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Wills, Trusts & Probate

Virtual wills temporary law change

Rianna Billington
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A statutory instrument (SI) is due to come into effect at the end of this month. This allows wills to be witnessed virtually in England and Wales. Originally announced in July, the new measure temporarily amends the Wills Act 1837 to allow the witnessing of...

Covid-19 - virtual will signings are now valid

Jessica Newton
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The global COVID-19 pandemic has meant we have had to adapt to new ways of doing things in many areas of our lives, and making a will is no different. The existing rules of making a will The formal requirements for making and executing wills are contained...

Woman forged mother's will

Leah Woodnott
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The Nottingham Crown Court has announced recently that a deceased’s daughter, Susan Johnson, has pleaded guilty for fraud. After Susan’s mother passed away in 2016, Susan forged her mother’s will by imitating her mother’s signature...

Attorneys - are you allowed to accept a gift?

Leah Woodnott
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If you have been appointed as a Financial Affairs Attorney under a lasting power of attorney , then you have the responsibility to the donor to act in their best interests. In many instances, the donor appoints a family member or close friend to look after...

Can I leave anything in my will for my pets?

Leah Woodnott
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When considering making a will , people automatically think about what people or charities they would like to leave their assets to. But what happens to your pets? Pets are often thought of as one of the family and your pet deserves to be looked after in a...

15 events that should make you update your will

Leah Woodnott
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Anyone over the age of 18, who has mental capacity, can make a will . This outlines what will happen to their estate once they pass away. So long as a person has mental capacity, they can update their will as many times as they wish in their lifetime....

Latest figures show an increase in contentious probate cases

Rachel Leech
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The latest figures released by the court show the number of contentious probate cases continue to rise. These include cases where the validity of a will is being challenged, and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. It...

Pride 2020 - Planning for later life

David Feakins
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I am extremely proud to be working at a firm that supports Pride and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. With everything that is going on in the world at the moment, I am sure that Digital Pride will be a welcome celebration in these uncertain...

Essex Digital Pride - LGBTQ+ friendly laws

Leah Woodnott
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As many of you will know, Essex Pride this year is being hosted online, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. During this unusual time, I think it is important to reflect on the laws that have come into force to provide equality to LGBTQ+ families. The Gender...

Claims under the Inheritance Act

Lisa Cox
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Hope for success fees in claims against estates under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”) are usually made by disappointed...

Who helps you if you lose mental capacity?

Lisa Cox
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The Coronavirus outbreak has prompted many of us to think about the future. Specifically, who would help us if we lost mental capacity.  When someone has the capacity, they can make a Lasting Power of Attorney. This appoints attorneys to make important...

A warning to executors to comply with court orders

Rachel Leech
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The High Court has issued a warrant for an executor to be arrested. The executor failed to obey previous court orders requiring him to account for his dealings of his mother’s estate.  This case should be a stark warning to executors to comply...

Trustees: beware the personal risks you are taking

Claire Read
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Being an executor and trustee of a will or a trust is a very personal appointment. However, a recent case highlighted the importance of knowing what you are letting yourself in for and the personal risks that you are taking.  That may sound dramatic,...

Making a will - reforms on the way?

Tim Ogle
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We all know that it is important to put a will in place to make sure on our death, the executors we appoint are the ones entrusted to administer our estate as we wish it to be done, and the beneficiaries we wish to inherit our estate do so.  In short,...

Making a will during the Coronavirus

Leah Woodnott
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My clients tell me that the current situation has made them think about whether they need to make a will, or whether their current will no longer reflects their wishes. As a firm, we are following government guidance and are now working from home, but we are...

Making an emergency statutory will

Rachel Leech
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During the coronavirus pandemic, the Court of Protection are prioritising their workload. One type of work they are prioritising is statutory wills for people who have a very short life expectancy.  What is a statutory will?  These are wills...

Attorneys behaving badly - when you should seek advice

Rachel Leech
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My colleague Leah recently wrote a helpful blog about managing someone else’s financial affairs during isolation .  This is one of many helpful articles online providing guidance for attorneys and deputies about how to correctly fulfil their...

