DIY Wills and the risks they present

DIY Wills and the risks

According to a past YouGov survey, a staggering 96% of people who prepare their own Will say they do not need external advice, with 21% stating that fears over the cost of professional advice prompted them to do it themselves.

Will you get your Will done this year?

The report shows that one of the main reasons people prepare their own Will is because they dont feel that they need legal advice, with very few using related services such as long term care and funeral plans that might be offered by the provider of the Will.

The YouGov report states that 65% of people said they would consider preparing their Will themselves to keep costs down. With around one in ten people writing their own Will, the report identified that DIY Will writing is a key inhibitor to market growth.

DIY Wills offer a far cheaper alternative, usually costing around 20. Its even possible to pick up a DIY kit from WHSmith for 16.99; cheaper options still are available on Amazon and other retail sites.While an off-the-shelf Will may seem very attractive at this price, it can be a very risky approach. If errors are made, or if the strict witnessing rules are not followed correctly, the document could be invalid. The implications of that can be serious. Not only do you risk leaving your family with a financial and emotional mess, but your legacy could be crowded by legal bills or unnecessary tax fees.

Many Will writers now offer highly competitive rates and involving a professional greatly reduces the risk of any issues that could delay the distribution of the estate. A professionally written Will can cost as little as 140 and will ensure that the estate, potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, is protected in line with your wishes.

A DIY Will could result in costly mistakes that may not be discovered until after that person has passed away, by which time it is too late to rectify the damage that the poorly written Will has caused.

For more information, please contact us here.


Return of the Probate Fee Tax in England & Wales

April 2019 sees the introduction of higher application fees to get a Grant of Probate from the Court, so you as the executor of a Will can then start to deal with the deceaseds estate.

This increase was ditched 2 years ago before the last General Election, and although isnt nearly as bad as the first time around, the new tiered fee structure bears no relation to the cost of providing the service, and at present is thought to be unlawful. The most recent example of this was in the Court of Protection where they continue to refund a portion of the application fees people paid to register their Lasting Power of Attorney documents, deemed as over-charged. Nevertheless I am sure they’ll find a way around this, given time!

Currently you pay a flat fee of 215 to get a grant and the new charges are as follows:

The next question is how an executor will fund the fee? It is eerily like having to pay the Inheritance Tax bill on an estate before you can apply for the Grant of Probate, in which case we might see it being labeled as a Probate Tax because thats what it is, undoubtedly another tax on death.

There is no doubt an opportunity for people to move away from using Wills in favour of making lifetime gifts (to family or trusts) or using the survivorship rules of joint property and bank accounts in an attempt to avoid these probate charges.

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news. I suppose it would be too much to ask for the Government to pull the plug on it a second time around!

If you would like help or guidance with your probate case please get in touch here.



Are you a named Executor in a Will?

If so, what does it mean?

Simply put, you will be personally responsible for the estate administration process of dealing with the deceased persons legal and tax affairs. This means dealing with all their assets (such as property, shares and personal possessions), paying debts, paying any Inheritance Tax and Income Tax and transferring inheritance to the beneficiaries of the estate. Following a bereavement, estate administration can be extremely complex, whether or not there is a Will in place.

As an Executor, you are legally responsible for this process. It can be and often is a very time consuming and stressful experience. Thats why many Executors choose to appoint an estate administration specialist, we recommend and work closely with Kings Court Trust, it is what they do day in, day out so they are efficient, and you can rely on them to make sure everything is dealt with properly.

The forms you’ll need to begin Probate

From obtaining the Grant of Probate to rehoming the beloved family pet; your estate and family will be in safe hands. You can leave the challenging tasks involved with estate administration to us, and all for a fixed price that we will quote and agree before any work is undertaken. We will handle everything you can think of and all the things you might not have considered, giving you the time and space to reflect, remember and move on.

Complications often arise during the estate administration process, leading family named executors to turn to the nearest but not necessarily the most proficient professional, our message to you is plan on getting the job done right, first time around.

So will you be a have a go executor or take the pressure of yourself and be in a position to tell the beneficiaries of the Will that the administration is in safe hands? If you would like to chat this through or get a quote please get in touch here.


