Wills, Trusts & Estates
Our Wills, Trusts & Estates team are experienced in advising individuals, families and trustees on the preservation and protection of their wealth.
We have acted for many of our clients and their families for a number of generations, advising them on Wills, lasting powers of attorney, estate administration and lifetime tax planning through the setting up of trusts and other opportunities to achieve asset protection for your family.
Our clients are at the heart of everything we do. We have a particular reputation for excellent client care, and we will take the time to understand your priorities and objectives, delivering advice and documentation which is suited exactly to your individual circumstances. We aim to create flexibility and longevity in our documents, to ensure you get good value for money. To view information on our Estate Administration fees please click here.
The team has a wealth of experience. Most members of the team have undergone specialist training to become full members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). This means clients can have confidence that the team has the specialist knowledge and skills required to advise you and your family.
We have offices in Henley-on-Thames and Lower Earley. Our Lower Earley office offers the convenience of on-site parking and easy access, which is a benefit for those not wanting to battle with the Reading traffic. In Henley, we have a town centre location within easy walking distance of the local shops.
Wills & Estate Planning
If you don’t have a Will you could leave loved ones in uncertain or complicated circumstances when it comes to administering your affairs. Having a valid Will gives peace of mind to you and those close to you and will ensure that your wishes will be accurately reflected.
Your Will is therefore a key document that will specify who benefits from the assets of your estate. At THP Solicitors we have many years’ experience of creating such documents, advising on complex family situations and intricate financial arrangements.
What should be in my Will?
We will guide you through the Will writing process when you appoint us, but it can be a good idea to think about some of the areas your Will may cover in advance, for example:
- Your executor – who would you like to be responsible for winding up your affairs and distributing your estate in line with the terms of your Will.
- Funeral wishes – whether you would like to be buried or cremated, what music you would like to be played at your funeral etc
- Legal guardians – if you have children under the age of 18, who should step in as their legal guardian in the event both parents die.
- Establish what is in your estate – think about what makes up your estate such as property, money, pensions, insurance policies, large items like cars and personal possessions
- Name your beneficiaries – decide who you would like to benefit from your estate. This may have inheritance tax implications.
We can assist you with drafting a valid Will that accurately reflects your wishes, can advise on executors, beneficiaries and help you manage and pass on your wealth in the most tax efficient manner. A full estate planning exercise can be carried to enable clients to plan effectively for now and for the future using legitimate tax avoidance strategies to pass on wealth and mitigate the effects of tax. Where appropriate we can also work with existing or other financial advisors and accountants to ensure that everything is ‘joined up’ and clients have the best and most efficient estate plan possible.
Updating your Will
If you already have a Will in place, it is recommended that it ought to be viewed every 3-5 years to check that your and your family’s personal circumstances have not changed and that it is up to date and still valid. If you do wish to amend your Will, a codicil (a legal document which makes an alteration to an existing Will) is often all that is needed but that has to be signed and witnessed and drafted in the right way to be valid and our team can advise on this.
How we can help
Our focus is on quality work, where we take the time to understand your requirements and priorities, and we produce bespoke documents ideally suited to your circumstances. We consider all situations and circumstances with an objective eye, pointing out pitfalls and concerns that you may not have considered. Contact us today for a quote on drafting your Will.
We can assist you with drafting a valid Will that accurately reflects your wishes, can advise on executors, beneficiaries and help you manage and pass on your wealth in the most tax efficient manner
Power of Attorney
Powers of attorney are important documents that enable you to give permission to others (attorneys) to handle your affairs and make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so due to either a short or long-term incapacity. Careful consideration should be given to the range of powers you wish to give your attorney – we can help clients appoint attorneys and ensure that the wording in a power of attorney is sufficiently precise to protects our clients’ interests.
For many clients, preparing powers of attorney are part of their usual lifetime planning. Broadly speaking, there are three types of powers of attorney:
- Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)
- Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA)
- General Powers of Attorney
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs)
We recommend that all clients, regardless of age, prepare lasting powers of attorney, as whilst these documents are often associated with old age, they can also provide key protection for you and your family should you be involved in an accident. We all hope they will never be required, but if the worst happens your family will have everything, they need to care for you.
