There has been a flurry of recent developments and changes in the law of wills and probates. Many solicitors work in the area have been giddy with excitement bearing in mind the last changes of law to wills came in 1837! Below is a brief summary of some of the recent developments in this area of law and how it can affect you and your family.
A recent survey showed that over 65% of people in England die without a valid will. Dying without a will means that your estate will be dealt with under the intestacy rules. These can be a complex set of rules which can often have unintended consequences about who inherits your estate, with the subsequent fallouts in family potential claims arising. Making a will should be a straightforward and painless exercise when dealing with the right professional advisor. Some people prepare their own wills and whilst in some straightforward circumstances this can be fine, there are very strict rules about what needs to be in a will and how it needs to be signed and if these rules are not complied with, the will could be invalid leading to the unintended consequence of intestacy. The (not so) secret is to have professionally drafted will and to review it regularly. QualitySolicitors Barwells recommended that your will is reviewed every 5 years, or earlier if there are any changes in your family or financial circumstances, whether that be a birth, marriage or death in the family, moving home, retirement or a lottery win! QualitySolicitors Barwells can prepare a simple will covering most people's circumstances for fixed fees from £145 + vat. If you are aged over 55 then we run a charitable scheme with well loved charities, such as Cancer Research UK and Barnardo’s, where you can make a simple will free of charge.
These are interesting times in the law of wills & probate! The starting point is making sure that your will is up to date, as a good solicitor will discuss the related issues listed above about inheritance tax, care fees, as they relate to you during the course of prepared your will. The most commonly heard phrase for the wills solicitor is ‘I’ve been meaning to do this for ages.’ It is important that one does it before it is too late.
The last few months has seen the case of Ilott vs Mitson be heard at the court of appeal and the outcome made front page news across the newspapers. A mother disinherited her estranged daughter in her will leaving her estate instead to charity. The court overturned the deceased mothers will and provided for a substantial portions passed to the daughter. This appeared to turn on its head many of the courts decisions over the previous 40 years since the legislation seeking to protect children and other dependant persons from being able to claim against an estate when someone dies. The court case went into much detail about what a person should do when they intend to disinherit or leave a disproportionally small share of an estate to a child. Whilst this case had not been the tidal change in the law that some media reports suggest, it is important for people in this situation to review their wills and take proper legal advice to consider if they need to update their will or carry out any further work.
Dealing with the administration of an estate can be complex and throw up unexpected challenges, as well as dealing with the personal loss and grief of losing a loved one, one must also deal with the legal and financial aspects of administrating that person’s estate. In many cases these can be far from straightforward. Even what appears to be a straightforward administration can cause difficulties. Some common problems encountered by executors are;
- Dealing with HM Revenue & Customs over tax returns and payments.
- Getting a grant of probate.
- Dealing with ‘difficult’ family members or beneficiaries.
Whilst many (rightfully) see being appointed an executor in a will a great honour, it also carries a heavy burden of work and liability. For example, if an executor does not obtain the right type & level of insurance for the deceaseds un-occupied property, they will be personally liable for any loss should anything happen to the property. Very soon (the great honour) of being appointed as executor is replaced with what could be an extremely large claim from the beneficiaries that the executors have not administrated the estate properly and have now lost their inheritance.
Early professional advice is the answer. QualitySolicitors Barwells can tailor our executive probate services to meet the level of assistance the executor needs, whether this is an initial guiding hand at the outset of a matter or a full service dealing with all aspects of the administration to take any stress or burden away. Often having an independent third party can reassure executors and beneficiaries that the administration is going to be dealt with properly to avoid any potential damaging long term breakdowns in relationships between family members and beneficiaries.