Proposed probate court fees increase – scrapped for now!

21st Apr 2017
In a surprise U-turn last night the Ministry of Justice have scrapped for now the … ...
Find out more

Proposed probate court fees increase – scrapped for now!

21st Apr 2017

In a surprise U-turn last night the Ministry of Justice have scrapped for now the proposed increase in probate fees. They have stated that there is not enough time for the proposed legislation to go through parliament ahead of the general election.

Nothing has been said as yet on whether scheme will be brought back if the government are re-elected.

Further Reading:
BBC News

Close

Minimising the Risks of Inheritance Feuds

2nd Apr 2014
It is a simple fact that the number of probate claims continues to rise year on year. There are, in my experience, four major reasons for this. ...
Find out more

Minimising the Risks of Inheritance Feuds

2nd Apr 2014

Why do estates become contentious?

Guest Article – Martin Holdsworth, Jones Myers LLP

It is a simple fact that the number of probate claims continues to rise year on year. There are, in my experience four major reasons for this:

  • Too many people die either without a Will or an out of date Will. The Intestacy Rules then rarely allow for the distribution of an estate to provide for a family in the way which the deceased wanted. Without any kind of agreement between ALL the beneficiaries (assuming they are all over 18 years), an application to court is inevitable.
  • Many family units now include step-parents and step-children (the blended family unit). Extra care is needed when advising members of blended families as to the obligations that may exist across the whole family unit and perhaps most importantly how those obligations are met after the first parent’s death.
  • Individuals are now, on average, living longer. Figures from the Office of National Statistics demonstrate that life expectancy over the next 50 years will increase by an incredible 8 years; to 87 for men and 90 for women. With an aging population the incidence of dementia increases and with it allegations of failing capacity and Will challenges.
  • The final significant factor is the reality that, due mainly to house price increases, estates are now worth more than ever before. An inheritance or lack of one can make a huge difference to someone’s financial and emotional wellbeing and it is no surprise, that in a more litigious society, claims are investigated to challenge testamentary provision.

It follows, therefore, that when someone makes a Will, the person they use must give careful consideration to areas where claims are likely.

“With care and knowledge, it is possible to identify and minimise the risk of post-death litigation.” Martin Holdsworth – Jones Myers LLP

The best start point for this is undoubtedly to know your client and understand not just the extent of their personal wealth but also their family dynamics. From this the client must be made aware of the consequential obligations of their circumstances which arise in all manner of ways, some of which may not be obvious.

Whilst testamentary freedom exists, consideration must be given to anyone where the will maker has created a financial obligation. Some are obvious – a spouse, cohabitee or any children still in education for example. However, some are not. I have been involved with claims by ex-spouses, ex-cohabitees, tenants (living rent free in a property owned by the deceased), adult children, mistresses and other individuals who were maintained financially in some form. Seeing a client away from their spouse can make disclosure easier.

Before full advice can be given in regards to a Will it is crucial that proper instructions are taken and recorded. The instructions given must be comprehensive, the Will Adviser must be satisfied that the person has appropriate mental capacity and consideration must be given to the person’s various obligations.

There is little doubt that probate litigation will continue to increase but by ensuring your clients seek proper advice when doing a Will they will have awareness of where claims can lie and reduce their chances of such litigation.

Close

Planning your digital afterlife

4th Feb 2014
What happens to your digital assets when you die? ...
Find out more

Planning your digital afterlife

4th Feb 2014

What happens to your digital assets when you die?

Our lives in regards to who we are, what we do and what we own are increasingly managed digitally.

Any assets managed digitally, i.e. accessed or held online, are referred to as digital assets. These can range from online gaming accounts, to photos, digital music, bank accounts, domain names, cloud storage etc, etc.

Should you die the duties of your executors in relation to digital assets, as with any other assets, are to identify them and arrange transfer to beneficiaries or sell them. However;

  • How do the executors know the assets exist?
  • Are the assets worth anything?
  • Can the executors access the accounts?

As your Will is usually stored securely you could incorporate details, including passwords and usernames, within it. However this is not very practical; every time you change something you would need to change your Will.

The key is that people know the assets exist. A simple list stored with other important documents will at least tell your executors what you’ve got and where to find it.

But are these assets worth anything?

It has always been common for people to leave books, CDs, vinyl collections etc to someone in their Will but what about online versions? Buy music from iTunes and you don’t own it; you simply have a perpetual licence to play the music. The licence is personal and not transferrable. In effect you are just renting it. Similarly digital book providers, such as Kindle, prevent a purchaser from passing on e-books or sharing passwords.

By contrast online games may have a value especially where a lot of time has been spent accumulating a character’s skills, weapons, money etc. Websites such as www.armorybids.com run auctions of gaming accounts allowing you to sell on these characters.

However digital assets are of no value if nobody knows they exist. Frequently forgotten digital assets include loyalty programmes such as air miles which CAN often be transferred.

But how do my executors access the accounts?

The law in this area has been slow to catch up with technology. Currently accessing the deceased accounts with their username and password may mean the executor is committing fraud!

Many companies providing online services have created their own polices for dealing with deceased accounts such as Google’s ‘inactive account manager’. There are also online password storage facilities, like Password Box, with legacy features but these still don’t resolve the issue of whether or not your executors can access your accounts. The problem is there’s no set approach.

In a bid to resolve this issue STEP has created a Working Group to look at access, control and ownership of digital assets when a user dies or is incapacitated. The intention of the group is to create a protocol that can be adopted by all online providers. The challenge will be how, when this is an international market, to create one approach that can be adopted globally.

This is an increasingly important issue with, as yet, no definitive outcomes. We will keep you updated as things develop.

Close

6 Ways to Avoid a Probate Nightmare

20th Jan 2013
We see all too often the mess left behind when somebody has not got their affairs in order, so to help avoid this we’ve created a checklist. ...
Find out more

6 Ways to Avoid a Probate Nightmare

20th Jan 2013

It is now 3 weeks into 2013 and many of those New Year’s resolutions are falling by the wayside.

One of the most popular resolutions is ‘sorting out my finances’ whether this is to get out of debt, save money or simply getting affairs in order.

But how do you actually achieve that New Year’s resolution?

We see all too often, through probate, the mess left behind when somebody has not got their affairs in order. This leads to needless complications, delays, stress and ultimately extra cost.

So to help avoid this we’ve created a checklist. Follow this and hopefully by 2014 ‘getting your affairs in order’ won’t need to be one of your resolutions!

  • Checklist for getting your affairs in order
  • Get all your paperwork in order and easy to find – making it simpler and quicker for your executors to administer your estate
  • Check all relevant polices are in Trust and going to the right people – avoiding assets going into your estate and delays in releasing the money
  • Make the most of tax exemptions now! – Lifetime gifts, annual exemption and regular gifts out of income are simple ways in which you can reduce your exposure to inheritance tax.
  • Make a Will – many people simply don’t get around to it, don’t be one of them!
  • Review your Will – well done for having one but it needs to be kept up to date;
  • Let people know where your Will is – there is no point having one if nobody can find it!

Look out over the coming weeks for our series on ‘Avoiding a Probate Nightmare’.

Close