Arranging a funeral during COVID-19

Leah Woodnott
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The government has recently published guidance online for individuals who are arranging funerals. There are restrictions on how many people can attend funerals and the types of services that can now take place, in order to help prevent the spread of...

Deputies and attorneys must maintain their duties

Leah Woodnott
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The Office of the Public Guardian (“OPG”) has recently published guidance regarding deputies and attorneys’ duties in England and Wales whilst they are in isolation. The OPG have stated that deputies and attorneys must continue in their...

How to check if a COVID-19 patient has an attorney or deputy

Leah Woodnott
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The Office of the Public Guardian (“OPG”) has recently published guidance notes detailing how NHS staff or local authorities in England and Wales can check to see whether a COVID-19 patient has a Deputyship Order, lasting power of attorney or...

COVID-19: Government considers changes to the ways wills are executed

Rachel Leech
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Currently, wills must be witnessed by two people. However, self-isolation can make this difficult, so the Government has announced that they are urgently look to change the requirements around witnessing wills. However, in the meantime, find out how you...

Increase of Capital Gains Tax allowance

Leah Woodnott
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The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, presented the 2020 Budget on 11 March 2020 and announced that the government will be increasing the Capital Gains Tax allowance for the 2020/2021 tax year. What is Capital Gains Tax?  Capital Gains Tax is...

Are you an attorney for someone that is self-isolating?

Leah Woodnott
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The COVID-19 outbreak is causing an influx of attorneys having to take up their appointment under a Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney due to the donor self-isolating. A Property and Financial Affairs LPA is a legal document which...

Are you self-isolating and need your will updating?

Leah Woodnott
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We know the importance of having your affairs in order can provide you with peace of mind, especially at a particularly unnerving time. The government has issued guidance on social distancing measures and the country should be taking steps to reduce the...

McDonald's or KFC anyone?

Claire Read
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A Canadian court has recently upheld that instructions written on a McDonald’s napkin was a man’s last will and testament.  So, could you do the same? In theory, yes you can, provided that the will is properly signed by you and two...

3 things you didn't know about planning for elderly care

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Despite the avalanche of information that’s readily available about later life planning, it can be a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack when it comes to finding the right solution for your family.   In a one-hour, one-off fee...

The importance of having a lasting power of attorney

Phoebe Trott
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Recent statistics confirm that 82% of people have not yet made lasting powers of attorney (LPA).  An LPA is a legal document that enables you to appoint one or more people as your attorneys. Attorneys are able to assist you in making decisions or can...

Why you need a will in your twenties

Leah Woodnott
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At 25 years old, this week I decided it was time to get my life admin in order and write my own will. Having previously worked in a Contested Probate team, and now working in the Wills, Trust and Probate team for over a year, really, I should have had a...

What will happen to your cryptocurrency when you die?

Leah Woodnott
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I recently read an intriguing BBC News article outlining the difficulties families have when accessing a deceased’s cryptocurrency. What is cryptocurrency? Cryptocurrency is a type of digital currency and does not have a physical form.  It is...

Have you considered leaving a legacy in your will?

Phoebe Trott
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Last week, after a devoted Norwich City FC fan sadly passed away, it became clear that he had left a legacy in his will to buy all the players a drink. Did you know there are different types of legacies which could be included in a will, depending on how...

First change in intestacy rules since 2014

Phoebe Trott
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The House of Commons ruled this week (15 January 2020) that the statutory legacy for partners under the intestacy rules will increase to £270,000 as of 6 February 2020. The update, which was due in October 2019, has been welcomed by the Law Society....

What are the impacts of living longer on estate planning?

Tim Ogle
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The International Longevity Centre (ILC) studies the impact in society of people living longer. According to the ILC, ageism is deterring older people from spending, to the detriment of local economies and, therefore, to the detriment of the economic...

Traditional funerals are a thing of the past

Leah Woodnott
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I recently read a report by the Co-op called “ The changing face of UK funerals ”. It was interesting to note that the UK is saying goodbye to traditional funeral services. 36% of the people surveyed stated that they would prefer for their loved...

An ageing population

Tim Ogle
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I have been saying for about 10 months that 53 is barely young middle-aged these days. I am now fortified in that view by the Office for National Statistics. They are asking whether 70 is the new age 65 given that, on average, a man aged 65 can expect to...

