Estate Planning

Estate planning is an important part of our practice.  It is easy to underestimate the value of your assets and the effect that tax liabilities can have on your future financial security.  Our experts will work with you to help you plan ahead to minimise liabilities, protect important family and business assets and ensure the smooth transfer of wealth from one generation to the next in accordance with your wishes.

We act for private individuals both within and domiciled outside the UK. Our services include: 

  • Relevant property and other trusts i.e. fixed interest or flexible trusts
  • Associated tax issues
  • Inheritance tax and retirement planning
  • Offshore trusts
  • Residence and domicile status
  • Advice on lifetime gifts

More from the Downs Blog

Q&A: Can I invest on behalf of my mum?

Q: My elderly mother has just gone into a nursing home. I have a financial Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) which currently enables me to act on her behalf to look after her financial affairs. Her memory is getting worse, some dates are better than others, she is not safe though living in her home. 

Q&A: Can I buy mum’s house under market value?

Q: Since my father passed away two years ago, my mum has been considering downsizing to a smaller property that is more manageable for her in older age. She currently lives in a four bedroom property with a large garden in an area that my family and I are unable to afford to live in. My mum then made a very generous offer and said my wife and I could purchase her property at a significantly discounted rate, so that we could live there with our two children, but still allow her to downsize. It seems like a win-win situation, but, is there any reason why I wouldn’t be able to purchase mum’s property under market value?

A Lasting Power of Attorney could help protect the elderly and vulnerable against fraud

During Covid-19, a new epidemic has started to take hold; the rise in online crime - and our elderly and vulnerable are particularly at risk.

Should the bank of mum and dad consider a declaration of trust as a condition of gift?

My husband and I are considering giving my son a gift of cash to buy his first house with his fiancée and her two daughters. The gift would be quite a sum and we are worried about what might happen in future if my son were to separate from his partner. Would she be able to profit from our gift and what can we do to protect it?

Q&A: Thinking of including foreign assets in your will?

 My sister lives in America but she was born in the UK and still has family here, as well as a property and bank account. When making her will recently, she was advised that any assets held in the UK couldn’t be included in probate there. This is a little concerning, as her pension and savings bonds are all paid into the UK bank account - I am worried these will not be covered by a will if drafted in America. My question is, should I ask her to draft a separate will using a UK lawyer to cover these assets? And, if this UK will is then witnessed and verified in America, is it still valid?

When does £7m leave you disinherited from a will?

In the past, we’ve written many blogs about the trials and tribulations surrounding wills and disinheriting direct descendants. But, what about circumstances where you chose to leave an amount which is a small slice of a large fortune - even if that slice is still worth £7m?

Who will pay my dad’s bills if he is unable to?

My father has recently been diagnosed with early onset dementia. My brother and I have been very supportive, but this news has been devastating for us all. I know I need to get my dad’s affairs in order, but I’m not too sure where to start. Is it possible for him to appoint someone to make decisions on his behalf?

Q&A: Can you clear a £100,000 inheritance tax bill without selling up?

My parents’ house was left to my brother and I, but due to the size of the estate we were liable to pay a hefty tax bill of over £100,000.  We are unfortunately not able to pay a bill of this size through our savings and we’d ideally like to keep the house and rent it out, so we would rather not sell if we don’t have to. 

Does your family know you have a will?

According to a recent article, just two in five people are certain their parents hold a will. However, whilst the idea of talking about, or planning for death may not be a topic of choice with your children, it is important that you still have “that talk”.

The Covid-19 effect on the bank of mum and dad - and how to plan for it

One third of parents are now lending to children so that they can get on the housing ladder - but a worryingly high percentage are either refinancing or selling significant assets in order to do this. Planning early could not only ensure their future is safe - but yours is secure too.

An LPA could help protect vulnerable people against bank fraud

Bank fraud is an increasing problem - particularly during the pandemic. It’s difficult enough to navigate new online or remote services that we’re not used to, but if you’re not of sound mind it is even harder. If you are an attorney or deputy responsible for someone who is vulnerable, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself, and them.

What type of Will is best for you

When embarking on having a will prepared, it is tempting and understandable to say that one wants a simple will only because one’s affairs are straightforward and there is nothing that is complicated. That would certainly be the case in many cases, but that may not be the case in others. 

The pension pay due to tens of thousands of women - make sure you claim what’s yours

 Hundreds of women on state pension living on menial amounts could be entitled to back-dated claims worth thousands, according to a recent report.

