Tony Crocker

Tony Crocker is Director of IWC Estate Planning & Management Ltd. With over 15 years’ experience, he is knowledgeable and proficient in all matters regarding Probate, Will writing, Estate Planning and Inheritance tax avoidance. In addition, he has a wealth of experience in dealing with estate settlements and issues with the capital taxes office in the event of bereavement. As a member of the Society of Will Writers & Estate Planning Practitioners, he is widely respected within the field, having helped many people at difficult points in their lives through complex probate and tax issues. Tony Crocker

Keeping the cost of probate down

The vast majority (about 70%) of those who need assistance with the administration of a will, turn to a professional. In many cases the firm involved may have helped with the writing of the will and been named as executors as part of this process. If so they will be responsible for administering the estate and establishing the amount that is to be charged cost of probate.
Probate fees are generally paid from the estate and come in on average between 2 – 5%, or between £3000-£5000. Of course these figures vary greatly depending on the size of the estate and the number of beneficiaries in the will. There are other factors which may slow the process down and consequently drive the costs up.
If a solicitor or bank has been employed to execute a will then there are a few key tips to be aware of in order to ensure that you keep the probate fees to a minimum.  It is worth noting that the value of the estate should have no bearing on the costs. You should request a quotation for the work in advance.  In most cases you will be told that this is impossible as there are too many variables involved.
It is true that there are elements of the process which may be difficult to predict, but any solicitor, or bank, that has been through the process before should be able to give you a reasonably close approximation of costs. Once they have you should insist on being allowed to find an alternative and then ask if they can match any lower price.
In order to ensure that the process is done as quickly and efficiently as possible make sure that you stay on top of all of the paperwork and keep meetings and other communication to an absolute minimum.
In order to maximise the value of the estate it is worth investing in any properties to be sold as part of the administration process. This will help ensure that the properties are sold quickly, which will keep the fees down, and should also help to realise their maximum value.
The best way to keep costs to a minimum is by using a fixed-fee probate service that gives you a clear price up front and a supportive service along the way. To find out more call our free advice line 0800 612 6105 open until 10pm, 7 days a week.

Is an Executor Required to Make an Application For Probate?

Technically speaking the answer is yes. As part of the process of writing a will there should be a person, or company, nominated to act as executor and it is the responsibility of this individual to make an Application for Probate.
In some cases the person named as executor is not able to make the probate application. They may have passed away, or simply not have the ability to fulfil this process. In these cases another person may step and make an application for Letters of Administration, which will give them the same legal rights as those given with Grant of Probate.
It is common practice for Banks and Lawyers that have provided a will-writing service to have themselves named as executors in these wills. These companies may offer this service free of charge as they can recoup the costs involved when they are administering the estate. Despite the fact that they may have written the will, and been named as executors, there is no obligation to use them. You can ask an executor to resign their position at any time.
If you feel as though the person named as an executor is not the right person for this job you can contact them directly and ask them to resign their position. You might find that the bank or solicitor involved is resistant as they will have some investment in the process. You can ask for them to give you an outline of the costs involved up-front and then compare this against a fixed-fee low cost alternative. If you ask them to price match with the cheaper alternative they will be less likely to compete for the business.
If you would like to find out more about the legal obligations of an executor you can call free on 0800 612 6105, lines are open until 10pm, 7 days a week.

Do you have the time & skills to apply for probate and administer an estate?

In order to answer this question in the first place you must be named as an executor in the will. If you have not been named, or the will does not contain the name of an executor that can perform this function, then you must be a relative or spouse of the deceased.
If you are asked to act as an executor then it’s essential you are comfortable with the position. Many people ask themselves whether they have the skills and the time required to fulfil their duties.
To apply for probate there are a number of forms that need to be completed and submitted to the Probate Registry.  This part of the process is relatively straightforward and so long as you are equipped with some basic form filling skills you should have no problems.  The real question is whether or not you can manage the process once you have received the Grant of Probate which allows you to administer the estate.
There are many complex aspects to this part of the process and the single overarching factor involved is time. Obviously each case is unique and there are many simple estates with a small amount of assets and few beneficiaries.
These will take less time to manage than a more complex estate, but if you are the type of person who leads a busy life, and time is at a premium for you, then you may not have the freedom required to apply for probate. Before you embark on the process you must have a clear timetable and ensure that you will be able to commit the required number of hours to the process to see it through.
In addition to good time management there are many other skills that you are required to have. You will need to be disciplined about completing and storing documentation and have the ability to communicate with all of the stakeholders involved.
Money management skills are imperative as you may have to deal with lots of different banks, building societies, insurance companies, mortgage lenders and realtors as part of the process.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is get some professional advice and find a service that will handle the process for you. There are many alternatives to choose from and if you would like some advice on how to apply call free on 0800 612 6105 for further information.