Election update - private client tax implications

Tim Ogle
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So, the first Winter election since 1974 and the first to take place in December since 1923, has returned a Conservative Government. But few would have expected a majority of 80, thanks to the Tories winning so many seats in the traditional Labour heartlands...

Using your gift allowance at Christmas!

Leah Woodnott
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With the countdown to Christmas getting closer, many people will have started their Christmas shopping. However, have you thought about giving specific Christmas gifts to your loved ones, to reduce the size of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes? When...

Common misconceptions about solicitors and how they work

David Feakins
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A lot of people may feel concerned about the prospect of having to speak to a solicitor. It may be that you want to discuss a family issue, a dispute you are having with a neighbour or wanting to prepare a will. Solicitors are here to provide the support...

How green is your end of life option?

Leah Woodnott
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I recently read an article by the National Geographic which outlined the environmental toll on the different types of funeral options – burial, cremation and burial at sea etc. Cremations are on the rise due to baby boomers and the ever-adapting end...

The care system in crisis

Liz Jones
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I read an article in the Sunday Telegraph on 13 October 2019 about the real crisis in the care system. It informed readers that vulnerable people who have been paying for their care home but are no longer able to pay, and no longer responsible for their own...

Wills discovered at Lloyds Bank - too late for some

Leah Woodnott
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It has been reported by the Financial Times that Lloyds Bank has discovered approximately 9,000 wills in its database that they did not know they had. As a result, many deceaseds’ estates may have been distributed to incorrect beneficiaries! Lloyds...

Proposed increase in probate fees dropped

Phoebe Trott
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This week, the Secretary of State, Justice Robert Buckland, announced the controversial proposed increase in probate fees has been dropped. As a result, the statutory instrument which has been awaiting Parliamentary approval will be withdrawn. Theresa May...

What happens if you pass away without a will?

Leah Woodnott
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The Office of National Statistics has recently released statistics regarding the UK’s population. Did you know that the UK’s population has reached an estimated 66.4 million?! Interestingly, the statistics show that in 2018, there were 12.8...

Power of attorney abuses reach new high

Claire Read
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Power of attorney abuses have reached a new high, according to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) figures. This is quite disturbing, but in our view is not that uncommon and is a salutary lesson to ensure that you choose the right people to help you...

Potential Inheritance Tax axe by Chancellor Javid

Leah Woodnott
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Chancellor Sajid Javid certainly hit the news last week after he speculated that getting rid of Inheritance Tax was on his mind. What is Inheritance Tax?  Inheritance Tax is a tax incurred on a deceased’s estate. An estate is made up of all of...

Legalising electronic or digital wills

Bethany Wrightson
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Did you know it is estimated that around 40% of adults die each year without making a will?  Did you also know that even for those who do have a will in place, some dying wishes cannot be acted upon if formal rules have not been followed? This is even...

Amy Winehouse: Back to wills

Leah Woodnott
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The recent news of Amy Winehouse’s ex-husband trying to make a financial claim against her estate, eight years after her passing, provides a stern reminder about the importance of making a will. In 2011, Amy Winehouse died without making a will....

Inheritance tax: don't make quick decisions

Chloe Hammond
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Recently published newspaper articles have contained details of political parties’ proposals, in respect of overhauling Inheritance Tax . Inheritance Tax is a widely debated subject and one which is not often agreed upon. Inheritance tax is a subject...

Investing money as an attorney under an LPA

Leah Woodnott
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The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has released updated guidance for attorneys who are appointed under a property and financial affairs lasting power of attorney (LPA). This is for the attorneys who are making investment decisions on behalf of someone...

Making a will: take advice before a river becomes an ocean!

Lisa Cox
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I was saddened to read last month that there is doubt as to whether George Michael had sufficient capacity to make his last will. He made the will in 2013, and it has been called into question on the basis of his possible consumption of drugs and alcohol....

Wetherspoons will dispute

Rachel Leech
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A will made in a Wetherspoons pub, by a man leaving his estate to his taxi driver, has been declared invalid. Gary Mendez, 57, agreed to leave everything to his taxi driver, Dean Hughes. He made the will in his local Wetherspoons pub, over a pint, months...

Intestacy battle!

