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Leaving gifts to charity in your Will

Leaving gifts to charity in your Will

Today is #World Kindness day so we are looking at leaving gifts in your Will to charity.

Recently the Law Society’s Solicitor Chat covered Wills and leaving gifts to charity. Here is a summary of the main points to consider and how JW Hughes can help you with the decisions you wish to make when including a donation to charity in your Will.

What are the benefits of leaving a gift to charity in your Will?

Leaving a gift to charity in your will allows you to support a worthwhile cause, which is likely to rely on this type of donation to continue their work. In addition to helping a charity, if you leave at least 10% of your estate to charity, your estate will benefit from a lower rate of Inheritance Tax. Any gifts given in your Will to a charity will not be subject to Inheritance Tax. Our solicitors will be able to provide more details about Inheritance Tax based on your specific circumstances.

What types of gift can you leave to charity in your Will?

There are several types of gifts you can leave to charity in your Will, such as:

A financial gift of a specific sum of money.
A specified personal item, such as a piece of jewellery or artwork.
A share of the remainder of your estate, known as the ‘residue’ – this is the sum left in your estate after the payment of all expenses and when any other specific gifts stated in your Will have been paid.

In addition, you can also consider stating that a preferred charity could benefit from a house clearance. This will allow your executors to donate your personal and household items to a charity rather than them simply being discarded or thrown away.

Can you specify in your Will how you wish a charity to use a specific gift?

It is possible to specify in your Will how you wish a charity to use the gift but if the charity is unable to follow these requirements then the gift may fail, which can cause complications in the administration of your estate. Alternatively, you can include a request in a letter of wishes asking the charity to use the gift in a certain way. This is not legally binding, but it does mean that the charity will still be able to accept the gift even if they are unable to meet your requirements and they will be aware of your wishes.

What happens if your gift to charity is challenged? Is there any way to avoid this happening?

If your gift to charity is challenged by another party, the charity would have a duty to defend it, which may lead to additional legal fees. Therefore, it may be wise to discuss the gift that you wish to make to charity with your family, so they are aware of your intentions. If the gift is substantial and you are choosing  not to include your relatives in your Will, you could also include a side letter explaining your reasons for doing so. If a person then tries to challenge the gift, the side letter is further proof that your intention was to include the gift in your Will, and this would be considered in court if necessary.

Our experienced lawyers will be able to advise you on your particular circumstances and take appropriate action to reduce the risks of any challenges to your Will by ensuring that it is properly drafted. They will  obtain any medical reports that may be required and consider any other potential claims against your estate.

Do gifts to charities outside the UK differ to those located in the UK?

If donating a gift in your Will to charities in the EU, Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein you can still receive the same Inheritance Tax benefits as you would if donating to a charity located in the UK. Outside these areas, gifts will not receive Inheritance Tax benefits. In addition, donations outside of the UK will not benefit from Gift Aid, which enables the charities to reclaim an extra 25% in tax on each donation made by a UK taxpayer. However, after Brexit this could change. Therefore, it is important to take extra care when including international charities in your Will and one of our experienced solicitors will be able to advise you on this.

How can we help you to leave a gift to charity in your Will?

By speaking one of our solicitors, you will receive expert legal advice tailored to your needs and you can discuss any Inheritance Tax advantages specific to your circumstances. If there are any later challenges against your Will, your solicitor can give evidence of the discussions you have had with them which could help to settle disputes in a timely and cost-effective way.

We can check whether the charity’s branch local to you has its own charity number and, if so, make sure the gift goes to that branch if you wish. We can make sure that the charity’s correct name is used in your Will and can include provision for the charity changing its name, so the gift does not fail. If the charity has preferred wording, we can also make sure this is used, giving you peace of mind that your wishes are in place and will be carried out properly in the event of your death.

If you would like to make a Will or update your current one, please contact us on Llandudno 874774 or Conwy 596596.