There are two types of lasting powers of attorney:
- Property and Finance LPA allows a person to appoint someone to look after their financial affairs. A Property and financial LPA will come into effect as soon as it is registered which means that the attorney will be able to start making decisions about property and financial affairs straight away, if that is the wish of the donor.
- Health and Welfare LPA which gives an attorney the power to make decisions regarding the consent for medical treatment and care. It is not possible to use a health and welfare LPA until the person who made it has lost their mental capacity, through illness or accident, but it should be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.
An LPA allows you to appoint individuals who you trust, who can assist with your property and financial affairs and health and welfare decisions if you are ever in the position of not being able to give your own instructions. Preparing them ahead of time will allow you to decide who is appointed to act on your behalf. If you do not have LPAs and then lose mental capacity, your family and loved ones will need to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order, whereby the Court chooses who to appoint on your behalf. This is a more costly process and removes the ability for you to choose who you want to act on your behalf.
Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs)
Before 1st October 2007, a person with capacity could grant an enduring power of attorney (EPA) authorising another person to act for them if they became incapable of managing their property and affairs. Enduring powers of attorney have been replaced by lasting powers of attorney (LPA) – EPAs remain valid, whether or not they have been registered at the Court of Protection, provided that they were fully signed prior to 1 October 2007.
It might, however, be prudent to review your existing EPAs to ensure that they entirely meet your current requirements and consider whether it would be beneficial to create a new LPA in addition to deal with your health and welfare decisions.
Although existing EPAs can still be used, if you were to lose mental capacity in future the EPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. If you have an existing EPA, we can assist your attorneys with the registration of this document when the time comes.
General Power of Attorney
If you need to temporarily delegate your property and financial affairs to an attorney, we can assist with the preparation of a general power of attorney. These are only suitable as temporary documents given that they cease to have any power if the donor loses mental capacity, and only last for twelve months. However, they have their uses, for instance, if you are going to be travelling abroad and need to appoint an attorney to assist you in your absence. We would be happy to assist in the preparation of a general power of attorney if this is required.
How we can help
Our Wills, Trusts & Estates team can help you with create, register, alter or enforce powers of attorney. If you are appointed as an attorney under an EPA or LPA, we can assist with advice on the day to day administration of the attorneyship, together with advice on the maintenance of your records and compliance procedures. Contact us today for a quote on drafting your LPA.
Inheritance tax (IHT) is levied on a person’s estate when they die and on certain gifts made during an individual’s lifetime. There are opportunities for minimising the impact of inheritance tax, but it is important to obtain specific legal advice appropriate to your personal circumstances.
It may be possible to reduce or eliminate this tax liability with careful planning. You may therefore be able to:
- Keep your assets within your family
- Reduce your beneficiary’s inheritance tax liability
- Protect your assets from the need to fund long term care in later life
- Protect your nil rate band if you were to die and your partner re-marry
- Protect assets passed to children / grandchildren from the risk of them becoming bankrupt or divorced
Nil Rate Band
On a person’s death, inheritance tax of 40% is liable on the value of their estate over the inheritance tax threshold, known as the nil rate band, which currently stands at £325,000. A further band has been added as a ‘top up’ in respect of one residential property, which from 6 April 2020, has increased to £175,000. However, as is often the case, there are restrictions which include:
- The residence must pass by on death to a direct descendant (ie children or grandchildren).
- The relief is only available for a dwelling house which has been the person’s residence whilst it was part of the person’s estate.
- There is tapered withdrawal of the residence nil rate band for estates with a net value of more than £2 million (after deducting any liabilities but before reliefs and exemptions). The residence nil rate band is to be reduced by £1 for every £2 that the amount exceeds the £2 million threshold.
