Maxwell Hodge
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Our first class legal team is specifically designed to give
you and your family the complete service, with
strength, support and efficiency throughout.

Wills and Probate

solicitors for the elderly

 

Making a Will


Death is something that most of us would rather not think about and perhaps this is why approximately 70% of people die without leaving a Will – the main reason for this is "not having time to get round to it". 

There are many misconceptions surrounding Wills.  People incorrectly assume that "everything will automatically pass to my spouse" or that they don't need a Will because they don't see themselves as being particularly "wealthy" but this may not always be the case. 

Why should I make a Will?

  • If you do not make a Will, the law dictates who will inherit your estate. You may find that family members you dislike or have never even met end up benefiting from your estate.  You can decide who inherits your estate if you have made a Will.
  • If you are married or in a civil partnership, do not assume that your spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit everything from you as this is not always the case.  The only way you can ensure that your spouse or civil partner inherits everything from your estate is by making a Will.
  • The law does not make provision for unmarried partners, therefore it is essential for unmarried couples to make a Will to ensure that they provide for each other. 
  • To ensure that your children are cared for on your death by appointing guardians in your Will and make financial provisions for your children's upkeep and education.
  • It will confirm who will sort out your financial affairs when you have died. Your Executors are usually family members, friends or professional advisors.  Executors should be chosen with care as it is a big responsibility.  Maxwell Hodge offer a full Executor service if you are looking for Executors who will provide a professional yet caring service and handle your estate as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Beneficiaries can be appointed as Executors.
  • It may help you to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax payable on your estate or help to preserve assets in relation to care home fees. 
  • It ensures that your assets are disposed of as you wish, reducing arguments between family members as to who gets what.  It therefore helps to reduce trauma for your loved ones and can also avoid potentially costly legal problems. 
  • To ensure all is not lost for the children after a parent's second marriage.

Are you now wondering why you have never made the time to sort out your Will?  Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today; make an appointment with one of our experienced Lifetime Planning Solicitors who will advise you on all aspects of making your Will.   Achieve peace of mind for you and your family by ensuring that your affairs are in order and your wishes recorded professionally by one of our specialist Solicitors.

Probate


Administering an Estate

When you have suffered a bereavement, dealing with the estate of a loved one can be a distressing and daunting task.  Whilst it is a mark of respect to have been appointed as an Executor of somebody's estate, it brings with it a great deal of responsibility and a risk of personal financial liability if problems arise. 

In order to administer an estate, it is often necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation.  The two most common types are:

  1. Grant of Probate (where the deceased died testate i.e. leaving a Will)
  2. Grant of Letters of Administration (where the deceased died intestate i.e. without leaving a Will)

However, if the estate is relatively small or if all of the deceased's assets were held jointly with another person then it may not be necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation.

It is the responsibility of the Personal Representative (called an Executor if there is a Will, or an Administrator if there is not) to administer the deceased's estate correctly.  A Personal Representative must decide whether to take on the responsibility of personally administering the estate or whether to instruct a professional advisor such as Maxwell Hodge to help alleviate the burden. 

The main duties of a Personal Representative are as follows:

  1. identify and value the deceased's assets e.g. property, shares etc.
  2. identify debts and possible claims against the estate
  3. prepare the relevant tax account for HMRC and calculate whether any Inheritance Tax is due on the estate
  4. pay any Inheritance Tax due on the estate (within a certain time period)
  5. make the application to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Representation
  6. gather in funds
  7. advertise for creditors
  8. protect the estate against potential claims
  9. transfer or sell property, shares etc bearing Capital Gains Tax in mind
  10. pay any outstanding liabilities and finalise the tax affairs of the deceased
  11. prepare the Estate Accounts
  12. distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will or Intestacy Rules.

Personal Representatives must act carefully as they may be personally liable for any loss to the estate which occurs as a result of their actions or decisions. 

That is why it is always advisable to instruct a solicitor to handle or assist with the administration of the estate.

Our specialist Solicitors can alleviate your burden. We have many years of experience in the administration of estates and will ensure that the administration process is dealt with smoothly, efficiently and always in a sensitive manner. 

If you are faced with a recent bereavement and would like assistance with the administration of an estate or if you simply need assistance with extracting the Grant of Representation, contact one of our specialist Solicitors now to guide you through the process and provide support and expertise when you need it most.

Court of Protection

If a loved one has lost their mental capacity and is unable to manage their day to day financial affairs, it will be necessary for a family member, friend or professional advisor to make an application to the Court of Protection for the appointment of a Deputy (unless a valid Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney is in place). 

A Deputy is appointed by the Court of Protection to manage the financial affairs of a person who is proven unable to deal with their own affairs.

The application to the Court is a complicated process and it usually takes several months to complete.  There are numerous lengthy forms to complete which can be a daunting task, and the Court often has such a caseload that there are substantial delays at Court.

We would be happy to assist you through the process or deal with the application to the Court of Protection on your behalf.

It is important to remember that anybody who is appointed as a Deputy will need to devote a significant amount of time on a regular basis to dealing with the financial affairs of another.  On the appointment of a Deputy the Court of Protection will closely monitor the Deputy's actions and request that detailed accounts be delivered on an annual basis.  It is therefore vital that a Deputy keeps all bank statements and a record of all payments made.