Costs of care: Your questions answered

We are often approached with questions relating to care and the mounting costs associated with independent living or going into a care home. We’ve addressed some of the common questions.

Getting a joint account with children will not get around an LPA

Someone approached me recently and said they’d been thinking about some later life planning - always music to my ears. However, this individual said they didn’t feel ready for a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and neither did their son, and asked if a joint bank account would instead provide an alternative solution. On the surface, this seemed acceptable, but from a legal perspective, it could prove to be a minefield.

The Universal fraudsters strike again - but it could be possible to recover assets

Way back in 2018, we reported the case of Universal Wealth - a company owned by Melanie and Steve Long, who faced fraud charges after they set up a scheme designed to avoid paying care fees and simplify the administration of an estate. Instead, all it did was leave people out of pocket.

The Kate Garraway story that brought home the reality of planning ahead

If you were one of many who turned in to Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway's heart-breaking story about her husband's battle with Coronavirus, like me, you were probably sympathising with Kate and admiring her for her honesty. However, I think this has made us think about the need to plan ahead and about our own circumstances and how we would cope in similar circumstances.

Will the new digital LPA service help or hinder vulnerable people?

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched a new service last year for digital Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs), designed to speed things up by turning paper-heavy processes into newer online services. However, whilst the system will be a welcome reform, we must make sure it still protects vulnerable people from financial abuse.

Financial fraud is on the rise - attorneys need to be vigilant

Lockdown has been hard for many, but criminals have been cashing in like never before - so now it is more important than ever to stay on our guard.

Pre-paid funeral plan sellers to face a crackdown from 2022

Back in June 2018, the Government launched a call for evidence into the regulation of the pre-paid funeral market, following concerns into the risk it presents to policy holders.

Attorneys need to ensure they are acting on best interests for Covid vaccine

The Covid-19 vaccine is currently being rolled out across the country, with the government identifying key vulnerability groups to vaccinate first. This includes many people who lack mental capacity to understand what Covid-19 is and whether or not they should have the vaccination. 

The pitfalls of a homemade will can cause more than heartache

Another day, another story of how a DIY will has been through the courts and has been successfully overthrown. Whilst the temptation might be there to try and cut corners, it really isn’t worth the financial or emotional heartache for those left behind.

Could you write a letter with your will?

In a previous blog I wrote about how the pandemic had caused a spur of new will applications, however, it seems that writing official records is something that has taken a lot of households by storm.

Are you locked out of your Child Trust Fund?

If you set up a trust fund for a child who has learning disabilities, you might want to consider how to access those funds when the child reaches 18.

The digital assets that are worth a will

Last year, we wrote a blog about how digital assets are commonly overlooked when writing a will. But, thanks to a recent survey by the Law Society, now might be the best time to give it some thought.

 

We are open

During these uncertain times, it is good to know you can count on us.

Even after the recent Government announcement of another national lockdown we remain open for business and are here to help you.

Actress case demonstrates how family feuds can go too far

Just as we publish a blog about why it can be difficult to leave direct descendants out of your will, we hear about the case of Tamara Lucas.

Watch out for sting in the tail for shared ownership with family members

Before going into shared ownership with any family members, just make sure you are not setting yourself a trap for later on - as one family nearly found out.

 

As well as credit checks, should more companies be running mental health checks?

Affordability is a key issue when it comes to any transactions or financial contracts. Whilst an applicant may be sound on paper, there are no personal or medical references needed, but why is that important?

When family feuds go wrong: Can I leave my son out of my will?

You’d be surprised how often I get asked questions like this in my profession, but whilst leaving a family member out of a will is a difficult moral dilemma, there might be other things to consider - or it could just come back to haunt you.

As Covid cases rise, protect yourself with an LPA

With the endurance of a second national lockdown, our hearts go out to those who are currently, or have previously, faced a battle with this terrible virus. As cases continue to rise, now is more important than ever to make sure loved ones are looked after - beyond just physical healthcare.

Money talks: have you had a conversation with your other half?

A recent article in the Sunday Times featured a widowed gentleman, who wrote about how, during his 55 year marriage, he really struggled to deal with the financial side of his wife’s death - even though he had always been the one in the partnership who “took care of the money”.

Warning for will-holders as expat succession rules could change after Brexit

As talks continue surrounding Brexit and the UK’s formal departure from the EU, expats are being urged to update some of their important legal paperwork before the exit deadline.