Leah Woodnott
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Step-sisters, Anna Winter and Deborah Cutler have gone to the High Court to fight over their potential inheritance after elderly parents, John Scarle and Ann Scarle died from hypothermia at their home in Leigh-on-Sea. John and Ann died without leaving a...

What happens to your online accounts after you die?

Lisa Cox
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In May, Rachel Thompson was victorious in her legal battle with Apple. The process was costly and lasted three years. Mrs Thompson requested access to her late husband’s Apple account that contained 4,500 photos and 900 videos. Apple refused Mrs...

Stan Lee's former manager charged with elder abuse

Leah Woodnott
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It has been alleged that comic book writer, Stan Lee, was a victim of elder abuse by his former manager, Keya Morgan. Morgan has been charged with five counts of elder abuse, including false imprisonment, forgery and fraud. Unfortunately, financial abuse...

Man murdered by his brother due to inheritance dispute

Amanda Smallcombe
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When you are disputing a loved one’s inheritance, emotions will often run high. However, it is rare that someone will take such drastic steps as to murder a sibling. Last week, Richard Martin was convicted of his brother’s murder and was...

R-E-S-P-E-C-T your estate planning!

Leah Woodnott
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My previous blog, “Aretha Franklin dies without making a will ”, concluded that Aretha’s family were left with the uncertainty of not knowing how her estate would be divided, as they believed that the soul singer had not left a will. ...

Mental capacity: OPG's safeguarding strategy

Leah Woodnott
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The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has recently released its safeguarding strategy for 2019 to 2025. The OPG’s overall aim is to protect people in England and Wales who may not have the mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves....

Pets in wills: A dog is for life - and after!

Lisa Cox
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We’ve all heard the famous slogan “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” but what happens if your dog’s life is longer than yours? Pets are undeniably considered a member of their owner’s family, with recent reports...

Grant of Probate redesign!

Leah Woodnott
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The Ministry of Justice announced that from 4 March 2019 all Grants of Probate issued will be subject to a change in appearance, but what is a Grant of Probate? What is a Grant of Probate? A Grant of Probate is a legal document which is sealed by a Probate...

Probate fee increases delayed by Brexit

Katie Hayden
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New probate fees to obtain a Grant of Probate, which were expected to come into effect on 1 April, have now been delayed indefinitely. The delay has been attributed to ‘pressure on Parliamentary time’ resulting from the Brexit debate. The...

Probate fee hike and the impact on charities

Leah Woodnott
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In February, I blogged about the new probate application fee structure, which was set to be introduced on 1 April 2019. At that time, there was an increasing amount of speculation as to whether the increase would come into effect on time, due to the ongoing...

Women in law: Partner and Head of Department

Claire Read
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One hundred years ago, the Sex Disqualification Act was passed and this allowed women to become solicitors and barristers. The women that fought for this change were pioneers and, because of their determination, I have been able to undertake a job that...

Why it is important to have a will - even in your twenties

Lisa Cox
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I have to admit that until recently I haven’t considered making a will for another 10 to 15 years, which is why I wasn’t surprised to read that according to Prosperitas Financial Solutions, 87% of under 35s do not have a will in place. When...

Text message declared as deceased's will

Chloe Hammond
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Informal and digital ‘do-it-yourself’ wills, which do not satisfy the requirements of a valid will, are allowed to be admitted to probate in Australia and other jurisdictions. In the Australian case of Nichol v Nichol (2017), the deceased left a...

What are the duties of an executor of a will?

Leah Woodnott
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When a person dies, many people assume that their next of kin will deal with administering the deceased’s estate, but often this is not the case. When a person makes a will, they will appoint executors who will be responsible for carrying out the...

Legal aspects of assisted dying

Claire Read
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Assisted dying is a contentious issue ethically. However, it can also provide problems from a legal point of view.  Most will be aware of the possible criminal implications that can arise, but there are also issues regarding who inherits the...

Women in law: Inspired by Brockovich

Lisa Cox
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My career in law formally started when I joined Birkett Long in 2016 in the Court of Protection and Inheritance Disputes team. However, if you ask my mum, she would tell you that it started the day I watched the film about Erin Brockovich. Like many young...