 

Wills and Shared Assets

Wills and Shared Assets

WILLS AND SHARED ASSETS

This week’s Solicitor Chat on Twitter covered Wills and Shared Assets. Here is a summary of the main points.

 When someone dies with money in a joint bank account who will this money pass to?

 It will generally automatically pass to the surviving joint account holder upon death of one account holder, under the rules of survivorship.

What is the difference between ‘joint tenants’ and ‘tenants in common’ and how does this affect what you can leave in your will?

Joint tenants both jointly own the whole property which passes by survivorship to the survivor. Tenants in common each own their own share, which may be equal or unequal. Their share would form part of their estate and fall under their will.

Is it possible to leave personal items, such as furniture or artwork, to another person in your will if the item is located in your shared property?

The general rule is that you can leave anything that you own in your lifetime in a properly executed Will, but of course you cannot make a gift in your Will of items which do not belong to you. So, your personal items, such as jewellery or clothes, can be left in your Will. However, items such as furniture may have assumed joint ownership so would be left to the surviving owner(s) of the property. It is essential that for items, such as artwork, ownership is made clear beforehand. It's important that you tell your solicitor if there may be any likely disputes. You should give a description of any item you are gifting to avoid any arguments in the family. It is often a good idea to appoint one of your Executors to be the final decision maker to break any deadlock within the family.

When dealing with distributing your belongings, how can a solicitor help to make sure the assets you leave behind go to the right people?

When your solicitor takes your instructions for your Will, they will ask you which assets you own jointly and which you hold in your sole name. The lawyer will then discuss with you which of these items will pass under your Will and which will not. You can then make an informed decision as to who to leave your Estate to. You will be asked to consider who you would like to be Executors and you need to select people who are trustworthy and who you believe will ensure that your wishes are carried out; these can be professional Executors and are often the solicitors who drafted the Will.

Your Executors have a legal obligation to distribute your Estate in accordance with your Will. Solicitors have professional obligations, as well as their Executors duties, so you can be confident your wishes will be carried out in accordance with your instructions

What is a letter of wishes and how can it benefit people with shared assets?

A letter of wishes is separate to your Will and you can outline in it how you would like certain assets to be used and who can benefit from them. It is a non-binding, informal, confidential expression of wish, setting out how you wish for particular assets to be distributed amongst, what is often, a wide class of potential beneficiaries. A Letter of Wishes is not a binding document but does give the family and Executors an indication of your wishes. There are occasions when it is better for this guidance to be provided outside the formal documentation of the Will. Your Will becomes a public document upon grant of Probate so any sensitive issues can be addressed in the letter of wishes without the contents being known publicly. If you have shared assets you can ask (but not compel) the other owner of the assets to consider giving certain items to individuals as lifetime gifts, deeds of variation or for items to be left in their Wills to beneficiaries once they no longer need them.

 

If you would like to make or update your Will, please contact us on 01492 596596 (Conwy office) or 01492 874774 (Llandudno office).

Relationship Breakdown? How we can help

Relationship Breakdown? How we can help

 

How we can ease your stress during a relationship breakdown

Our expert team of family lawyers will be there for you throughout your divorce, separation or dissolution and we help to reduce stress by providing expert advice on the legal process, giving guidance on your best options, completing all the paperwork on your behalf, corresponding with the Court and the other parties involved, preparing financial breakdowns and providing you with realistic expectations of the outcome. As no two families or breakups are the same, we will provide bespoke, confidential advice, which is completely designed around you, helping you come to the best conclusion for both you and your family.

Getting to know us and you

A relationship breakdown can often be a distressing time where you may need to disclose sensitive and personal information to us. Your client confidentiality is of utmost importance to us and we will respect your privacy and will not judge you. At JW Hughes & Co our family lawyers have had years of experience of dealing with all sorts of cases and they can provide the expert advice you need. 

Do we provide emotional as well as legal support?

