IHT nil rate band set to rise

6th Dec 2012
George Osborne revealed in his Autumn statement that the tax free nil-rate band for inheritance tax (IHT) will increase in year 2015/16. ...
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IHT nil rate band set to rise

6th Dec 2012

George Osborne revealed in his Autumn statement yesterday that the tax free nil-rate band for inheritance tax (IHT) will increase to £329,000 in year 2015/16.

The current nil-rate of £325,000 has been in place since 2009.

The increase in the nil-rate band means that as of 2015/16 a married couple/civil partnership will be able to leave £658,000 before IHT is payable.

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Give to charity and the tax man pays!

17th Sep 2012
Today sees the start of ‘Remember a Charity Week’ which seeks to bring awareness about the importance of charitable gifts in Wills. ...
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Give to charity and the tax man pays!

17th Sep 2012

Give to charity and the tax man pays!

Pavilion Row is a supporter of ‘Remember a Charity’. Today sees the start of ‘Remember a Charity Week’ which seeks to bring awareness about the importance of charitable gifts in Wills.

Did you know that whilst 75% of people give to charity in their lifetime only 7% leave anything in their Will?

Following recent changes to inheritance tax (IHT) it is worth remembering when giving to charity there are tax advantages now available. If you plan to give 4% of your net estate to charity you can increase the gift to 10% without reducing the amount of inheritance the other beneficiaries receive. The tax man pays the difference!

From April 2012 IHT is reduced from 40% to 36% for people who leave at least 10% of their net estate to charity. This lower rate can only apply if part of the estate is chargeable to IHT at 40%. For example:


Example 1 Example 2
Net Estate £100,000 Net Estate £100,000
Charity Receives 4% £4,000 Charity Receives 10% £10,000
Remainder to be taxed £96,000 Remainder to be taxed £90,000
Tax at 40% £38,400 Tax at 36% £32,400
Inheritance for other beneficiaries £57,600 Inheritance for other beneficiaries £57,600

 

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SRA state “we haven’t failed to act”

27th Jun 2012
The SRA has asked us to point out that Elisabeth Davies, Chairman of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, did not state that the SRA had "failed to act." ...
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SRA state “we haven’t failed to act”

27th Jun 2012

Following our story “The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) fails to act against those writing bad wills”, published yesterday, the SRA has asked us to point out that Elisabeth Davies, Chairman of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, did not state that the SRA had “failed to act” but simply they were “unaware of any action”.

In a letter to the Legal Services Board she states “Our jointly commissioned research found that solicitors and unregulated will-writers were equally culpable for producing sub-standard wills. However, while we are heartened by trade association initiatives to correct problems, we are unaware of any action to date by the SRA.”

Full details of Elisabeth Davies’ letter can be found here

In response, Antony Townsend, SRA Chief Executive, said: “The SRA strongly supports the LSB’s proposal that the list of reserved legal activities be extended to include will writing and estate administration. This step is necessary to secure the public interest. Consumers of these services are often particularly vulnerable and prone to exploitation; they need the protections which only proportionate regulation can provide.

In addition to undertaking supervision and enforcement activity where particular problems arise with will writing, we are now discussing with all our stakeholders how to improve standards of will writing both within the existing regulated sector and in the proposed new regulated community of will writers.”

Pavilion Row is happy to clarify the situation and apologise for any confusion.

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Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) fails to act against those writing bad wills

26th Jun 2012
The SRA is failing to take action against solicitors who produced sub-standard wills. ...
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Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) fails to act against those writing bad wills

26th Jun 2012

The SRA is failing to take action against solicitors who produced sub-standard wills for their clients according to Elisabeth Davies, Chairman of the Legal Services Consumer Panel.

In a letter to the Legal Services Board she states “Our jointly commissioned research found that solicitors and unregulated will-writers were equally culpable for producing sub-standard wills. However, while we are heartened by trade association initiatives to correct problems, we are unaware of any action to date by the SRA.”

The pressure for regulation continues. Ms Davies also states in the letter “We are acutely conscious that consumers will continue to lack adequate protections until regulation is introduced so it is important that this happens speedily. I know that the LSB is aware of this and will work with colleagues at the Ministry of Justice to make progress as quickly as possible.”

References

Legal Services Consumer Panel

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On the Road to Regulation

3rd May 2012
Pavilion Row is very excited by the LSB announcement last week of their proposals to regulate the area of will-writing and estate administration. ...
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On the Road to Regulation

3rd May 2012

Pavilion Row is very excited by the Legal Services Board (LSB) announcement last week of their proposals to regulate the area of will-writing and estate administration.

There are two key parts of the proposal

  • The recommendation that will-writing and estate administration activities be added to the list of reserved activities ( reserved activities are activities that can only be offered for a fee by regulated organisations)
  • Improvement of existing legal services regulation that currently applies to the majority of providers, e.g. solicitors, where the LSB’s view is that “currently it is not working well for consumers.”

