ESTATE PLANNING IN READING & HENLEY INCLUDING WILLS, TRUSTS & MORE
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.
Powers 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 Powers 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:
Before 1st October 2007, a person with capacity could grant an Enduring Powers 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.
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:
On a person’s death, inheritance tax of 40% is charged on the value of their estate over the inheritance tax threshold, known as the nil rate band (NRB), which currently stands at £325,000. A further residential nil rate band (RNRB) of £175,000 has been added as a ‘top up’ in respect of one residential property. Both this and the nil rate band will be frozen, (so the RNRB won’t be index-linked and we’ll have to see what happens in 2026 if inheritance tax still exists in its current form). However, as is often the case, there are restrictions which include:
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 on 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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. An executor who gets it wrong may have to pay out of their own pocket to recompense beneficiaries and/or HMRC. 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 who 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.
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.
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.
Wills & Inheritance Disputes
Declaration of Trust
A Declaration of Trust is a document drawn by co-habiting couples who have a joint interst in a property. It records what they have agreed regarding their financial arrangements and what should happen in various eventualities, both during their relationship and if they ever separate. This document can be used to confirm both parties intention regarding financial matters and can help alleviate any future disputes or misunderstanding.
Arrangements covered in a Declaration of Trust could include:
Co-habiting couples should also make sure that they have Wills, as if one party dies the surviving co-habitee will not be able to rely on the rules of intestacy to protect them.
If a cohabitating couple separate and property is owned between them, or one party is the sole owner of a property and the other party wants to claim an interest in it, a dispute may arise as to what the respective parties are entitled to. If a dispute escalates and goes to Court, a Declaration of Trust will outline to the Court what the common interest was of the parties at the time the property was acquired, and how that has evolved (if at all) over time.