Latest News

What is business property relief?

Currently, Inheritance Tax is paid at 40% (if you leave 10% of your estate to charity, then Inheritance Tax will be paid at 36%) on a deceased’s estate which exceeds the Tax allowances. There are various Tax allowances which can be claimed such as...

If I lose capacity, who will manage my affairs?

  If you lose capacity and you have not appointed an attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney, someone can apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as your deputy to manage your property and financial affairs.  Multiple people can...

Have you considered Inheritance Tax planning?

I am sure that you will be familiar with the popular quote “the only two certainties in life are death and taxes”.   When a person dies, Inheritance Tax (payable to HM Revenue & Customs) may become due on an estate. It is...

Equality for LGBTQ+ families when someone passes away

As it is Pride Month, I thought what better time to reflect on the laws that have come into force to provide equality for LGBTQ+ families. In particular, I want to look at what happens when dealing with someone’s estate when they pass away.  ...

The dangers of a DIY will

Why would you instruct a lawyer to write your will when you can just write your own?  You may have seen will writers and DIY will kits advertised online or in local supermarkets. It is important to be aware that, generally speaking, will writers do...

What does Brexit mean for my will?

Let’s talk about Brexit. I, for one, did not think I would be happy to talk about ‘Brexit’ for a long time, but then came a global pandemic. Coronavirus (the big ‘C’ word) does not seem to be going away anytime soon, but it...

Top tips for acting as an attorney during COVID-19

Attorneys and deputies manage the affairs for someone else, often when they lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs. An attorney is appointed by the person themselves, whereas a deputy is appointed by the court.   For many attorneys, the...

Remote witnessing of wills during COVID-19

Times have changed since the Wills Act came in during the late 1800s and, in particular, during the early days of the Government’s lockdown restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The required formalities provide a challenge for solicitors...

Business owners - why you need a will & LPA

In these very strange and difficult times, it is essential that we all think about making a will if we do not already have one in place. A will allows you to leave your estate to the people or charities you want to benefit after your death, rather than...

Who pays the legal costs following a will dispute?

A common misconception is that the legal costs always come from the estate when someone challenges a will. With beneficiaries and third parties, the starting point is actually that the loser will pay the winner’s costs.  However, there are two...

Why should every farmer have a lasting power of attorney?

There are two separate documents; one to deal with your property and financial affairs, and the other to deal with your health and welfare. Who should I have as an attorney? It can be a relative, a friend or a professional. They should be over the age of...

Can you dispute a will or the inheritance you receive?

Unhappy about the amount of inheritance you are due to receive? Will you not receiving anything from the will? There are options available to you. The validity of the will Firstly, you could dispute the validity of the will. However, this is only...

How can I challenge someone's capacity to make a will?

People can often be surprised about the distribution of loved one’s estate and can consider contesting the will. One of the grounds for contesting a will is on the basis that the person making the will lacked the capacity to do so. Capacity to make a...

What is an attorney's role?

If you have been appointed as someone’s attorney, under a Lasting Power of Attorney (also known as a LPA), then it is important that you know what your responsibilities are. There are two types of LPA; Health and Welfare (HW) and Property and...

Step Parents

Family dynamics can be complicated when a step parent is co-parenting a spouse’s child and having a hands-on involvement with the day to day issues regarding a child which is not biologically their own. However, a step parent cannot acquire parental...

Where there's a will, there's a way!

Santa may be bringing your child their favourite toys this Christmas, but what would the law be bringing them if you passed away without making a will?  If you are, what has been dubbed in modern times as, a “blended family”, you may well...

Blended families

Families are traditionally thought of as nuclear families consisting of a couple and their dependent children. The modern-day family is now a lot more complicated due to divorce rates increasing and bringing children from previous marriages into the family...

Which will is best for you?

The simplest type of will is known as a mirror will. These are typically made by married couples and involve leaving the entire estate to the other when the first person passes away, and children, or other beneficiaries, when the second of the couple dies. ...

Wills and second marriages

“That’s not what they would have wanted” is the most common phrase we hear from disappointed family members who discover that they are going to inherit less than they thought, or nothing at all, from the estate of a loved one.  ...

