Wills and Trusts
We have a wealth of experience of advising generations of families on all aspects of wills & trusts, and are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.
The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) is the global professional association for practitioners who specialise in family inheritance and succession planning.
STEP members help families plan for their futures, from drafting a Will and tax planning to advising on issues concerning protection of the vulnerable, family businesses and philanthropic giving. Stephen Haggett is a full STEP member or TEP. TEPs are internationally recognised as experts in their field, with proven qualifications and experience and its qualification is viewed as the Gold Standard within the private client industry.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document which takes effect on death. A Will does not affect how you deal with your assets in the meantime: you can still buy, sell or give away your assets as you choose. That said, if you specifically gift an item in your Will and no longer own it on your death that gift would fail so some degree of caution is required in this regard.
A Will can be revoked by you at any time so long as you have mental capacity to do so and is automatically revoked on marriage unless it has been made in contemplation of marriage.
What will happen to my estate if I die without a Will?
How an estate is dealt with when a person dies without leaving a valid Will (known as an intestacy/dying intestate) will substantially depend on their individual circumstances. Married couples (including same sex registered civil partnerships) often assume that their entire estates will automatically pass to the survivor of them but this is not necessarily the case.
The consequences of passing away without leaving a valid Will can be particularly awful in second marriages or in the case of cohabiting unmarried couples. Where a married couple (including same sex registered civil partnerships) each have their own children from an earlier relationship, for example, their estates might just pass to the children of the second person to die via the intestacy rules (the law which governs who should inherit an estate if there is no valid Will), excluding the children or any other family member of the first person to die which is often not what is intended! Cohabitees also have no automatic succession rights unless specific provision is made.
Do I need to involve a lawyer in the Will making process?
Whilst you do not need a lawyer to create a valid Will we do strongly recommend that you take legal advice. There are a number of things which can easily go wrong when a Will is written and executed without the involvement of a suitably qualified lawyer. There are various issues to consider when making a Will in order to ensure it is valid and drafted in the most appropriate way:
Key Issues for a valid Will
- Mental capacity
- Knowledge and understanding of the Will
- Any potential claims against your estate
- Absence of undue influence
- Complying with the legal formalities
- Asset protection planning
- Inheritance Tax advantages and disadvantages of drafting your Will in a certain way
- Contentious property and land matters
Some of these issues, if not correctly dealt with, can lead to a Will being challenged either in whole or in part resulting in disproportionately high costs and may cause long-lasting family feuds.
What do I need to think about when making a Will?
It is important that you consider what assets you own and what liabilities you owe (known as your estate) and who you might want to leave your estate to (“Beneficiaries”). You also need to give some thought as to who you would like to appoint as your Executors (the people responsible for dealing with the administration of your estate). If you have infant children it is really important to think about who you would want to look after them (known as Guardians).
When should I need to review my Will?
You should review your Will at regular intervals, at least every 5 years, to ensure it still reflects your wishes and that it is still drafted in the most appropriate way bearing in mind any changes in the law which may have occurred in the meantime. It is important for you to review your Will when there is a change in circumstances such as the birth or death of a family member or inheritance.
How might I revoke my Will?
Wills are revoked automatically on marriage unless they are made in contemplation of marriage. This requires a specific clause to be inserted. There are a number of other ways you can revoke a Will but you must have the necessary mental capacity to do so which not only requires an understanding of the revocation itself but also an understanding of the Intestacy Rules (the law governing the distribution of the estate of a person who dies without a Will). Before revoking a valid Will it is always best to seek the advice of a lawyer to understand how to go about it and the consequences of revocation.
How can I protect my estate on my death? (Protection Will Trusts)
In this changing world, families are becoming increasingly aware of their circumstances, and the need to protect and safeguard family assets for future generations. Trusts can be a useful mechanism for this, and can also be used to help save tax. They can be set up in your will.
Our experts can advise you on whether they are suitable for your particular circumstances.
Once a trust is set up, the trustees become the legal owners of the assets. With this ownership there comes not only a moral responsibility to the original owner and the beneficiaries, but also a legal responsibility. Since the Trustee Act 2000, the responsibilities of the trustees have become more onerous, and all trustees are under a duty of care to the beneficiaries.
Our experts can provide the advice and guidance to comply with ongoing taxation and administration requirements. We can assist you with this, compiling trust tax returns on your behalf and trust accounts, and we can act as professional trustees if appropriate.
We can offer a range of Will writing and estate planning services and costs that best suit your circumstances. These can range from time-based costs (hourly rates to various packages which quite often will include lasting powers of attorney (please see our separate factsheet).
However, as a guide our fixed cost for a simple single Will starts at £255 plus VAT.
For a couple looking to put in place simple Wills and both Financial & Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney, we offer a package price starting from £895 plus VAT (excluding LPA Registration).
For more information on this or any other private client matter please contact: –
Stephen C Haggett, Director
Tel: 01822 614461