Solicitor’s pet uncovers curious will that dismisses copy-cat claim in court

You couldn’t make it up, but it seems that a mischievous moggy was solely responsible for unravelling a mystery and helped solve a family feud over a £2m will battle.

Attorneys: are you doing all you can to prevent bank fraud?

Of course, no one plans to intentionally become a victim of fraud but, the fact is, scams are becoming so clever many of us fall for them without realising - and if you are an attorney acting on behalf of someone else, you need to be extra vigilant.

Social care needs to be more of a priority

According to research by Age UK, more than 2,500 elderly patients are kept in hospital unnecessarily as they had nowhere safe to go – and it’s costing the NHS around £587 million.

Could new IHT residence band see step children missing out?

New laws introduced by the Government from the tax year 2017/18 onwards allowed married partners to pass on up to £1 million worth of value in their family home, as long as it was passed to direct descendants.  However, since the law has been introduced, some have found themselves worried that some of their loved ones may be missed out.

New Will rules further address the need to write one

Surviving spouses and civil partners are about to benefit from an additional £20,000 if their spouse dies without leaving a will (or where there is an invalid will or it fails to deal with the estate fully). Under such circumstances the “intestacy” rules prevail, which are laid down in statute and create a proscribed order as to who inherits the estate.  

Could you consider a more vulnerable loved one this Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is the time of year our minds turn to our loved ones. But, whilst exchanging cards or gifts is commonplace, it is worth considering other things you can do for a more vulnerable loved one.

Bringing life to the “death document”

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that humankind doesn’t like thinking about dying – and it makes us notoriously bad at planning for it. After all, who would want to plan for death, when life is all about living? The thing is, in my line of work, I see all too often how planning for death can actually help people live life to its fullest.

 

 

What’s the weirdest thing you could leave in a will?

No sooner had we written our recent blog about leaving crypto currency in a will, news hit the headlines about a football fan who left money in his will so that he could buy players a pint.

OPG release details on elder abuse investigations

In a recent blog, we reported how the Office of Public Guardian (OPG) had seen an increase of reports relating to elder abuse. Whilst this is unfortunately not a new trend, the report has thrown some light on the responsibility of carers and those who may be more vulnerable to physical, mental or financial abuse.

Should you be including crypto-currency in your will?

In a recent blog we talked about how digital assets may not be so clear cut when it comes to rightful ownership in the event of your death. However, if you happen to own any crypto-currency, you might want to think about telling your loved ones how to retrieve it.

Civil Partnerships can void a will - have you updated yours?

If anyone out there was lucky enough to receive a proposal over Christmas, chances are you’re still up on cloud nine. However, whilst thinking about any preparations, you might also want to think about some of the legal implications and how this will affect you and your family.

Funeral plans: Don’t let them be the death of you

“Gazelle will never say: ‘Just eat me’. We have to hunt.” This was a line spoken by a manager at one pre-paid funeral provider, according to undercover operations that were reported by the Guardian. Sadly, this is just another example of vulnerable individuals being put at risk – as most of them should probably never have been sold a funeral plan in the first place.

Inheritance tax: What’s changing – and how can you save thousands of pounds

Back in 2016, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced as part of the annual Summer Budget, a tax break that would put many families in a more favourable stance when it came to passing on property after death.

Elder abuse: how that expectation of trust can quickly go wrong

I wrote a blog recently about why it is important to seek legal advice when seeking an attorney.This related to some published findings about those acting on behalf of a vulnerable person – and whether or not their intentions were genuine.

Always seek legal advice when nominating an attorney

In an article published recently by the Law Society Gazette, a law firm in London published findings of a survey relating to Lasting Powers of Attorney – specifically for those who act on behalf of a vulnerable person.

Those without a will could be letting the royals benefit from their cash

I’ve written a number of blogs about the importance of writing a will. But, in an article published in the Times recently, it really brought home the truth of what happens if we fail to write one and die ‘intestate’. The law then determines who will inherit depending on your family circumstances.

IHT refunds might be due on property sold at loss

Whilst the housing market continues to stagnate, it looks as though there could be some unexpected perks where a property has fallen in value.

Protective trusts could protect your family

It’s true that many consider trust funds as an outdated concept, but it might be time to dust them off – particularly if you’re looking to protect elderly or vulnerable members of the family.

Funeral disputes: a rise from the ashes

It’s an unavoidable fact of life, yet when it comes to death, we do everything we can to steer away from the subject. But, it’s an important one – because it means you and your family can have peace of mind.