Protecting your investment

Buying a house, or helping a loved one do so, is likely to be the biggest purchase you will make during your lifetime. Often, if you are buying with a partner or spouse, one party may have more available cash to put towards the deposit or purchase price. The...

Marriage and the protection of family wealth

Planning a wedding is a time filled with joy and excitement. However, it can also bring some uncertainty and apprehension for some (not limited to the couple). This apprehension can often surround finances. A large proportion of weddings in England are...

Common law husband or wife

There is no such thing as a common law husband or wife. Many people are left in a difficult position following their partner’s death having relied on this fictitious concept. If you have provided for your partner by making a will, and named them...

We've come a long way, but inheritance tax still exists!

In 2003, Essex Pride was established, and how far the law has come even since then! It is now illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations. Same-sex couples undergoing fertility...

Mental health and making a will

Many people nowadays overlook the importance of instructing lawyers to draft their wills. Why would you pay a lawyer to write a will when you can write one yourself for free? As demonstrated by the famous case of Hodson v Barnes, a will can even be written...

Lasting powers of attorney

What can I do if I am not able to manage my affairs? You may be worried about what happens to your assets during your lifetime if you are unable to deal with them because of ill health, or perhaps you quite simply do not want to. Lasting powers of...

Moving into care and your property

Moving into care can sometimes mean selling your home. We can help you through every stage of the selling process. Once you have found a buyer, our team will provide advice and guidance to you, or your appointed representatives, regarding completion of the...

Navigating the care system

Navigating the care system As life expectancy increases, so does the impact on ourselves and our loved ones, friends and family. Navigating your way through the care system can be difficult at the best of times, but when you or your loved one needs care...

What happens if you don't have a power of attorney?

If you no longer have the capacity to make decisions for yourself and you do not have a power of attorney, then someone will have to apply to the Court of Protection to become your deputy. There are two types of application that can be made to the Court of...

Planning for long term care - Tom's story

Tom is 81 and a widower. A few years ago Tom was diagnosed with dementia, and although initially he managed at home with carers to help, the time came where his care needs were too much. So with the help of his family, and advice from Birkett Long, Tom sold...

What happens if you don't make a will?

The law does not require you to make a will but if you die without having made one, your estate, which includes all your property, money and other personal possessions, will be distributed in accordance with the law and your wishes will not be taken into...

Do you have a DIY will?

  Every year, 1 in 3 people dies without having a legally valid will. In that year, around 38,000 families have to deal with the additional costs of litigation because of a poorly drafted DIY will. While it cannot be denied that making a DIY will...

Busy running your business, and focused on the needs of others?

You may be one of the many business owners/leaders we come across who are too busy to put their own personal and financial affairs in order. Failure to do so will probably cause complications in the future and may also result in you paying more inheritance...

Second marriages... an inheritance dilemma

The number of people marrying for the second or even third time is higher than ever, but it can bring difficult decisions.  Second marriages often leave spouses torn between the need to provide for their present partner and ensure that children from...

Declaration of trust - is it worth it?

If you are looking to buy a property with someone and will be contributing unequal amounts you may be considering a Declaration of Trust.  But what is it, and is it worth it? A Declaration of Trust is a legal document that confirms the actual...

Crushed by a steamroller!

The late fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, passed away in 2015, leaving a letter of wishes alongside his will.  He asked for any unfinished work (thought to be in the region of ten unpublished novels) to be destroyed by a steamroller.  His wish was...

Protecting your farm

In the same way that insurance guards against the unexpected, a lasting power of attorney can give reassurance that the farm will be in safe hands, regardless of a change of circumstances.   A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document...

"Dementia Tax": Planning for the future

“Dementia tax” is a term often used to describe the increasing cost of care home fees in the UK.  Those with dementia often face the highest costs of care in comparison to all other groups of adult social care but, unlike the name suggests,...

A letter of wishes

What is it and when is it appropriate?  Letters of wishes can help clarify particular wishes that cannot necessarily be defined in your will; Jennifer Ward explains more about their purpose.   The late fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, passed...