Cohabiting Couples and Inheritance Act Claims are on the rise

People too often live together without taking into consideration what would happen if they passed away without making provision for their partner. People need to consider questions such as; who owns the property in which we live? Have I made a Will? Does that Will provide for my partner and those dependent on me?


It is an unfortunate reality that these questions are often left unanswered until the inevitable happens, at which point, it is for those left behind to deal with the fallout. Problems and disputes may arise in the event that a person dies with/without a Will, leaving his/her cohabiting partner to inherit little or nothing.

Where an individual has not benefited from a deceaseds estate or they consider that adequate provision has not been made for them, they can make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

A real life typical example

The claimant had cohabited with his partner (the deceased) for 20 years following the death of the deceaseds spouse. The claimant made a claim under the Inheritance Act as a cohabiting partner of the deceased on the basis that he had not received reasonable financial provision from the estate. The deceased had made a Will, which had left her residuary estate to be inherited by her only son, and a small sum of 5,000 to the claimant, referring to him as a friend.

What the Judge said

The judge awarded the claimant a life interest over half of the net proceeds of sale of the deceaseds home rather than provide a lump sum. Where the deceased and the claimant had no children together  but there were children from an earlier relationship, a life interest rather than a lump sum was more likely to be appropriate to avoid capital passing to the claimants rather than the deceaseds family, on the claimants death.

In coming to this conclusion, the judge took into account that the deceased had indicated, in a letter of wishes, that she wanted her son to get the bulk of her estate. Further, where a claim involved 50% or more of estate capital, it was much more likely to be appropriate to make provision for housing for the claimant by way of a life interest.

It is important to note that all Inheritance Act claims are decided on their specific facts. It is essential that people obtain professional support and advice to ensure that they can try to combat these sorts of disputes before they arise in order to avoid the stress, risk and costs of litigation.

We can help, contact us here.



Probate fees good and bad news in the pipeline

Probate fees good and bad news in the pipeline

You may recall last year (Feb17) pre the general election; the Government parked the planned increase in Probate Fees. With hindsight it was a good decision at the time because the Conservatives were re-elected.

The plan then was to introduce a tiered fee system in place of paying a relatively small fixed fee. There was a public outcry because of the magnitude of the proposed numbers, in fact it was being thought of as more of a new death tax than a court fee.

Anyway the good news is, they listened to us and have changed the fee basis for the better, but it will, nevertheless, mean a sizeable increase where estates are required to pay a fee.

You can read the official statement here:

What should you think about doing on a practical level?

Consider the value of your estate, can you pass down wealth you dont need? t is worthwhile opportunity to think about. Not all estates will require a grant of probate, and believe it or not, the choice of who you bank with can have a bearing on this too. So a couple of things to think about there.

What we are discussing here, is generational inheritance planning, taking into account the exemptions, allowances and limits that currently exist.

Want to chat it through, why not give me a call and ask some questions.

Contact us here


Are you failing to navigate the care system for an elderly relative?

As a Professional Willwriter and Inheritance Planner, I draw up Wills, Lasting Power of Attorney documents and assist with other aspects of planning what will happen to a person and their estate either due to illness or death.

In doing this, I get to know my clients and their families well. This means that there are times when sadly, due to ill health, the family will contact me to ask if I am able to advise them on the complex system of health and social care for older people that exists in this country. 

This is where Joanne at Sunrise Care Advisers is able to offer valuable support to my clients.

I know that it is not easy to find high quality care either at home or in a residential setting or to understand the various funding options that may be available.

I also know that I can trust Sunrise Care Advisers to provide excellent, independent advice in an honest and compassionate way to my clients and have no hesitation in referring my clients to her and her team. 

Need help or advice?

Contact us at Will Planning Solutions or go directly to Sunrise Care Advisers at any of the following: Website or Linked-in or Twitter


How cryptocurrency could impact future inheritances

Cryptocurrency is digital money which uses encryption techniques to generate currency and verify the transfer of funds. It has been designed to be quicker, cheaper and more reliable than our regular government issued money, removing the middleman in all transactions. Through specialised exchange sites you can buy and sell cryptocurrency i.e. Bitcoin, using traditional currency (GBP). Acting in the same way a traditional ‘pocket’ wallet would, these exchanges have inbuilt virtual wallets to store your purchased cryptocurrency.

