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Whitebrook Wills blog provides news and information for those looking for will writing services in the Wiltshire area.

Why you shouldn’t die without making a Will

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, October 23, 2015

We have noticed an increase in distress phone calls and emails from families and un-married partners left behind after a loved one has died without leaving a Will.

When this happens the law always decides under the Intestacy Rules who gets what and how much, regardless of your relationship with those people.

By leaving a Will that states clearly who should – and in some cases, who should not – get your property and money you can prevent unnecessary distress at an already difficult time for your family and friends.

Common rules if you don’t make a Will

  • If you’re not married and not in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die
  • Unmarried partners are not permitted to apply for Letters of Administration, this has to be done by the next of kin
  • If you’re married your husband or wife may inherit most or all of your estate and your children may get nothing.  This is true even if you are separated.
  • Any Inheritance Tax that your estate has to pay may be higher than it would be if you had made a Will
  • If you die with no living close relatives your whole estate will belong to the Crown or to the Government

True story, don’t let this happen to you

When the man of a cohabiting un-married couple died suddenly, his estranged wife applied for Letters of Administration.  She was then able to sell his house forcing the partner to leave empty-handed.  His whole estate wen to the estranged wife whom he had left ten years previously.  His partner ended up with nothing.

Make a start on your Will today by arranging a free home consultation with us. 

Wills are not as expensive as you may think and, compared to the distress caused by not having one, can be remarkably good value.


Things to be aware of when making a Will

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, October 02, 2015

Advice on some of the issues that can arise:

·                     Make sure your executors are responsible people you trust and who know where to find your documents.  We can offer a cost effective, secure means of storage if required.

·                     Watch the wording you use. A general gift to ‘my children’ or ‘my grandchildren’ will only apply to biological children or grandchildren or those who have been legally adopted.

·                     Meet face to face with your Will writer and raise honest concerns, such as children who are bad with money.  Advice can only be given on what you disclose.

·                     Make sure the Will is signed and witnessed properly.

·                     Are there immediate family members that you are not including as a beneficiary of your will?  Get proper advice to help protect your estate against possible claims following your death.

If you want the peace of mind that your will reflects your wishes, call today for an initial chat.





Passing on your home: the new rules

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, September 11, 2015

There will be a £1m inheritance tax break for families who own a property – although the changes and new complex arrangements have caused some confusion.

Instead of simply raising the tax-free threshold for everyone, the Chancellor announced in the summer budget a new allowance specifically for those who own their home and want to leave it to ‘direct descendants’.

Everyone is currently entitled to pass on £325,000 f wealth tax free (called the nil rate band) and any assets above this amount incurs an IHT charge of 40%.  Married couples and civil partners are entitled to double this allowance (ie £650k) before tax is payable.

What’s new? From April 2017 the government is introducing an additional allowance for people who own their own home, called a ‘family home allowance’.  It will eventually be worth an additional £175,000 per person which added to the existing allowance means property owners have £500,000 each, or the much publicised £1million.

It will be introduced gradually over four years, with the allowance worth £100k in 2017-18, £125k in 2018-19, £150k in 2019-20 and the full amount in 2020-21.  However, estates that are worth over £2m will lose some or all of the family home allowance.

The family home allowance and taper relief will increase in line with inflation but the existing nil rate band will be frozen until at least 2020-21.

Can my will be ignored?

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, July 31, 2015

When Melita Jackson, who died in 2004, made her will she left her £500,000 to animal charities and stated she did not want her daughter to receive a penny.

However, after a long battle through the courts the Court of Appeal has finally awarded the daughter £164,000.

This was reported in various newspapers and a comment in the Daily Telegraph is worth repeating ‘Legal experts said the ruling had implications for how people draw up their wills.  They said it suggested that people would in future have to explain their reasons for why they had left no money to certain parties.’

Something we at Whitebrook have been doing for decades! 

Firstly, of course, the person taking the will instruction has to know about any situations which is why we always ask the question ‘Do you have any financial dependants whom you do not wish to benefit under your Will?’

And then we can document it and give an explanation for the exclusion.  If the will is then contested it is then clear to the court why it was done and will make it much more likely for the original intentions to be carried out.

‘How a £90 will by Barclays lost half my house’

Whitebrook Wills - Thursday, July 09, 2015

Barclays is being sued by a daughter who claims a botched Will by the bank deprived her of a stake in her late father's London home. The case underlines a wider problem with low-cost wills.