An aging population and the need to plan for the future

Birkett Long’s charity of the year, the Alzheimer’s Society, estimates that the numbers of people living with dementia globally will increase from 46.8m in 2015 to 131.5m in 2050; a 281% increase. Although not a palatable thought, we should...

The use of trusts in wills

We are all well aware of the need to have a professional will in place to make things easier for loved ones, but a well written will can also protect your estate from forces that may otherwise be beyond your control. Trusts have been used for a number of...

New probate fees in 2017

In February 2017, the government announced plans to increase probate fees from £155 up to £20,000 in some cases. Caroline Dowding tells us how farming families can avoid such a hefty hike. The announcement comes despite an overwhelming majority...

The residence nil rate band and its impact on farmers

The Conservative Government’s 2010 manifesto said they would raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m.  In 2015, a similar promise was made, with the words ‘effective inheritance tax threshold’.  But is this a...

The residence nil rate band and how it may it affect you

The current amount you can leave without inheritance tax (IHT) becoming payable is £325,000.  This is known as the nil rate band (NRB).  Amounts above this are taxed at 40%, subject to some exceptions such as gifts to charities.  Gifts...

Possible new probate structure could hit families hard

Sorting out the estate of a loved one can be daunting.  Due to proposed changes, new probate fees look to add to that pressure by eating into an estate’s value. In most cases where there is land or shares a Grant of Probate will be...

Lawyers raise thousands for Cancer Centre Campaign

Community-spirited lawyers have raised more than £3,000 towards Colchester’s new Cancer Centre by writing wills. The team of six lawyers from Birkett Long’s Wills, Trusts and Probate team gave their services for free to Colchester...

Make a will and raise funds to save lives

Young parents and homeowners in the Chelmsford/Basildon area are being urged to make a will this month ( March 2017) in return for a donation to a life-saving charity. Birkett Long is targeting under-35s in its Make a Will month to raise funds for Cardiac...

New probate fee structure for 2017

Dealing with a loved one’s death is a very difficult time and having to deal with the estate can be daunting and understandably not a priority.  However, The Government has confirmed a huge increase in the fee charged to obtain the Grant of...

New Year Procrastination

With every New Year comes possibilities: join a gym, clear out the shed, take up a new hobby, learn another language... Perhaps New Year resolutions are not a very good idea.  Few of us stick to them and by February, most are forgotten.  Maybe a...

Thinking and planning ahead

Running your own business comes with great advantages; you call the shots and steer the business in the direction you want. However, with the excitement of growing your business comes responsibility and risk, which can be a burden.   Many people take...

Warning over wills disputes increases

A legal expert with respected Essex law firm Birkett Long says recent figures that show a record rise in the number of claims against estates taken to the High Court are just the tip of the iceberg. The statistics show family disputes, brought under the...

Do obstructive caveators need to put their money where their mouth is?

Will disputes are on the rise. People are generally more aware that it is possible to challenge the validity of a will and/or to make a claim against an estate for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act...

Second marriages - an inheritance dilemma?

The number of people marrying for the second time or even third time is high than ever, but can bring difficult decisions. Second marriages often leave spouses torn between the need to provide for their present partner and ensure that children from their...

Everything you ever wanted to know about a trust

Lawyers often talk about ‘trusts’ but there is generally a lack of understanding about what trusts are, how they are used and how they can be of benefit when you are planning for the future.  This article provides some insight. What...

Putting your house in order - wills and LPAs

It is important for everyone to put their legal affairs in order.  One of the most important is to make a will.  When someone passes away without a will they are described as having died intestate, meaning their assets will pass following rules...

Claim settled...without even knowing!

Over the last few years a number of cases in which parties attempted to make claims have been defeated on the basis that they have been settled already.    In construction cases, the parties should be mindful of this when they are negotiating...

Time to reconsider liquidated damages

It is common practice within the construction industry for damages to be paid by a contractor who fails to complete work on time.  These are often called liquidated and assessed damages or delay damages and the clauses to which they relate are referred...