One of the many advantages of cryptocurrency is that ownership can be pseudonymous, meaning its possible to send and receive cryptocurrency without giving any personal information. This means that there is no way of knowing when someone owns cryptocurrency and in order to gain access to someones wallet you will need to know the public and private keys. These keys are the code, or passwords, that log you into your virtual wallet to buy and sell the cryptocurrency from the exchange.

Each cryptocurrency wallet uses a string of random characters called a public key, visible to anyone, as an address for sending and receiving the cryptocurrency. A separate private key allows the owner access to the money in the wallet. If an owner dies without passing on the private key, the wallet may be discovered only to realise that they will never gain access to the wealth inside. To prevent this, the owner has to ensure that someone knows about the currency and gets a copy of the private key.

In both instances of an intestate or testate estate, the owner must share the private key for others to access the wealth in the wallet. If a Will is written, the cryptocurrency will be distributed as per the wishes written. If there is no Will and the private key is known, the cryptocurrency will be added in with the total value of the estate and distributed following the rules of intestacy. 

Writing a Will and keeping it up to date is the best way to ensure your estate, including digital currencies, are distributed as per your wishes.

Does your Will take account of your online and digital assets?

Get in touch if you would like our help, please contact us here


How well are you managing your Inheritance tax (IHT) estate?

Your first task should be to know your numbers, put a value of your net estate, which in short is your total assets less liabilities. It sound straightforward but what should you include, or exclude?

Certain assets like capital in pension funds, life assurance policies that pay out in trust rather than in to your estate, or if you are a potential beneficiary of a discretionary trust should be excluded. There may be assets that you need to include in the calculation such as being a beneficiary of a life interest trust, or if you have made certain lifetime gifts during the past seven years as they will need to be added back.

You should be aware of what are chargeable assets and which may be exempt from IHT. The point here is, valuing your estate may not be as simple as you think. Get it wrong and it could cost you (or your family to be more specific) and no I am not making any of this up, it is how the rules have evolved over time.

The second task is to know what tax allowances and exemptions can be set against your estate to see if you have a chargeable estate, or not. Then you can decide how to manage your way out of the problem, this is why IHT is often labeled a voluntary tax. Do nothing about it and you are volunteering to pay it, put a strategy in place and you can manage your way out of it. Talk to us if you would like to know how to do this.

Everyone has a Nil Rate Band allowance (currently 325,000 in 2018/19) to set against their estate. There is also a Residence Nil Rate Band allowance available (currently 125,000 000 in 2018/19) and the rules around being able to claim it are far too complicated to explain here. If you are married or in a civil partnership, survivorship rules (i.e. all to the survivor) will mean there is no IHT on first death but there could be on second death. If you are an unmarried couple IHT could be payable on first death and second death, so getting married for tax purposes is a solution and is more common than you might think!

 You may have read that Inheritance Tax receipts hit a record high of 5.2bn in the last tax year. One contributor to this is where family or lay executors deal with the estate of the deceased and are either unaware or incapable of knowing how to claim the allowances or exemptions that are available. You have to claim them. Estate administration is a complicated process and when done professionally can easily pay for itself in such circumstances, and if you know where to go for a trusted reliable service where the cost is fixed and agreed upfront, you will be able to rest easy knowing that this has been dealt with in the best possible way, we can of course help.

We comply with the Institute of Professional Willwriters code of practice, and that of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners, in England and Wales.


Thanks for reading! As always, if you think we can help you please contact us.


Training for ‘The Bamboozle Theatre Company’s’ 70Seventy Pyrenees Cycling challenge

The Bamboozle Theatre Company is our charity of the year 2018/19, and even though they are a local charity to me, their work message is spreading across the country and globe, even reaching as far afield as Hong Kong… so theres a strong message being taken far and wide. Creating magical multi sensory experiences to engage and include severely disabled and autistic children is what they do. My message to you then is to think about families like this in your own area, they need our help and guidance as specialists in our field.