This means that spouses and civil partners who own residential property, are now able to gift up to £1 million to their direct descendants with no inheritance tax payable on their estate. However, whilst the residence nil rate band is welcomed to reflect the increase in residential property prices, the mechanism by which it is offered is still unfortunately complex. Some couples may still need to consider lifetime gifts to reduce estates below the £2m threshold. Testators should also consider who the beneficiaries are in their Will – if their direct lineal descendants do not inherit, testators could be missing out of these important inheritance tax benefits.
Where a person died before 6 April 2017, their estate will not qualify for the relief. A surviving spouse may be entitled to an increase in the residence nil rate band if the spouse who died earlier has not used, or was not entitled to use, their full residence nil rate band. The calculations involved are potentially complex, but the increase will often result in a doubling of the residence nil rate band for the surviving spouse.
The residence nil rate band may also be available when a person downsizes or ceases to own a home on or after 8 July 2015 where assets of an equivalent value, up to the value of the residence nil rate band, are passed on death to direct descendants.
How we can help
Inheritance tax planning and the use of gifts, trusts and charitable donations should be tailored to your specific situation, taking into account your personal circumstances and aspirations. Other taxes need to be considered carefully but there can be scope for substantial savings which may be missed unless professional legal advice is sought.
If you have recently received or are likely to receive an inheritance in future, we can also advise on the best way to maximize this tax planning opportunity through the use of deeds of variation. Contact us to see how we can help and minimise any tax liabilities.
Trusts & Gifts
We can prepare simple Wills where appropriate, but also regularly advise clients on asset protection within Wills by setting up trusts, whether because of a vulnerable beneficiary or because inheritance tax planning is required. We can prepare trusts for disabled beneficiaries and also for business property assets, and we include advice pertaining to inheritance tax and capital gains tax as part of the standard scope of our work.
Our Wills, Trusts & Estates team can help to establish trusts either through a client’s Will or during their lifetime, to help protect and control wealth for the benefit of their family. Trusts enable people to place assets under the control of others, so that they have full responsibility to manage those assets for the benefit of whoever is chosen, according to a set of instructions. There are many different types of trusts and we can advise you on the different benefits of each type to assess which is appropriate for your circumstances. Trusts are treated separately for tax purposes and are assessed independently for inheritance tax, capital gains tax and income tax.
Trusts often come to a natural end but sometimes a decision may be made to wind up a trust early by the trustees. It is essential that the trustees consult the trust deed and our experienced team can help advise on how to carefully adhere to these procedures. The winding up of a trust can create significant tax liabilities and it is essential that professional advice is obtained to ensure that everyone is aware of their liabilities, and where they can be mitigated if possible.
Lifetime Trusts and Gifts
There may come a time when you decide to make some lifetime gifts to your children, family or friends. Lifetime gifts are made for a variety of reasons: sometimes to help with a deposit for a house, or for the pleasure of giving a gift in lifetime and then living to see the recipient enjoy it, or perhaps for inheritance tax planning purposes.
Gifts between spouses during their lifetime or on death are exempt from inheritance tax and many gifts made more than seven years before death will escape tax. Therefore, if you plan in advance, gifts can be made tax-free and result in a substantial tax saving. However, careful consideration needs to be given to gifts, for example, a gift that saves inheritance tax may unnecessarily create a capital gains tax liability.
Whatever your reasons, we can advise you on the best way to make your gift tax efficient. We will consider your Will and other factors and advise on the options and pros and cons of absolute gifts or gifts into a trust. We can also review the types of trusts available in such circumstances and advise on which will be most suitable for your circumstances.
How we can help
Trusts are a complex subject and the timing, beneficiaries and wording can be very important when setting one up. Our Wills, Trusts & Estates team can help with the setup of trusts, advise how to deal with HMRC and advise as to the costs of setting up a trust and running it in the long-term. Administering a trust successfully can be time consuming and daunting and our solicitors can help you with your duties as a trustee or help you look after your trust correctly. We can advise on the full range of lifetime gift options, making full use of relevant exemptions or other reliefs. Contact us to discuss your requirements
The task of administering an estate after the death of a loved one can often feel overwhelming. If you decide to seek assistance with this process, our team at THP Solicitors has extensive experience of all sizes of estate and we would be happy to provide such support as you require.