Going through a relationship breakdown can be a very emotionally demanding process and we understand that by acknowledging the difficult time you are going through, but we will remain focused on your future. Whilst we will provide a degree of emotional support, we will also maintain a professional approach allowing us to give objective advice, emphasise positive relationships and allow you time to consider the decisions you are making.

Advice for someone facing a relationship breakdown

If your relationship has broken down, we suggest that you seek legal advice at an early stage. Meeting one of our team will inform you of your options and the next steps by focussing on the issues. If children are involved, we encourage you to put them first and try to reduce the impact the relationship breakdown has on them as much as possible.

The value of legal advice

By receiving bespoke legal advice from us at JW Hughes & Co., you can make informed decisions that will be the best for you and your family both now and in the future. You can make sure any necessary assets are protected and have childcare arrangements put in place to minimise the impact on the children. We will help you to reach the best conclusion in a time and cost-effective manner. When a separation is approached with expert legal advice, you are less likely to run into further problems and disagreements in the future, allowing you to focus on building a future for yourself and your family.

At JW Hughes & Co. we offer a free 30-minute initial appointment so you can meet one of the family team and have an initial chat with them about the issues you are facing. We also have a free legal advice clinic at our Llandudno office every Tuesday from 4pm.

If you would like more information or to book an appointment to see one of our family team contact: Philip Kentish pbk@jwhlaw.co.uk , Joseph Hendron jh@jwhlaw.co.uk, Natalie Grimshaw-Jones ngj@jwhlaw.co.uk and Alaw Pari alaw@jwhughes.co.uk at our Llandudno office on 01492 874774 or Debra Carroll dac@jwhlaw.co.uk at our Conwy office on 01492 596596.

 

Government scraps planned probate fee increases

Government scraps planned probate fee increases

The Ministry of Justice has abolished controversial plans to increase probate fees, which would have seen some bereaved families paying up to £6,000 for probate.

What were the proposed probate fee changes?

Earlier this year, the Government revived its 2017 plan for an increase in probate application fees for estates in England and Wales. The proposed changes were set to see fees levied based on the value of an estate, which would have meant that around 56,000 families expected to face bills of between £2,500 and £6,000.

What are the current probate fees?

Currently in the UK, there is a flat fee for probate of £215 for a personal application or £155 for those applying through a solicitor, if the estate is worth £5,000 or more.

Why were probate fees going to increase?

The Government said that the drastic increase in fees would have raised around £185m a year for the Ministry of Justice and was necessary to fund the current comprehensive reform of the courts and tribunal system. However, some charity bodies calculated that moving from a flat fee to a banded system would cost charities around £10m a year.

Why have the new probate fee plans been abolished?

The changes were due to come into force in April this year but were delayed indefinitely as some of the changes still needed to be approved by Parliament. However, following the backlash, Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, has abandoned the proposed changes to probate fees, claiming the rise was not ‘fair and proportionate’.

What will happen now to probate fees?

It is understood that the existing fee structure of £215 for a personal application or £155 for those applying through a solicitor will be retained while the Ministry of Justice conducts a wider review of court fees.

The legal differences between co-habiting and married couples

The legal differences between co-habiting and married couples

Recently, the Law Society’s Solicitor Chat on Twitter was focusing on common law marriage and the difference between the rights of cohabiting couples and married couples. We have summarised the important points below.

What is Common Law marriage?

Is common law marriage a myth? Sadly, yes. People sometimes assume that as they have lived together as man and wife in a long-term relationship that they have legal rights like married couples. However, they may find that, on separation, one partner can be significantly disadvantaged. Although some common law principles will apply to cohabiting couples, they certainty do not enjoy the same rights and protection that are given to married couples. So, there is no common law relationship or common law marital status, a better term would be ‘cohabiting relationship’. Legally, the term ‘spouse’ only applies to people who are married so you cannot be a common law spouse.

What rights do unmarried couples have and how do they differ from married couples?