The preparation of the annual accounts can also be a difficult and daunting task.  We offer a service to assist you with the preparation of this to help to alleviate some of the stress and pressure from such a demanding role.

For further information or advice on your individual circumstances please contact one of our specialist Solicitors who will be happy to help.

Inheritance and Estate Planning

Inheritance Tax is a tax which is payable on the overall value of an estate where the value at the date of death is over £325,000 for a single person, with a maximum allowance of £650,000 for married couples or civil partners.   Anything over these values (2010/2011) is taxed at 40%.

Dying is something that few of us like to think about and even fewer of us like the thought of handing over more of our hard earned cash to the taxman than is necessary.

None of us know when our time will come and that is why it is so important to act now and seek advice on Inheritance Tax and Estate Planning whilst you still can.  The earlier you act, the greater chance you have of taking full advantage of the opportunities available and maximising the inheritance that passes on to your loved ones.

We can help you with:

  • Drawing up a tax efficient Will
  • Advising you on making full use of your tax exemptions on lifetime transfers
  • Optimising lifetime transfers between spouses or civil partners
  • Preserving your assets in relation to care home fees
  • Transferring assets into Trusts
  • Advising on Capital Gains Tax issues (preferable to Inheritance Tax in some cases)
  • When considering Inheritance Tax & Estate Planning it is important to ensure that you make adequate provisions for you and your spouse in later years.  Striking a balance between saving on tax and ensuring you have a comfortable retirement is often a difficult task, however, we have the knowledge and experience to assist you when considering such important decisions.

Recent changes in law now make it possible for a surviving spouse or civil partner to utilise their own nil rate band (currently £325,000) and also utilise any unused nil rate band from the first spouse’s death.  This could potentially mean a double inheritance tax exemption (i.e. £325,000 x 2) could be applied to your estate.  Contact our specialised Inheritance Tax & Estate Planning Solicitors for further information.

If somebody has died without leaving a tax efficient Will, or without making a Will at all, all is not lost.  It may be possible (within 2 years from the date of death) to rearrange the way they have left their assets and redistribute them in a more tax efficient manner by a Deed of Variation  (or a Deed of Family Arrangement).  Due to the strict time limits it is important to seek advice as soon as possible.

Contact us for further information about how we can help you to maximise the assets that you can pass on to your chosen beneficiaries.

Lasting Power of Attorney

We take it for granted that we are able to look after our own day to day financial affairs, and will always be able to do so.  However, this could change at any time (and sometimes very suddenly) for a number of reasons. An accident, physical illness or the onset of a mental illness, could result in difficulties managing your day-to-day affairs. 

Although this is something that we do not like to think about, these difficulties can be overcome by appointing Attorneys in advance under a Lasting Power of Attorney.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

 There are currently two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney:

  • A Property and Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint somebody you trust to make decisions on your behalf about your property and financial affairs. 
  • A Personal Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to appoint somebody you trust to make decisions on your behalf in relation to personal healthcare and welfare. 

Your Attorneys can act for you and take decisions for you if you are too ill to make such decisions for yourself or if you are suffering from mental illness.

A Lasting Power of Attorney cannot be used until it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

Who can make a Lasting Power of Attorney?

You can make a Lasting Power of Attorney provided you are over the age of 18 years and still have the ability to make your own decisions.

Why might somebody put a lasting Power of Attorney in place? 

  • A Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to choose who you would like to look after your financial affairs and make decisions for you if you become unable to do so in the future.
  • A common situation in which people decide to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place is when they have been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia, whereby their capacity is likely to deteriorate over time.
  • If you own a property or other assets you should consider putting a Property and Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney in place as an insurance measure for the future.  After all, you cannot predict the future. You never know when you may need some assistance in dealing with your affairs.
  • A Lasting Power of Attorney offers peace of mind for the future, knowing that you have appointed somebody to deal with your financial affairs or make welfare decisions on your behalf if necessary.
  • A Lasting Power of Attorney will make things easier for your family members and friends, as your attorneys will be able to deal with your financial affairs quickly or make healthcare decisions on your behalf with your authority.

What happens if you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place?

  • Your family members or friends will not be authorised to assist you with your financial affairs or make decisions in relation to your health or welfare.
  • If you are unable to deal with your affairs and no longer have the capacity to put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, your family will have to apply to the Court of Protection to have somebody appointed by the Court to deal with your financial affairs on your behalf.
  • A Court of Protection application takes away your ability to decide who is to look after your financial affairs.  It is also very expensive and time consuming to set up and your financial affairs will be left in abeyance whilst waiting for the Court Order to be issued.
  • A Court of Protection application would not provide anybody with the ability to make decisions regarding your health and welfare, unless specifically ordered.

The Solicitors in our Lifetime Planning Department have a wealth of experience in advising and preparing Lasting Power of Attorney (and what were previously known as Enduring Powers of Attorney).

We recognise that the issues which need to be faced are very often challenging and emotional and we strive to offer a professional yet informal and caring service.

We appreciate that it is often helpful if clients can be seen in the familiarity and comfort of their own homes and can therefore make home visits if requested.

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