A woman is seeking hundreds of thousands of pounds compensation from Barclays, claiming the bank's will-writing service resulted in her losing a stake in a valuable London home.

Barclays is contesting the claim.

But, in an interesting twist, we can reveal that when the complaint was previously assessed by the Financial Ombudsman Service, the bank was found at fault. The Ombudsman ordered Barclays to pay "a fair and reasonable settlement".

Unusually, Barclays decided to ignore the Financial Ombudsman's recommendation. The matter has now gone to the High Court.

Court documents detail how in 2007 Ebenezer Aregbesola used Barclays' £90 will-writing service to create a Will dealing with his various assets including homes overseas and in London. His Will instructed half of the London home to be given to his daughter, Tinuola Aregbesola, on his death.

The property was owned jointly by Mr Aregbesola and his wife – who was not Tinuola's mother. Because of the joint ownership, on Mr Aregbesola's death in early 2014, the property went wholly to his wife – in contravention of the wishes spelt out in the Will.

In order for the Will's conditions to have been fulfilled, Barclays should have severed the joint tenancy agreement, the court document alleges. This would have enabled half of the property's value to pass as instructed to his daughter. Because this severance process – which the Ombudsman describes as "a simple formality" – was neglected, the joint tenant, Mr Aregbesola's widow, is legally entitled to the whole property which she can now bequeath as she pleases.

The £90 Will service that Barclays offers highlights the danger of cheap Wills, which are often too simplistic to reflect accurately the deceased’s wishes. In this case, the simple formality of severing the tenancy was neglected.

We have covered the dangers of DIY Wills in a previous blog, but it’s important to remember that a Will is one of the most important documents you can write. It’s vital to make sure that it is accurately completed and that all the minute details and correct steps take place.

The increased complexity of family arrangements means that your Will must be reviewed regularly and, whenever there is a change in the family construct, to have it re-written. Where there are new spouses, step children, ex-spouses or children from outside the marriage, your wishes must be really clear and exact to make sure that what you want to happen after your death is carried out.

By using a professional Will Writer you can be sure that they know the exact ins and outs of the law and will be sure to complete all necessary paperwork for your wishes.

For expert Will writing and inheritance advice call Whitebrook Wills on 01985 850622 or contact us online and we will call you.

The Importance of Will Power

Whitebrook Wills - Wednesday, July 01, 2015

It started off as one of those silly conversations which teeter banter and argument.  My husband, George, moaned about how I had again left my car unlocked, and I suggested he should make sure his next wife was a bit more careful!

Then I added that I’d happily bequeath my battered old Volvo to whomever eventually took my place.

Still, this little episode did have one beneficial outcome as it got me thinking about how we both needed to make a Will.

The truth is that, like many people, we’re not particularly keen to have maudlin conversations about death or how we’d like to divide the spoils of the life we’ve built together once we have departed from it.

Yet with three children and five grandchildren to consider it does seem a bit irresponsible not to make clear and proper provision for the family.

We did make our Wills just after Louise was born but that was almost thirty years ago and so much has changed – more kids, plus grandkids and property etc – that those Wills would probably cause more problems than they would solve.

Of course we’re not alone as a recent survey showed that most people would rather go on holiday, do home improvements or even buy a sofa than spend money on making a Will.   

So it’s no surprise that more than half of us haven’t made a Will. And the reason for this? Is it the money? It seems unlikely as even wealthy people have died without making a Will.  Last year the comedian Rik Mayall died intestate.  And in the aftermath of the murder of Jill Dando in 1999 it emerged that had she not made a Will either, so her partner, who she was planning to marry, received nothing of the £1m plus estate – it all passed to her father who was in his 80’s.

The only way you can be sure of avoiding potential problems is to make a Will – it’s never too early but it can be too late.

Why Making a Will Can Reduce Inheritance Tax

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, April 24, 2015

With the current newspaper headlines about the impact of Inheritance Tax because someone dies unexpectedly without having made a Will, perhaps a few bullet points might be relevant. 

Did you know that as a married person or civil partner, making a Will can in actually help to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax finally payable on your joint estate? 

Each person's estate benefits from what is known as the "nil rate band".  This simply means that assets belonging to the estate will only be taxed over the value of £325,000. 

