t have the finances available. This may be overcome by leaving Trusts written into your Will for your children, but ensuring your Trustees have the authority to apply for funds from the Trust fund prior to your children reaching 18 years of age.

Trustees may also be responsible for your entire estate, thus ensuring that directions are set for the financial upbringing of your children, this would ensure that your appointed guardians are not out of pocket and, that your children’s needs are met.

Guardians normally gain parental responsibility, making decisions for a child such as medical treatment and education, until they reach the age of 18.

It is also possible to appoint a substitute Guardian as a substitute in case your original Guardian is unable or unwilling to act.

Although nobody wishes to think of their death, especially when just starting your own family, it is imperative to secure your children’s future whilst you’re still able to do so.

For advice regarding Guardianship, and writing Wills, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250.

To Marry Or Not To Marry

When couples meet in later life or simply choose not to get married, although living together, they may not be protected when one of them dies.

Unfortunately, cohabiting couples are not recognised in law the same way that married couples or those in a civil partnership are.

So, what legally happens to couples when one of them dies without leaving a Will?

Common law spouse

According to intestacy rules, if you die without leaving a Will, in this case, your partner will not receive anything from your estate other than anything held jointly.

Looking to the future

There are some legal benefits to marrying:

– Spouse exemption – anything left to a spouse is exempt from Inheritance Tax (IHT).
– Transferable nil rate band – you can use the first £325,000 of your spouse’s nil rate band, along with your own, providing your spouse did not use their allowance.
– Intestacy – if a Will is not left, upon your death, where there are children, your spouse is entitled to the first £250,000 of the estate and, the interest on half the residue.

Make a Will

It is vitally important for unmarried couples to make a Will specifying their wishes and how they would like their estate to be divided.

Although you may have lived together for many years and even share children, unless you have a Will, you cannot guarantee that your partner will be protected or provided for following your death.

To discuss making a Will and advice on other services regarding your estate, contact LCS NOW on 0345 017 8250.

Reduce Financial Stress

Why Consider A Trust When Making A Will?

It is important for you to have a Will in place before you die. Not having a Will can lead to numerous complications when dividing an estate and, for some families, it can be enough to tear them apart.

But it isn’t just Wills that need to be considered.

Trusts can be used as a way of passing on inheritance, under the protection of Trustees who will pass on assets to your chosen beneficiaries in accordance with the Trust.

The benefits of doing this is that you can ensure your assets are going exactly where you wish.

So, in what circumstances are trusts useful?

Blended Families

If there are children involved from previous relationships, a couple may want to ensure that such children benefit from their inheritance.

A Trust could be included to enable assets to pass to a surviving partner upon the deaths of the first to die. The trust can also further outline what happens to the assets when both have died.

In this case, assets could be split between the couple’s own children.

Remarriage

If your spouse dies, you may go on to remarry in later life.

This could mean that a Will written when both were alive to be altered, sometimes in a way that may remove inheritance from existing children.

As with the above, a Trust could be included in a couple’s Wills to ensure inheritance for the ultimate beneficiaries whilst enabling the surviving spouse to have use of the asset during their lifetime, such as with the family home.

Is the beneficiary able to manage the inheritance?

A Trust is the most common way of safeguarding assets for those unable to manage their own finances, for example, a disabled person or someone with a substance misuse or alcohol dependency problem.

Here, the Trustees would use the assets to directly benefit the beneficiary, the Trustees would use their discretion as to how and when to release the funds.

 

If You’re Unmarried

Unmarried couples do not have the same rights of inheritance as those who are married or in a civil partnership.

In marriage or civil partnerships your estate can pass directly to your spouse upon your death.
Trusts can be included to ensure that your partner is provided for, whilst also addressing the inheritance tax issues for unmarried couples.

The above are just four common reasons to include a trust in your Will, there are many other reasons and a variety of Trusts which may help individual clients.

For more information about Trusts, contact LCS on 0345 017 8250 before it’s too late.

The Presumption Of Death Act 2013

Have you ever thought how you would cope financially without your partner? Marriage brings the security of your partner’s assets passing directly to you upon their death. (Unless otherwise stated in a Will) But what happens to a loved one’s affairs if that person goes missing?

Currently, The Presumption of Death Act 2013 requires you to wait seven years, or provide proof that the person has died before you can apply for the declaration of presumed death.

Although seven years is long enough to ascertain that someone really has left their life behind them, it has been criticised as being too long for the families left dealing with the deceased’s affairs.

Furthermore, if a person has an appointed power of attorney, this becomes void as nobody has the legal authority to manage a missing person’s affairs.

As this is a very serious matter, the courts will only grant the declaration of presumed death with solid evidence, but once they have, it allows for a grant of probate, and even dissolution of marriages.

In order to apply for this, you must:

– Provide details of both the applicant, and the missing person,
– Provide details surrounding how they disappeared,
– What efforts you’ve made to find them,
– Details of their estate,
– Details of anyone else who may be interested.

You must also advertise the event in at least one newspaper local to the missing person’s last known address.

This will then be put up for a Court hearing, where the next steps will be advised. Eg. Further proof.

The decision will be made by taking into account the balance of probabilities; the civil standard of proof.

The declaration may be opposed by anyone by submitting a notice of intervention, or, if the missing person returns. In this instance, the missing person would apply for the declaration to be revoked by the High Court.