Unmarried couples do not currently have the same rights as married couples. They are not automatically entitled to any property owned by their partner, nor would they be entitled, for example, to spousal maintenance in the event of a relationship breakdown. You are not automatically entitled to a share of your partner’s property. There is no legal obligation for cohabiting couples to support each other financially, whereas married partners do have a legal duty to support each other.

However, child maintenance is still available as it is intended for the benefit of the child or children of the couple.  However long you have lived with your partner does not guarantee you a share of your former partner’s property or family home but even if you are not the legal owner, you may be able to convince a court to give you a share if you can prove that you contributed financially towards the family home and agreed that you should have a financial interest in it and relied upon that to your detriment.

Can I be responsible for my partner’s debts?

No, you can only be responsible for your debts if you have signed a contract. If you did not sign, then you are not liable.

Can you claim pension benefits as a cohabiting partner?

You may be eligible for dependent’s or survivor’s benefits of your partner’s pension.

What should unmarried parents be aware of?

Although unmarried mothers automatically acquire parental responsibility for a child, unmarried fathers do not acquire parental responsibility for a child unless that father is named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate, by virtue of a court order or by virtue of an official agreement between the parties. Couples should be aware that a father who is not named on a child’s birth certificate will not have parental responsibility for the child. It is important that unmarried fathers consider seeking parental responsibility.

What is a co-habitation agreement and how can it help unmarried couples?

A cohabitation agreement is a written document, drawn up between a couple who have agreed to live together. It can set out what they have agreed regarding one another’s rights and responsibilities in relation to the property where they live or intend to live together. It can also detail the financial arrangements between them during the time they live together and what the financial arrangements will be if they were to separate.

A cohabitation agreement can make all the difference should an unmarried couple separate as it would set out who owns what and in what proportion (and how it would be divided in the event of a separation).

Are there any other measures cohabiting couples can put in place to protect themselves if they split up or one of them dies?

It is always important to have a Will and a Power of Attorney in place in relation to both financial affairs. These should be reviewed regularly and particularly considering any changes in relationship status or personal circumstances. Independent financial advice is also recommended when looking at life insurance and critical illness.

For property, a declaration of trust is recommended to set out the ownership both legally and beneficially. Cohabiting couples also have no automatic right of inheritance should their partner die, so a will is very important to have in place.

 

If you would like to find out more or need help with a relationship breakdown, please contact our family lawyers on Llandudno 874774 or Conwy 596596


 

What to do when someone dies

What to do when someone dies

The death of a loved one is is something we may all have to face at some time but, often, we do not know much about what to do as far as the legal process is concerned. So, we have put together a short guide to help you with the process.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. If the deceased person left a will, they may have specified an executor or executors. These are expected to “execute” the will. An executor has the responsibility to carry out the person’s wishes, as written down in their will. In many cases the family and/or friends of the person will be the executor/s of the will. However, people may also appoint professional executors, such as a solicitor or will writer. If there is no executor named in the will, or if there is no will, someone must become the administrator of the estate.

What to do if there is no Will

Research has shown that nearly half of Britons over 55 do not have a will, so it is quite possible that the deceased died without one, leaving them intestate. The intestacy rules are the principles laid down by law which stipulate how the estate is to be administered if there is no will. First, an application must be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This document gives the person named the authority to administer the deceased person’s estate. This person is known as an administrator.

The rules of intestacy follow a hierarchy of who should benefit from the estate. This order is spouse or civil partner, children/grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts. All this may not be what the deceased person wished, which is why we would highly advise you to make a will (contact our offices to do so).

How do you start the process of Probate?

You will need to obtain a Grant of Representation. This is a document obtained from the court to prove the legal authority of the person entrusted to deal with a deceased person's estate. The kind of grant that you need to obtain will also depend on your circumstances, as mentioned above. If you are a named executor in the Will you will require a Grant of Probate, if you are the administrator with no Will  you will require Letters of Administration and if  you are the administrator of a Will and the Will is present you will require  Letters of Administration. To simplify the process and to receive expert help, please contact our solicitors to act on your behalf to do this.