Importantly their recommendations apply to all providers rather than just those with professional titles and are centred on a vision of consumers being best served by “competition between diverse providers within a well regulated market place”.

However, regulation is not going to happen overnight.

There are a number of consultations to go through before the LSB produce their final report in the Winter. And the LSB have stated that reservation should not take full effect until there are;

  • Approved regulators in place
  • Enough authorised providers to undertake the work

In our view it could be at least two years before this happens.

Pavilion Row is for regulation. We believe it provides a level playing field for all providers which will in return improve competition, innovation and the service delivered to customers. This can only be positive!

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New Research Examining the Markets for Probate and Estate Administration

20th Mar 2012
The LSB has published new research into probate and estate administration. ...
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New Research Examining the Markets for Probate and Estate Administration

20th Mar 2012

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published new research into probate and estate administration. Two surveys were commissioned – a consumer survey and one involving the providers of these services.

Drawing evidence from the LSB’s research the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) has recommended that probate and estate administration should be made reserved activities along with will-writing services.

However the LSCP has stated that “There should be no monopoly for existing authorised persons; any business wishing to provide these services should be able to seek authorisation.”

The LSB will be issuing proposals as a result of its investigation into the regulation of will-writing, probate and estate administration in late April.

If you want further details regarding the findings please contact us.

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Inheritance Tax – Holiday lets are entitled to business property relief, says tribunal

3rd Feb 2012
The ruling states that the let was not an investment. ...
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Inheritance Tax – Holiday lets are entitled to business property relief, says tribunal

3rd Feb 2012

The First Tier Tribunal has rejected an attempt by HM Revenue & Customs to treat a holiday letting cottage as an investment and thus deny it business property relief from IHT.

In a recent case the tribunal ruled that a holiday let was too active an operation to be an investment and no intelligent businessman would treat it as anything but a business asset.

The tribunal found that:

  • The exploitation of the property as a holiday letting cottage amounted to the operation of a business for more than two year before the person’s death.
  • Even though it was not consistently profitable, the business was conducted with a view to gain and therefore satisfied the “for gain” requirement in section 103(3) of IHTA 1984.
  • The business did not consist wholly or mainly of holding investments so as to be excluded from the term “relevant business property” by the operation of section 105(3) of IHTA 1984.

We understand that the HMRC held back a number of other similar cases pending the tribunal’s outcome. Therefore the decision has been widely awaited and will attract considerable interest.

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Will the industry ever change?

31st Jan 2012
2011 - What a year for the Probate and Will industry. ...
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Will the industry ever change?

31st Jan 2012

2011 – What a year for the Probate and Will industry. It saw intense media scrutiny, a mystery shopping exercise, a Legal Services Board (LSB) report and a ‘call for evidence’ regarding the industry’s activities.

The need for regulation is being examined with serious intent. And importantly the consumer benefit of alternative non solicitor providers is now widely accepted.

But where does this leave us now, what is the fall out and what do you need to look out for?

2012 – We wait for the results of the LSB’s call for evidence to confirm whether they will make recommendations for regulatory protections. And we also have the Legal Services Act set to shake up the legal industry like never before.

Pavilion Row’s view is that the industry should be and will be regulated but while we wait here’s a check list to help ensure you get the right and best advice.

  • Make sure the appointed professional is a fully qualified member of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners (STEP). This is an absolute must. Not all solicitors are members of STEP and not all STEP members are solicitors
  • Check that the firm has professional indemnity insurance with a reputable firm
  • In a Will don’t appoint a professional executor unless you have written confirmation that they will stand down if requested
  • For probate, get confirmation of the fees and how they are calculatedRequest a fixed fee for probate. This will be possible in many cases but if not the firm should be able to explain why

At Pavilion Row all client advisors, will-drafters and probate administrators are qualified through STEP. We continue to offer a Will review service for anyone who is concerned.

Also, give us a call before committing to another provider. We are happy to give a quote and provide initial advice without charge.

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Will-Writing, STEP demands proper protection for consumers

29th Nov 2011
STEP has published a very helpful leaflet stating their views and position. ...
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Will-Writing, STEP demands proper protection for consumers

29th Nov 2011

In response to the ongoing investigating into the need to regulate will-writing and the associated fields of probate and estate administration STEP* has published a very helpful leaflet stating their views and position.

The leaflet outlines;

  • some of the current problems in the will-writing market
  • what STEP is doing to give consumers confidence they are dealing with well-qualified, reputable practitioners
  • how STEP plans to participate in future regulatory initiatives

An extract taken from the leaflet, which is titled ‘Building Consumer-Confidence in Will Writing’, states:

“Inevitably, the process of putting effective regulation in place for the will-writing and estate administration markets will take some time. In the meanwhile, the legal services market continues to change rapidly, not least with the arrival of alternative business structures widening the options for how legal services providers can be owned and potentially opening the way for an array of new entrants into the marketplace. STEP therefore decided early on that it needed to take measures to reassure consumers using STEP Members that they were dealing with practitioners with both proven standards of technical competence and a commitment to a strong professional code of conduct.”