Planning to cycle the Pyrenees is no different to helping a client plan their inheritance, it needs careful thought, doing it in advance at the right time and allowing plenty of time to think things through to achieve the right result.

The headlines then on me (if youre interested), the plan is to keep on pedaling, sounds pretty basic but theres no substitute for time on the bike. Achieving 100+ miles a week is my general target and with a regular Wednesday morning ride with the Ratae Road Club and Sunday morning with mates, both times riding out for a mandatory coffee and cake stop, the distance comes quite easily. What this doesnt help with is coping with long rides back to back and this is where Saturdays will eventually come in to begin with, then throw in the odd Friday ride and it will start to come, I wouldnt say easily but when youve done it a few times, you are pretty much there. It is amazing how resilient the body and legs are (I hope), the muscle memory takes over and removes that doubt that yes you can do it!

 Building the leg muscles is one thing, general fitness is another. You need a strong core, back, arms and hands. You can imagine being in one position on the bike for say 6 hours doing a 100 miles, the body takes quite a hammering. If youre ‘on the drops’ going down hill, on the brakes a lot keeping it under 35mph, your arms and hands take a lot of punishment. How do you train for this? Weights. Sounds boring but it is necessary in my humble opinion. All sportsmen and women regularly train with weights and you have to build yourself up over a period. Being motivated is essential, if you play at it or simply cant be bothered thinking that itll be alright, you wont be fit enough to actually enjoy the experience over the Pyrenees and thats what it is all about. Believe me when I tell you that conquering this challenge will be another life changing experience. It is fantastic. The first time was with another local charity when 70 of us cycled over 6 Alpine passes in 4 days from Geneva to Milan. It sounds break taking. In reality it’s bloody fantastic. 

 If youre a keen cyclist you will record your activities on Strava, its the law. If it isnt on Strava it never happened so of course you need a GPS unit to record your rides on, and it helps to track your mileage, times etc. to stay on course. It can get quite competitive comparing timed segments with your mates. The point is Strava will help you achieve your plan, just like getting the right advice from a specialist Will-writer and Inheritance planner.

 We were in Wales the other week, and yes it was an opportunity to put in a few miles when it didn’t rain, and boyo did it come down when it starts! Anyway, the photos below was on the good day of the week, timing is everything! Ill report again soon on my activities and share some Strava stats with you. The more you share, the harder it will be for me to even think of backing out, if you know what I mean

Sincere thanks go out to every member supporting me within the IPW, also to our partners including Kings Court Trust, Golden Charter, Taylor Rose TTKW, Solve Legal, Todays Wills & Probate and not forgetting my fellow IPW Council Members too.


Have you promised something to anyone, and don’t intend delivering on that promise in your Will?

Failing to deliver on your promises could lead to a contested Will.

The law in respect of this point is called ‘Proprietary Estoppel’ and is a question we always ask our clients because it is good practice to do so; as indeed are the many other questions and advice that form an important part of the will-writing and inheritance planning process.

Advice and recommendations form an important part of the will writing process

You can (of course) write your own Will and you may end up doing a good job with it. Don’t forget that one day your Will will deal with everything you own one day, so in our opinion it is worth paying a little extra to get that all important advice from a specialist. The vast majority of clients tell me they are surprised about all the questions we ask. You only have to read a newspaper story like the one in the link below to understand why. Our intention is to get it right first time and encourage our clients to think carefully about their Will instructions and the consequences of their choices. We care. We keep up to date with developments and post information online to keep our clients informed because it is essential.

High court awards 1m in damages for dispute over farm inheritance case

A will-writing meeting typically takes around two hours to complete and you will come out of the process feeling better informed and comfortable that you have done the right thing.

Whether it is to do with Wills, Lasting Power of Attorney, Family Protection Trusts, Inheritance Tax, Care home fees, Prepaid funeral plans, Probate or anything else we haven’t mentioned here, why not ask us?

If you would like our help please contact us here