In April 2017, the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 was passed which has been designed to work alongside the current Act.

It will allow a guardian to be appointed to handle the missing person’s affairs for a renewable period of up to four years.

It also takes into account the lengthy seven year wait and, allows the applicants to apply for a Guardianship Order, this means they will only have to wait at least 90 days before they can assume control.

Although the Presumption of Death Act 2013 made way for people to eventually deal with a missing person’s affairs, the new act allows the management of this whilst waiting the seven years to finalise the estate.

How To Avoid Disagreements Ovwr Funerals

Dealing with the death of a loved one is an upsetting and deeply stressful time. Organising the funeral can only add to this, so what happens when families disagree over the arrangements?
Not everyone will have organised their own funeral before they die. Accidents can happen, and death can sometimes be quite sudden and sooner than expected. One small respite is knowing that the invoice for the funeral can often be settled directly from the estate, funds permitting.
As probate can take many months to be granted, most banks will be happy to release funds directly to funeral directors from the deceased’s bank account upon receipt of an original invoice, this may or may not include the wake.
Family members often have differing opinions and understandings as to what the deceased wanted to happen and, even conversations prior to the deceased’s death regarding the funeral and the wake can sometimes become a point of disagreement.
Not only can this add unnecessary stress, it may also divide a family. To avoid this, you have options available to you:
1. Write your wishes into your Will, it is always recommended that you discuss your wishes with your nearest and dearest, that way, your family will know exactly what want. Your Will may also give authority to your executors to spend a certain amount on your funeral and wake, thus avoiding potential arguments.
2. Organise a pre-paid funeral plan, there are many options available for you to “design” and pay for your funeral before you die. Different packages are available which are designed to suit all budgets, and will cover the very basic funeral to the most extravagant.
Having your funeral organised before you die will not only remove the stress of doing this in an already difficult time, but it will avoid family arguments, and over exuberance. It will also ensure you get the final say on your send off.
LCS can look after all your requirements regarding your Will, winding up your estate after your death and a pre-paid funeral plan. We are currently offering £100 off each Dignity Guaranteed pre-paid funeral plan.
Contact us now on 0345 017 8250 to discuss your needs and find out how we can help you and your family.

Is Your Pet Protected In Your Will?

Do you love animals? Do you know what would happen to your beloved family pet in the event of your death? Why not protect them in your Will, and ensure they’re safe and provided for once you’re gone?

The Pet Food Manufacturers Association have recently released figures that 44% of UK households have pets. Equating to 54 million pets, this means many of them may be left behind if their owner dies.

As pets have normally been in the family for a number of years, many owners assume family members will look after them after their death. This isn’t always the case.

Not everyone has the time, money, or simply wish to make the commitment pets demand, so it is imperative you discuss your plans with the people involved.

This gives them, the opportunity to think about your wishes, and allows you the option to rethink if they decline.

If a family member is unable to care for your pet, there are specific charities eg. RSPCA Home For Life Scheme, which are designed to rehome your pet and ensure they’re looked after.

According to the Administration of Estates Act 1925, pets are “personal chattels” meaning, they can be included and provided for in your Will.

No matter which option you take, you still must consider the expenses of looking after a pet over the rest of their lifetime:

Food
Vets
Medication
Grooming
Insurance
Funeral fees

In order to cover this, you may provide cash gifts specifically allocated towards their future care.

When writing your Will, it is advised not to specifically name your pet, but provide a letter of wishes to run alongside your Will detailing your wishes for their care, and information such as registered veterinary surgeries, or important medication.

Don’t forget to review your Will every few years, as if you die with an out of date Will, your wishes may never come to fruition, and any new pets you’ve acquired may not be protected.

To ensure your Will is sound, and legally adheres to your wishes, contact LCS now on 0345 017 8250 and speak to our professional advisors.

 

Nurses Protest Over Pay

As reported in the Guardian, this afternoon (Wednesday 6th September), roughly 2,000 Nursing staff are expected to launch a demonstration outside Parliament.

Their aim is to persuade them to scrap the 1% pay cap.

The demonstration has been strategically timed to fall just after the prime minister’s first questions of her parliamentary year, with members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) taking a day of leave to join the protest.

The RCN has threatened industrial action if the pay cap is not scrapped in the Autumn Budget, after revealing the seven year cap has seen pay fall by 14% real-term.

Not only this, but Theresa May has been criticised after claiming nurses are using food banks for “complex reasons”.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive of the RCN has said:

“Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves, not because they don’t like the job, but because they can’t afford to stay while the next generation do not see their future in an undervalued profession. If the government fails to announce a change of direction in the budget, then industrial action by nursing staff immediately goes on the table.”

This demonstration mirrors the views aired back in May, where over 50,000 members of the RCN voted, and 8 in 10 stating they would strike if the cap wasn’t lifted.

The RCN also published data from YouGov that 7 in 10 voters believed the NHS was critically understaffed.

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), there are 40,000 nursing vacancies, with 51% more nurses and midwives leaving the profession than four years ago.

This leaves healthcare without safe staffing, and the current staff struggling under the pressure of hours, and the stress of the job.

Interestingly, YouGov also published that more than half of their voters were willing to pay increased taxes to help the nursing crisis.

Either way, something must be done to save the NHS and British healthcare as we know it.