The full leaflet can be found on http://www.step.org/pdf/WillWriting_WEB.pdf

At Pavilion Row all our client advisers, will drafters and probate administrators are qualified through STEP. We also follow and are committed to STEP’s professional code of conduct.

*STEP (The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) is the worldwide professional body for practitioners in the fields of trusts and estates, executorship, administration and related issues.

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IFP Financial Planning Week 2011

22nd Nov 2011
Financial Planning Week aims to raise awareness of how important financial planning is. ...
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IFP Financial Planning Week 2011

22nd Nov 2011

This week is Financial Planning Week which is run by the Institute of Financial Planners as a consumer awareness campaign to help you take simple steps to improve your financial “fitness”.

Its aim is to raise awareness of how important financial planning is. Making smart financial decisions to help achieve your goals and dreams in life is the first step towards taking control and gaining valuable peace of mind.

One such important financial decision is making a will.

If you do not have a will consider;

  • Who is going to inherit when you die? Your partner or husband/wife does not automatically get everything.
  • What age do you want your children to inherit? Without a will they will get everything at the age of just 18!
  • Who is going to look after your children? Without a will it might be the courts who decide?

For more information on making a will read our helpful guide ‘Why make a will’

If you have already taken the step to make a will consider;

  • When did you last review your will? It is recommended that you check it every 3-5 years to ensure it remains relevant.
  • Have your circumstances changed since making your last will? Having already made a will changing it to be appropriate for your current circumstances will be a much easier decision.
  • Do you have a professional executor, e.g. solicitor or bank, appointed in your will? If so, do you have confirmation in writing that they will stand down if requested by all beneficiaries. If not, did you know that you risk tying your beneficiaries to them and paying their professional fees.

Making a will gives you the peace of mind that everything is in order should the worse happen.

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Is the Law Society missing the point and misleading the consumer?

3rd Oct 2011
The Law Society has been running a 'Choose quality advice' campaign. ...
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Is the Law Society missing the point and misleading the consumer?

3rd Oct 2011

Over the last month the Law Society has been running a ‘Choose quality advice – your solicitor qualified to help’ campaign. But are they missing the point and misleading the consumer in some areas of law?

It states that we should use a specialist and be prepared to shop around – but isn’t this the case for most services.

It mentions that if the customer has a complaint regarding a solicitor they can go to the legal ombudsman while if they go to an unregulated legal service provider, such as a non-solicitor will writer, they don’t have the same recourse. Yes, this is true and the reason why it is now accepted that will-writing will become regulated sooner rather than later. Regulation is already happening in Scotland.

The campaign further states that all solicitors must hold a practising certificate issued by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). This “guarantees” that the solicitor is qualified to practise: herein lies the problem, qualified in What? A practising certificate confirms they have completed their solicitor training but it does not guarantee specialist knowledge in each and every area of law.

In fact in an area such as probate and wills there is no longer a mandatory examination. A solicitor can practice without their knowledge being tested.

This lack of knowledge and education in the field of will-writing is highlighted in a recent report by the Legal Services Board (LSB). The report published the results of their investigation into will-writing which found one in four of the wills examined to be inadequate. That is 25% of the wills written. It further states that “the same proportion of wills prepared by solicitors and will-writing companies were failed”.

The issue with training and education is further highlighted by a recent letter in the Law Society’s own Gazette. The letter is entitled “Legal training falls short on will drafting”.

In the area of probate and wills ‘properly’ qualified advisers are members of the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP) recognised by the letters TEP after their name. Not all solicitors offering probate and will services are members of STEP. And furthermore not all members of STEP, i.e. those with the specialist knowledge in this field, are solicitors.

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York firm proves funding is available

12th Jul 2011
Pavilion Row is proving to regional businesses that funding streams are available for business improvement. ...
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York firm proves funding is available

12th Jul 2011

A York-based probate and wills service is proving to other businesses across the region that funding streams are still available for business improvement.

Pavilion Row, established twelve months ago by MD Angus Houston, has recently accessed funding support from the Skills Funding Agency in conjunction with Leeds-based business consultancy Strategy to Succeed Ltd.

Angus explained: “I think this proves that it’s not all doom and gloom on the funding front and there are still resources available to assist businesses.

“We carry out probate administration which some see as a legal process but we view very much as an area of administration supported by effective management.

“The process mapping we are undertaking with Strategy to Succeed Ltd will make our approach to managing staff skills far more effective and focused and determine what roles can be carried out and by whom.

“The funding from the SFA has proved invaluable,” added Angus who has a management background within large scale outsourcing firms. He qualified in 2009 with STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practioners) and sits on their regional committee.

Strategy to Succeed Ltd, established in 2010, is a business consultancy that utilises a network of skilled associates to deliver a comprehensive range of strategic and operational business development solutions.

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