Married persons or civil partners who have both prepared Wills in advance with all assets going to the surviving individual, can then also ensure that these assets qualify for exemption.

In addition, assets left entirely to the partner or spouse in this way, means that the deceased is not deemed to have used their nil rate band and it can be passed onto their other half, which could, in effect, double that person's nil rate band to £650,000 and ensuring that no inheritance tax will need to be paid on any assets under this value in the event of their death, even if they remarry. 

Of course, if no Will is made out then a deceased person's estate will be distributed according to the English laws of intestacy.  This does not necessarily mean that all of their assets will automatically be passed onto the other spouse or partner but may instead be distributed among relatives.  If this occurs, then their estate may not benefit from any exemptions or transfer of nil rate band - a potentially costly mistake.

Can I write a Will myself?

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, March 06, 2015

We're often asked about DIY Wills and the reasons why we suggest that it's far safer to have an experienced Will writer draft the document, rather than try to do it yourself.

Legally, there is nothing to stop you from writing your own Will.  However, the consequences of getting it wrong can be far-reaching.

A DIY Will is often fine for very simple circumstances and estates of smaller value – a husband with an estate of £250,000 leaving everything to his wife, for example.

Remember however, that in order to be valid, Wills must be worded correctly and witnessed by two independent adults at the same time, who are not beneficiaries.  Any incorrect spellings of names, ambiguity or incorrect witnessing may well result in significant delays in the probate process or even render the Will invalid.

Wills should not be considered as a one-off document.  Why?  The reason is simple – the Will you prepare as a new parent at the age of 30 is unlikely to have any significance by the time you're a grandparent aged 70.  Undoubtedly, the family unit will have altered several times, and relationships will be forged and lost over those four decades.  These changes must be taken into consideration, but amending your Will is not as simple as crossing through existing content and adding new instructions in pen.  Any changes in assets or beneficiaries must be reflected in a new Will.

It's worth remembering too, that a professional Will writer and probate practitioner will be able to advise you on how to structure your estate so that your beneficiaries will receive as much as possible, and the inheritance tax (IHT) liability on your estate will be minimised.  By not seeking this advice and writing a Will yourself, your loved ones could potentially lose out on thousands of pounds.

What is a Property Protection Trust?

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, February 06, 2015

If you want to protect your home from being sold to fund care home fees or from being inherited by specific individuals, then a property protection trust (otherwise known as a "protective property trust) is the perfect answer.

Families aren't what they used to be.  Where once, divorces were rare and extended families all tended to live locally, this structure has now changed forever.  Children and grandchildren move away or even emigrate, relationships can become strained and many couples split up and remarry – sometimes several times.  This means that the family unit becomes dynamic, introducing new individuals – both adults and children, who could potentially benefit from an inheritance, thanks to you.

If you'd rather dictate specifically to whom you want to leave your share of the family home after your death, then by placing it into a property protection trust, you can do precisely that, whilst still allowing your civil partner or spouse to live in it during their lifetime.

Property protection trusts are the ideal way to control the management of your most valuable asset and help to ensure that those who you want to benefit from it after you've gone, will do so.

For more information on property protection trusts contact Whitebrook for more details.

What will happen if an Executor of a Will loses mental capacity?

Whitebrook Wills - Friday, January 23, 2015

If an Executor of a Will loses mental capacity this can cause problems and delay in administering the estate.

It is advisable when making a Will to appoint more than one executor and for at least one of the executors to be younger than you, to minimize the chances of the executors pre-deceasing or losing capacity before or around the time of your death. Of course, if one of your executors loses capacity during your lifetime, you can change your Will and appoint someone in their place (providing you have the capacity to do so). However, many people do not review their Wills regularly enough and die without realizing that the executor(s) they appointed many years ago has since lost capacity.

In such circumstances, and if a Lasting Power of Attorney was not drawn up by the executor, an application should be made to the Court of Protection for a Deputy of Property of Affairs to be appointed for the executor. The application should ask for specific authority to deal with the deceased’s estate. A Court appointed Deputy will satisfy the probate registrar, who can then issue the grant to the Deputy.

The Deputy will of course also be in charge of managing the finances of the executor who lacks capacity, as well as dealing with the deceased’s estate, which will be beneficial if not essential to the one who lacks capacity.

Our advice would be to review your Will regularly and consider Lasting Powers of Attorney for you and your Executors.