Tough health & safety law could mean imprisonment

The sentences for breaches of health and safety law have become much tougher over recent years.  The courts have levied a number of six-figure fines against companies as well handing down some prison sentences.  Although most of these are...

Getting paid for non-written instructions

Many forms of contract state that contractors or subcontractors who receive instructions orally rather than in writing will not be paid for the work they do as a result.  Formal contracts often contain a procedure that says any oral instructions...

Planning for the future

As life expectancy increases, handling financial and personal affairs later in life can become more difficult.  The burden of this can be alleviated by creating a lasting power of attorney (LPA). There are two types of LPA; one to cover your property...

What is probate?

Aside from the immediate practicalities and the emotional strain, the death of a loved one means sorting out financial affairs. Probate is authority from the Court which enables the executors to wind up the financial affairs of the person who has...

What do I do when someone dies?

Right now you could be under a lot of stress dealing with the death of someone close to you and, after talking to many bereaved clients, we have come up with a check list to help you through this process to try to help ease the burden. You will need to: ...

Choosing the right executor for your will

For most people it is common knowledge that having a last will and testament is a must, but so is choosing the right person to be the executor of that will to ensure your wishes are carried out after your death. Your executor can be anyone you want to help...

How do I make a will?

The media often suggest that more than half of the population in England and Wales doesn’t have a will. This means one in every two people won’t have control over what happens to their estate when they die. None of their wishes...

Solicitor's dementia journey with her mum

Dealing with a client whose relative has dementia is a regular part of Amanda Smallcombe’s life as a partner and solicitor at Essex law firm Birkett Long. But dealing with her own mother’s dementia proved a very different thing for the mother of...

Main residence nil rate tax band

In his 2015 summer Budget, the Chancellor announced an additional inheritance tax allowance when a residence passes, on death, to direct descendants.  The additional allowance starts at an extra £100,000 after 6 April 2017 and increases to...

Don't ignore inheritance tax

Just under 18,000 families pay inheritance tax every year.  With the average bill on an estate now standing at £170,000, inheritance tax is a topic that everyone should think about.   This increase in the number of estates liable to...

Why you should review your will

If you have already made a will you are doing better than most, but unfortunately that is not the end of the story.  Consider whether, since writing your will, you have separated or remarried, your family has expanded or your estate value has changed...

What is a trust?

Trusts are created to deal with a variety of situations, such as for the benefit of a vulnerable person requiring guidance, to mitigate inheritance tax liability, to plan the succession of a family business, or to secure funding for school fees for example. ...

What are the duties of executors?

The family of the comedian and actor, Robin Williams, was in court recently in a dispute about his estate.   His children from a previous marriage say that the trustees of trusts set up under his name will have determined the division of his personal...

Trustee investments...take advice

The role of trustee is not to be undertaken lightly, especially as trustees are personally liable should a beneficiary claim some form of negligence. Trusts are often created as a result of an instruction in a will, especially when someone wants to leave...

There are good reasons why everyone should make a lasting power of attorney

Sally had been widowed at a young age, but she adapted to living alone quickly; she was in good health for her 78 years and had become extremely independent.  She caught the bus to town twice a week to see friends and always spent Sundays with her only...

Does your will do the job?

We all want to make sure our estate goes to our chosen beneficiaries when we die, but we can sometimes encounter competing interests for our money.  Consider Alan.  Married to Joanne for 40 years, the couple has a son, James, who works...

Read this before you give your money away!

For many people, giving away assets seems the obvious solution to prevent their savings being used to fund care in later life.  But what most people do not realise is that giving away your assets purely to avoid paying for care fees is prohibited and...

Maximum award ordered by tribunal via employer unaware of its legal obligations

When an employer proposes to make 20 or more employees redundant within a period of 90 days, it must fulfil its consultation obligations under S.188 of The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA). The aim of consultation is to...

Small Business outlook

Government ministers have had a couple of months to settle into their new seats and there are two ministers, in particular, relevant to small businesses.  Sajid Javid MP is the Secretary of State for Business and Anna Soubry MP is the minister for Small...