Wills and probate

It is still true today that many people do not bother to make a Will before they die dealing with who they wish to leave their money or home to. This can often leave uncertainty and chaos for their friends and family when they die. You can avoid this very simply by making a Will and it can be a lot less expensive than you may think. We offer a standard single Will for as little as £225 including VAT, and £325 including VAT for joint Wills. If you require inheritance tax advice then this is not generally included in the fixed fee Wills but a separate quote will be provided.

Advantages of making a Will

  • You can leave your property, money and other assets to people you want.
  • You can protect your unmarried partner or unregistered civil partner who could, under the current state of the law, end up with nothing if you do not make a Will.
  • A Will is vital if you have children or dependents who are unable to care for themselves. If there is no Will, there could be uncertainty about who will look after them or provide for them if you die.
  • You can be sure you maximise the assets that are to be passed to any friends and family thus ensuring that you are tax efficient.
  • You can set out details of any other wishes which you may desire to put into effect upon your death such as organ donation or burial and funeral arrangements.

Disadvantages of not making a Will


  • If you die without making a Will, you are declared to be ‘intestate’. In such circumstances there are rules that dictate how your money and property and any other assets will be divided up. This may not be the way that you would wish such items to be divided.

  • Unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership currently do not automatically inherit from each other, unless there is a Will. In those circumstances, serious financial problems could be created for the survivor upon the death of their partner. 

  • Many costly and painful family disputes regrettably arise from the confusion and distress which is caused when people die without making a Will.

Will I need to consider inheritance tax?
If you leave your estate to your spouse (husband or wife) or civil partner an exemption means that usually there will not be any inheritance tax to pay when the first of you dies. However, you should bear in mind that the estate of the surviving spouse will then be worth more.
Inheritance tax is currently levied on a party’s estate and it is raised on all assets over and above the inheritance tax threshold (currently £325,000). Inheritance tax is charged at 40%. In the case of married couples or civil partners, if the first person dies without using their £325,000 allowance, the surviving partner may use both allowances upon their death and inheritance tax will only be paid on assets over and above £650,000.
It will be necessary for you, when asking Stantons to prepare your Will, to provide full details of your finances so that we will be able, if necessary, to provide any advice on potential inheritance tax liability.

Our lawyers can also advise on other areas of non-contentious work including the following:

Wills for separated parents
Lasting Power of Attorney
The role of an executor.


 “Thank you for my present Will as it has much more depth and I appreciate the efforts made by you all”


Wills for separated parents

If you were to die while your children are under 18 and you were not married and had not made a valid Will then your children will inherit your estate.

Well that's exactly what you would want isn't it? But maybe it wouldn’t turn out as you expected!

As your children will share your estate unless you make a Will saying otherwise, it will be their parent, i.e. your former partner who will be responsible for administering your estate and, together with another person whom he or she chooses, will decide when and in what circumstances the children can have their money. Your former partner could decide for example that the children could ‘have their money’ by your estate paying for luxury holidays for the whole family.

At the age of 18 the children then automatically become entitled to whatever their mum or dad has left in the estate for them, just at a time when they may be very likely to squander it.

By making a Will you can appoint people you trust to look after the children’s money wisely and you can specify that they can only have an automatic right to what is in the trust fund at a later age that you think is right for them e.g. 21 or more often 25.

Your Will can allow the people you appoint (called trustees) to use the trust fund to help with maintenance and education until the children grow up and you will know that you have chosen people you can trust to do that.


The role of an Executor

An Executor is the person who is responsible for dealing with the possessions of the deceased. These possessions are collectively known as the Estate. The Executor has the legal authority and responsibility to administer the Estate and is ultimately liable for any mistakes made.

As mentioned above an Executor can be held personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty – even if the mistake is made in good faith.

This will include:

  • Failure to pay the debts and liabilities of the deceased
  • Failure to settle the affairs of the deceased relating to: inheritance tax, income tax and capital gains tax
  • Failure to settle any claim against the estate
  • Failure to identify and correctly distribute assets to the beneficiaries (including those initially not known about).

Disappointed beneficiaries (people who feel that they should have been left something or else left more in the Will) have up to six months to make a claim after issuing the grant of probate whilst creditors owed money by the deceased, can potentially make a claim against the personal representatives for up to 12 years after the death.

What are Executors responsible for?

Executors are responsible for administering the property and possessions of the deceased in line with their wishes and the law.

The Executors are responsible for everything they do, or fail to do, in relation to the estate. This responsibility lasts for the duration of the administration of the estate and any ongoing trust created.

The precise duties fall under the following three areas:

Legal

  • Applying to and attending at court to apply for grant of probate.
  • Identifying and dealing with any claims against the estate.
  • Settling all debts and liabilities
  • Correctly distributing the remainder of the estate, once all of the liabilities have been paid, in accordance with the Will.

Administration

  • Notification and correspondence with all relevant organisations in order to gather all assets and pay all debts and charges on the estate. 
  • Search for unclaimed or missing assets.
  • Prepare and distribute estate accounts to interested parties.

Tax

  • Completion and submission of inheritance tax returns and payment of any inheritance tax.
  • Completion of any necessary income and capital gains tax returns and payment of any outstanding tax.

Being named as an Executor in a Will brings with it complicated and sometimes onerous duties and often takes months to complete. It is important to get it right because the Executor or administrator is ultimately liable for any mistakes made. Often people choose to appoint a loved one, who knows the details of the estate, together with a professional so that the estate can be administered as quickly as possible with minimum stress to those involved.

If you choose to appoint us, or other professionals, the professionals can be named on the grant of representation. This means that they take on the responsibility and potential liability associated with administering the estate of the deceased. This means that in the event of a claim against the estate, it would be the professional and not the individual who would be sued.

We can help you with:

  • Divorce and separation
  • Judicial separation
  • Financial settlements
  • Separation agreements
  • Children matters including contact
  • Parental responsibility and residence
  • Adoption proceedings
  • Fathers'/mothers' rights
  • Grandparents' and step parents' rights
  • Civil partnerships
  • Co-habitee disputes
  • Powers of attorney
  • Wills and probate

See divorce and cohabitation for further details.

 

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