Women in law: Paralegal to trainee solicitor

Cara O'Donoghue
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Cara O’Donoghue, a trainee solicitor in our Wills, Trusts and Probate team is currently in her second seat in her training contract. Throughout her years of studying, working as a paralegal, and now close to qualifying, she tells us about her journey. ...

The forgotten demographic - Those with no children

Claire Read
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A group called AWWOC (Ageing Well without Children) has been formed, with the aim to raise awareness of issues that can arise where vulnerable or elderly people do not have children, or children nearby, to help them with care or financial matters. ...

Would you challenge a loved one's will?

Rachel Leech
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Research from Direct Line suggests that 1 in 4 people would challenge a will if they did not get what they think is fair. These figures are not surprising given there has been an increasing number of claims in the High Court over a deceased’s estate....

Increase in death certificate cost

Leah Woodnott
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The Secretary of State has announced that the cost of obtaining a death certificate in England and Wales has increased from £4.00 to £11.00 for each certificate required. What is a death certificate? A death certificate is an official...

Dementia costs to triple

Liz Jones
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Dementia costs are set to triple by 2040 if our current care and support arrangements go unchanged. What can we do to make provision for ourselves? We need to ensure that whatever the financial situation of the country, we do our best to protect ourselves...

Extremely wealthy pets due to inheritance

Katey  Stephenson
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Following his passing on Tuesday last week, the BBC reported that the fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld, has passed a portion of his estate of around £150 million to his cat, Choupette. Though they have not specified how much Choupette stands to...

Karl Lagerfeld's (now very wealthy) cat

Katie Hayden
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Following Karl Lagerfeld’s death, his cat Choupette is reportedly set to inherit a chunk of the fashion designer’s £150 million fortune. Chanel icon Lagerfeld’s multi million pound fortune could end up in the feline’s paws, if...

The importance of wills and lasting powers of attorney

Katie Hayden
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Why do I need a will? A will enables you to leave a clear instruction as to how you wish your estate to be distributed, and can ensure provision for family and friends. If you die without a valid will in place, then the law decides who inherits everything...

Have you and your valentine thought about a will?

Leah Woodnott
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With the country celebrating Valentine’s day this week, love is in the air for many couples across England and Wales. For those planning to get down on one knee and pop the all-important question, have they thought about how their marriage will affect...

A cunning ploy?

Claire Read
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As you will have read in many recent articles and blogs, it is highly likely that the probate fee will increase substantially very soon. You may recall a couple of years ago that the proposed fees to deal with a person’s estate (to obtain a grant of...

How do the new probate fees affect our farming clients?

Caroline Dowding
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In 2016, the government announced a probate fee hike of exponential proportions, with the fee of estates worth over £2m being fixed at £20,000. With the snap general election and Brexit looming, this plan was scrapped, and was seemingly dead in...

Recognising dementia risk factors

Liz Jones
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I saw in the news today that a study by Alzheimer’s Research UK found that half of UK adults cannot identify any of the key risk factors for dementia. This is a worrying statistic. With more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK,...

Probate fees are increasing!

Leah Woodnott
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The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, Lucy Frazer, has recently announced an increase in probate fees. Currently, where an estate is worth over £5,000, fixed fees apply of £215 for probate applications made by individuals and...

The dangers of online lasting powers of attorney

Chloe Hammond
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The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has recently released plans to become almost entirely digital, with paper being a rare exception by 2025. This includes how they interact and offer their services and the creation and registration of lasting powers of...

The costly ramifications of unregulated will writing

Katie Hayden
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A recent study by the Wills and Probate Consumer Research Report 2018 found that clients are often being misled with regards to fees by providers in the unregulated sector. 80% of those who made a will using a will writer or other provider in the unregulated...

Artificial intelligence drafting wills

Leah Woodnott
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A recent survey has stated that the British public is not ready for artificial intelligence (AI) to draft their wills. 90% of those who participated in the survey stated they would not want a will drafted using AI alone, without any human input. In England...

Top 5 questions about making a will

Katie Hayden
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I often get asked about the process of making or updating a will, so thought I would share the regular questions I get asked, as it is so important to protect your loved ones and assets by obtaining specialist advice. When should I think about making or...