Where there is a Will, we can advise on the terms of the Will and where there is no Will, we can explain the intestacy provisions so you can be sure you understand how the estate will be distributed.
How do you administer an Estate?
The administration of an Estate will often break down into four stages, some of which may overlap, and our experienced team can help guide and advise on all or parts of the process:
- Probate – The process from the death of an individual up to the application for a grant of probate, will involve establishing details of the assets of their estate and obtaining valuations of those assets and, where appropriate, completing an inheritance tax return and paying any inheritance tax that may be due on the estate before the application for the grant of probate may be made.
- Gathering the assets – Registering the grant of probate once it has been issued by the Court with the various asset holders and cashing in the assets of the estate and gathering them together; bank accounts, shareholdings and any property to be sold.
- Tax and Administration – The executors will need to pay the debts of the estate and deal with various complex administrative matters, in particular liaising with HMRC in relation to tax affairs.
- Winding up and distribution – Once all of the assets of the estate have been gathered and the liabilities and tax affairs resolved then the executors can wind up and distribute the estate to the beneficiaries. To do this they will need to prepare the estate accounts showing the assets and how they have been dealt with, ready for distribution.
What about if someone dies without leaving a Will?
When someone dies without leaving a Will their estate is ‘intestate’ and you may require a legal document called a grant of letters of administration in order to deal with their estate. Administering an estate can be a complex and time-consuming process, with a significant level of risk attached. It requires having details of everything the deceased person owned and how much this is worth, as well as their outstanding debts.
A grant of letters of administration is a legal document issued by the Court to prove who has legal authority to deal with the estate of the person that has passed away. We can help advise on the inheritance laws called the “rules of intestacy” which determine who is allowed to apply for the grant. These rules place the deceased’s relatives in order of priority and the person that is highest up on this list is the person that should make the application.
Our team can also help prepare and make the application to Court for a grant of letters of administration, complete the Inheritance tax returns and calculate any tax that needs to be paid to HMRC.
Full estate administration
We offer a full estate administration service whereby we can complete the entire task on your behalf, including:
- dealing with banks and financial institutions;
- identifying and settling liabilities;
- reporting the inheritance tax position of the estate;
- applying for the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration;
- finalising the income and capital gains tax position of the estate;
- producing such documents as are required to mitigate or remove any capital gains tax liability;
- liaising with the beneficiaries to distribute and finalise the estate; and
- producing full estate amounts to ensure transparency in the administration.
We provide a bespoke case plan which will guide you through all the steps and we will provide regular updates on progress. This is the best option if you want to hand over the entire process to an experienced pair of hands and have confidence that all elements of the estate administration will be dealt with.
It may be that you wish for some assistance with the estate administration but wish to complete some tasks yourself. We are happy to work with you to provide such support and assistance as you require. In such circumstances, we will review the estate at the outset to determine the steps that will be required. We then work with you to identify who is going to complete each specific task, to ensure that nothing is overlooked. Key to this will be the preparation of a detailed case management plan. This will be the basis of our scope of work and will allow us to work with you to ensure that the full estate is administered correctly. This is the best option if you want to be involved with the process of estate administration but want to have our legal input as and when required.
Grant only applications
If you prefer to deal with the administration yourself but require assistance in obtaining the grant of probate or grant of letters of administration only, we offer a fixed fee service for such work. We can assist on such a basis whether the estate is liable to inheritance tax or not. If you choose to use this service, we will let you know what information will be required for the application so you can obtain this information yourself. Upon receipt of all of the information required from you, we will then prepare the required inheritance tax return, together with the application for the grant. We will liaise with HMRC and the Probate Registry on your behalf, in order to obtain the grant.
Please note this is a limited service. It is only suitable in circumstances where you do not require legal advice on the estate administration itself, and you simply wish for legal assistance with obtaining the Grant.