What is the true cost of care?

We’ve all misplaced things occasionally, but a will is something that you’d hope would be stored correctly for a time when an executor would need to administer an estate. However according to a recent article, Lloyds bank has uncovered a number of wills that couldn’t be matched to owners.

Have a will? Check you bank

We’ve all misplaced things occasionally, but a will is something that you’d hope would be stored correctly for a time when an executor would need to administer an estate. However according to a recent article, Lloyds bank has uncovered a number of wills that couldn’t be matched to owners.

When is a gift not a gift? When it comes with conditions

I think we’ve all probably been in situations where we have handed out money, either as a loan or a gift, and had good intentions for the recipient. Whether it’s help to buy a car, or purchase a first home, many people often tend to gift money to help out family and friends.

Freeze in probate fees review is welcome news to families

The Government has announced plans to scrap the rises in probate fees, which will no doubt be welcome news to many bereaved families.

Time to think about updating your will?

Not many people relish the idea of writing down wishes relating to their death, however, according to research by Royal London, more than half of us in the UK still don’t have one – and 5.4 million don’t even know how to get one.

What’s the difference between an attorney and an executor?

Whilst this may sound like the opening to a punchline, there is a serious side to this question. Do you know the difference between the duties of an attorney and the role of an executor.

Self-employed? You might want to think about how you will fund retirement

According to recent news, the average self-employed worker faces working until they are 79 to secure a big enough pension pot to support them in later life.

Things you need to know before becoming an executor

No one likes to think about death, but unfortunately it’s a fact of life. People not wanting to talk about death is one of the main reasons why 60% of us risk dying without a will – and without the legal protection of our wishes for our families.

IHT laws need to change

If you’re under 18, how do you pay a £50,000 tax bill? This might sound like the opening of a riddle, but actually, it’s a very real situation for one family that has been caught in an IHT trap – and it’s perfectly within the law.

Where there’s a Will… there’s a holiday?

It’s holiday season, so people are off on their travels. It is also the time of year when people start to think about their wills – either writing them for the first time, or updating them.

Unnecessary DIY Will Disputes are keeping High Court too busy

Many people are tempted to write their own wills to avoid the expense of a solicitor, however, a poorly-written will can quickly lead to mounting costs – as well as a legal minefield.

Communication is key in bringing down Will Disputes

When it comes to wills, some clients come to me following the loss of a loved one, questioning whether their will was written fairly. It is often quite surprising to know what many of these clients are unaware that it is possible to contest a will, despite the fact it is a legal document.

Willing to get writing? Here are a few things to consider

Thankfully, will writing is being given more air time than it used to, but, it still doesn’t stop nearly two thirds of us not having one.

What happens if... My partner dies without leaving a will?

This is a very common question, because, sadly, so many of us die without making a will for one reason or another.

March in to Making A Will

An up-to-date will written by a solicitor is the best way to ensure your wishes will be respected. It allows you to provide for your family and friends and leave a gift to your chosen charities too. It is also a chance to think about updating your will if you have not done so in a while.

Fact: No will means unclaimed estates will be claimed by the Crown

We really do seem to have a reluctance to write a will in this country. According to recent research, around 60% of adults in the UK have not written a will. We may shrug it off as something we’ll “get around to” or “maybe someday” – but there is a very serious underlying issue. If you do not write a will, your estate is likely to be claimed by the Crown.

IHT: Planning early pays off

An extremely controversial, yet lucrative source of income for the Treasury, inheritance tax has been in the news again highlighting the contrast around the country.

Will the Autumn Budget provide any more news for housing?

As the frenzy builds as to what the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget may contain, all eyes are once again on the property market.

Where there's a will, there could be a cost trap

The following blog came about following a recent experience with a client. They had used a will writing company to prepare a will around 10 years ago. Since then they have paid £18 per year to cover the ongoing costs associated with storing the will. However, nine days after the client signed the will, it was deposited with the Principle Probate Registry for a one off fee of £20. Once received the Registry issue a Certificate of Deposit of Will confirming that it is held by them.

Need another reason to plan for IHT?

More than 60% of adults in the UK still have no will. This tells us that many of us are still not planning for later on in life – but believe it or not, there is a really good reason to do so.

At the end of the day: IHT planning counts

The benefits of Inheritance Tax planning should not be overlooked. Many of us don’t like to think ahead to later life, but it is important to plan ahead as far as possible to mitigate any heavy costs to our families.

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