Make a Will month 2019

Katey  Stephenson
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From 1 February, we are taking part in “Make a Will month 2019” with Colchester and Ipswich Hospital Charity. As part of our scheme, the usual cost of a will is waived and a donation to the Cancer Centre in Colchester Hospital will be paid...

Universal Wealth Preservation - progress with civil proceedings

Katey  Stephenson
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I have previously reported on the on-going criminal investigation into Mr Steven Long and his Suffolk-based business brand, Universal Wealth Preservation. With that investigation unlikely to conclude swiftly, there is concurrently progress in the civil...

Santander fined for poor probate process

Katie Hayden
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The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fined Santander £32.8 million for its flawed probate and bereavement services. Santander was found to have stalled or failed to complete the probate process despite being informed of the death of customers...

What happens when someone dies without making a will

Leah Woodnott
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Avicii, the Swedish international DJ, died in April 2018 after taking his own life. Legal documents have now been made public by the Swedish Tax Agency, which state his parents, Klas Bergling and Anki Liden, are set to inherit his estate worth an estimated...

The role of an executor

Katey  Stephenson
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The overwhelming demands of an executor were recently highlighted and they did not make pleasant reading for those handling an estate without legal advice. At the end of November, the Office of Tax Simplification published their review on inheritance tax....

Government resurrects the new 'death tax'

Katie Hayden
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It was announced recently that the government plans to reintroduce a hike in probate fees. Plans were dropped back in 2017 ahead of the general election after a furious backlash, as it was felt that the increase in price with regards to the application for a...

Are you a parent without a will?

Leah Woodnott
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Royal London has released new statistics stating that 59% of parents either do not have a will or have one that is out of date. When someone dies without a valid will, the intestacy rules are followed, which sets out who will inherit your estate. However,...

Thinking of making a gift to someone this Christmas

Chloe Hammond
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Thinking of making a gift to someone this Christmas…Have you thought about Inheritance Tax? Gifts are classified as anything which has value, for example, property, possessions and money, or anything which causes loss in value when transferred, for...

Universal Wealth Preservation - the ongoing investigation

Katey  Stephenson
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At the end of last month, I highlighted the difficulties that a number of individuals were having with Universal Wealth Preservation and Mr Steven Long – including the number of aliases through which they acted. The issues surrounding Universal Wealth...

You're having a laugh!

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Comedian Ricky Gervais told a US show that he won’t be leaving a will in respect of his assets, which are estimated to be around £60million. The star of The Office and Extras confessed that he has told his individual family members that he will...

The quicker we act, the better!

Katey  Stephenson
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We have recently received enquiries relating to Universal Wealth Preservation, who are trust and estate planners. Over the past decade, they or their directors have become trustees for many individuals’ estates. They had offered to handle...

The only thing certain in life is death and taxes!

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BBC news recently reported that Guildford has been named the “Inheritance ‘Capital’ of the UK”. During the 2015/16 tax year, as many as 658 families in the Surrey town were subject to inheritance tax costing them, on average, a...

Another royal baby

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We have all heard the news that there will be another royal baby next spring and, whilst the seventh in line to the throne is unlikely to be our future king or queen, there is no doubt that they will be adequately financially provided for in the future....

Psychiatrist forged patient's will

Rachel Leech
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Psychiatrist forged patient’s will to inherit her £1.3 Million estate A NHS psychiatrist, Dr Alemi, has been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 5 years in prison after exploiting her 84 year old patient, Mrs Belham.  Mrs Belham was...

What's on your bucket list?

Claire Read
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Wow, skydiving is on the Mirror’s over 55’s dream bucket list. I can really recommend this, it is amazing and you feel like you are flying rather than falling. Now, not to put a dampener on the adrenaline rush, but if you are thinking of...

Over 55s' dream bucket list revealed

Claire Read
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The Mirror listed an over 55’s dream bucket list and quite a lot of the list involves either finding love, lust or divorce. These are very personal things that can have a huge impact on one’s life and needs careful planning all round to ensure...

To DIY or not to DIY? We are talking wills.

Jess Birch
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  I was shocked to read a news article recently which said that there is a website that promises to write a will in just nine minutes for £20! Sounds like a great deal! However, hidden in the website’s terms and conditions is a clause...