Deeds of variation
During an estate administration, the beneficiaries have an opportunity to complete inheritance tax planning themselves. Where their own estate already has an inheritance tax liability, they may choose to divert their new inheritance to their ultimate beneficiary, thus avoiding a double inheritance tax liability. We can advise on the inheritance tax position and produce the necessary documentation to affect these changes.
How we can help
When the time comes to administer a person’s estate and pass on their wealth according to the terms of their Will, our team can guide you through the probate process. The administration of the estate of someone who has died is a complex area and no two cases are the same. If you would like to apply for a grant of letters of administration, need to discuss which inheritance tax forms you will need to complete when liaising with HMRC, or value the estate to establish if any inheritance tax is due, please contact our Wills, Trusts & Estates client team.
Court of Protection
If an individual has started to lose or has lost mental capacity, it can be very difficult for their family to take control of decisions concerning their finances and welfare. The Court of Protection exists to safeguard vulnerable people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves regarding their finances or health and welfare.
The Court of Protection is a special Court which is set up to assist those who are unable to make decisions about their property and financial affairs or health and welfare decisions (where they have not made or could not make lasting or enduring powers of attorney). In these circumstances, the Court of Protection has the power to appoint a deputy to make decisions if a person lacks capacity to decide for themselves.
Any Deputyship order the Court does make, will set out the deputy’s specific powers and there remains an ongoing duty for the deputy to assess whether the person has capacity to make each separate decision as it arises. Several members of the team at THP Solicitors have acted as professional deputies over many years and together have considerable experience of this complex and challenging area of law.
The Office of the Public Guardian protects people who lack capacity by setting up and managing a register of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA); Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA); or supervising deputies.
- Property and financial affairs. If you have a loved one or friend who has lost mental capacity and needs assistance with their property and financial affairs, we are able to assist you with an application to the Court of Protection. We will prepare a detailed application which confirms the financial position for the person involved, commission a medical report to assess capacity, and ask the Court to appoint a deputy to manage their property and financial affairs on an ongoing basis.
- Health and welfare decisions. We can assist in relation to one off applications for health and welfare decisions. It is possible to apply to the Court for permission to make decisions about health and welfare on an ongoing basis, but such applications are complex and rarely approved by the Court. Nonetheless, we have had some success with such applications, and we would be happy to speak with you about this if it would be relevant to your circumstances.
- Associated applications. We can also assist existing deputies with applications to the Court for permission to make gifts, statutory Will applications, permission to buy and/or sell property, inheritance tax planning, and applications for a deputy to retire.
How we can help
The Court of Protection requires stringent compliance by the deputy to the administrative standards set by the Court. Our team can help you if you need to make a deputyship application to the Court of Protection including its preparation, progression, issue at Court and ensure that the people who must be notified about the application are told in good time. We can assist deputies with ongoing compliance, the preparation and submission of the annual return, and maintenance of the deputy’s security bond.
Our team can help you if you need to make a deputyship application to the Court of Protection including its preparation, progression, issue at Court and ensure that the people who must be notified about the application are told in good time
Wills & Inheritance Disputes
It is an emotional time when someone dies and it is even more stressful should a dispute arise about a Will, whether you are executor of the estate or a potential claimant. Common Will and inheritance disputes include where:
- there is reason to suspect the Will is not legally valid, including its preparation and witnessing.
- those dealing with the distribution of the deceased assets are not following the instructions in the Will or are not following the rules of intestacy where there was no Will.
- the deceased person has not provided in the Will for someone who is financially dependent on them
- the person making the Will was overly pressurised, for example to include or exclude a person from the Will
- the deceased had lack of mental capacity at the time they made their Will
- a Will has been badly drafted and there is confusion about its interpretation.
How we can help
Our dispute resolution experts can work with you to provide a solution if you find yourself either having to contest a Will or defend a challenge to a Will. In most cases a settlement meeting or formal mediation can produce an acceptable agreement but if there is no alternative to Court application, we will protect your position robustly. Contact us today to see how we can help.
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