How long does the process take?

The length of time this process takes is dependent on how complex the deceased’s estate is. For example, if there are multiple houses, bank accounts, assets which were not known to the executor it could take a long time. On average, if the Will is not contested, the whole process can take anywhere between 6-12 months, but it can be much quicker if the estate is simple. A way of minimising delays is to ask a qualified solicitor to make the application on your behalf. This will help to ensure that the Probate application is correctly completed and we would encourage you to contact us today to help you.

How we can help

At JW Hughes & Co. Solicitors we have a team of dedicated solicitors who are ready to help you resolve your query or issue relating to this area of the law as quickly and effectively as possible. If you need assistance with obtaining a grant of probate or letter of administration, or simply want advice on dealing with the Probate Registry, our solicitors have a wealth of experience. They can help you through what can be a difficult time, dealing with estate and trust property and complex estates. Please contact Nick Passey or Rhys Lewis in Conwy on 01492 596596 or Phil Kentish in Llandudno on 01492 874774.

 

Living with Dementia and Planning Future Care

Living with Dementia and Planning Future Care

 

Living with Dementia and Planning Future Care

Last week as part of Dementia Awareness week 2019 our Rhys Lewis took part in the Law Society’s Solicitor Chat on Twitter about living with dementia and planning future care.  His replies to the questions are summarised below.

How can a solicitor help someone living with dementia plan for their future?

Appropriate legal advice is important for people and families who are living with dementia. Things can be put in place at an early stage to ensure peace of mind for a person who is suffering with dementia and their relatives. This can be by way of updating their Will and entering into a Lasting Power of Attorney (if they capacity to do so) or, alternatively, making an application to the Court of Protection to appoint a Deputy. If residential care home fees are a consideration for the person with dementia, then a solicitor can provide advice in this respect. 

What are Lasting Powers of Attorney and what do they cover?

They are documents that enable a ‘donor’ to appoint an ‘attorney’ or ‘attorneys’ to make decisions on their behalf. There are two different types of LPA: one for financial decisions (which includes buying or selling property, paying bills, investing money etc) and one for health decisions (which includes decisions about medical care, where the donor should live, what activities the donor should take part in and even things as simple as what the donor should eat).

They can only be entered into if the donor has the mental capacity to do so but once they are registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, they will remain valid until the donor dies or cancels it.  

Even if a person is not suffering with any form of mental condition, a Lasting Power of Attorney can be created at an early course and kept in storage just in case it is ever required. This ensures that you have someone you trust implicitly managing your affairs should you not be able to.

What is a deputy and how can you become one?

A deputy is appointed by the Court of Protection to manage the affairs of someone who lacks mental capacity. This would be appropriate way forward if a person has already lost mental capacity and cannot create a Lasting Power of Attorney. To become a deputy, you must apply to the Court of Protection by completing several application forms and paying the appropriate fee(s).  A Solicitor can assist with completing the application forms. 

What is an advance statement and how can it help someone living with dementia?

When a person lacks mental capacity and there is no Lasting Power of Attorney or Court appointed Deputy in place, then decisions about a person’s care or wellbeing are taken by a professional such as a Doctor. In these circumstances an Advance Statement helps to ensure that a person’s wishes in respect of their care are considered when these decisions are made. It is not a legally binding document but in practice it must be considered by professionals if they are deciding what is in a person’s best interests.

What advice would you give to someone living with dementia when it comes to planning for the future?

Take appropriate legal advice at an early course. If a person has any significant assets (property, pension, savings etc) the quicker things are put in place for the future the better. If a person has any specific wishes in terms of care either just by personal choice or by way of religious values or beliefs, a Solicitor can assist to ensure that these wishes are protected.

If you would like to make a Will or a Lasting Power of Attorney, please contact Rhys Lewis or Nick Passey in our Conwy office on 596596, or Phil Kentish in our Llandudno office on 874774.