General Advice on Applying for Probate

The first step in establishing who is responsible for applying for probate is to find the will. This is not always straightforward and in some cases, even when the will has been located, there may be some significant problems.
A considerable number of wills, particularly those that have been created with a DIY solution, have key information missing. They may contain instructions about property and possessions as well as funeral wishes, but not include the name of an executor. In some cases the will might contain the name of an executor who is unable to perform that duty and might not contain the name of a substitute executor. If this is the case then this responsibility usually falls to the next-of-kin who must apply for a grant of Letters of Administration.
If a good will has been made and located that names an executor who is able to perform this duty the next stage in the process is applying for a Grant of Probate. This must be done by submitting the correct application forms to the Probate Registry. Two forms are required at this stage; a Probate Application Form – PA1 and an Inheritance Tax Form.
There are 2 separate inheritance tax forms that may need to be completed. If the estate is greater in value than£325,000 then the executor must submit the IHT400 and IHT421 forms to the Probate Registry for inheritance tax. If the value of the estate is less than this amount then it is deemed to be exempt, but the executor is required to submit the IHT205 with the probate application.
Anyone can apply for a Grant of Probate, but in the majority of cases this is done via a solicitor. If you are going to employ a solicitor to perform this function it is important that you get a clear outline of costs. Most solicitors will charge an hourly rate and if there are any problems with paperwork, or delays in the process, it will increase the costs involved.
It is not necessary to instruct a solicitor to perform this function and increasing numbers of people are turning to professional probate practitioners who will perform the whole process of applying and administering the estate for one fixed cost.
If you have any questions about, why not call the free probate helpline on 0800 612 6105

Leaving holidays as bequests

Where once, inherited items tended to take the form of property, heirlooms and cash, some individuals are choosing instead to pass on holidays or travel gifts to loved ones who either enjoy travelling or who, the person perceives, could simply do with a good time and a rest. 
As unusual as this may sound, the idea of leaving a holiday to someone does also have its financial benefits, should the travel gift be integrated within a trust, which can offer substantial tax savings on the final estate.
In this way, a valuable inheritance such as this is protected from any creditors or change of circumstance such as divorce, which could negatively impact on it. 
When planning your estate, consider options other than the most obvious ones. An experienced and knowledgeable professional will be able to offer suggestions to ensure that whatever you leave behind will not only be financially sound but memorable in the personal sense.

Closing A Discretionary Trust

If you were advised to take out a discretionary trust as part of your will to minimise your inheritance tax liability as part of your estate planning then you should be aware that since the introduction of the transferrable nil rate band in 2007, these trusts are no longer deemed necessary and it may make more financial sense to close your trust.
In the past, if a will included a discretionary trust, this meant that the first spouse’s nil rate band was placed into trust. Now however, with the transferrable nil rate band, as a married couple you can transfer the amount of inheritance tax free allowance between each other. This means that after you both die, your joint estate may have the benefit of two tax free allowances.
If a discretionary trust remains in place, then it will need to be closed between three months and two years after your death, which can attract a substantial cost – much more so than if the will is simply redrafted whilst you are still alive.
There may also be the possibility that if your spouse lives at least another twenty years after your death, more tax will be payable on the final estate than there would be if the trust is closed now.
Contact the team at IWC Ltd who will be able to advise you of the best way to prepare for your discretionary trust to be closed.

Can I be held personally liable as executor?

Executors can indeed be held personally liable if they make a mistake during the probate process – something which they may not have realised when they agreed to act in this role. 
In more complex cases where an estate is not straightforward, the contents of a will have been misinterpreted or disputes have arisen, some executors have faced financial or legal prosecution from the tax man, beneficiaries of the estate or creditors.
One of the main tasks as executor is to have the assets valued as part of the final estate of the deceased. This can be a minefield if not carried out correctly, as HMRC is likely to pick up on an estate which has been undervalued – meaning the executor could be faced with additional tax and financial penalties, for which they will be held personally responsible, rather than the money coming out of the final estate.
It is vital therefore, that during the probate process, all actions are kept absolutely transparent through the maintenance of accurate record keeping. Notes should be made of all outstanding creditors and debts, valuer details and valuations given to ensure that the likelihood of a personal prosecution is kept to a minimum.

Appointing power of attorney for those with dementia

Almost a million people in the UK have been diagnosed with some form of dementia, a potentially debilitating condition which sadly, leaves many unable to make day to day rational decisions.
With this in mind, it is always worth considering as the child of a parent with dementia, appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney so that your parent can continue to be cared for effectively as the condition progresses.
An LPA simply means that someone trusted, other than your parent, can take over their financial affairs, ensuring bills continue to be paid or that savings are protected.
Applying for an LPA at the first sign of dementia means that the process is quicker and can be arranged more easily. If however, the condition has progressed to the stage whereby the parent is considerably mentally incapacitated, then you will need to apply to the Court of Protection for a court-appointed representative to take over their financial affairs.
In this instance, then during this time, all of the parent’s assets will be frozen, with no financial transactions able to take place, which can obviously cause considerable issues.
If applied for well in time, all creditors and utility companies should be notified of your actions and intentions before making an application to the court to be granted an LPA. The application should include details of all assets, family relationships and a formal, medical assessment of the individual’s condition. You will also need to include details of your own financial status.
The whole process should take in the region of six months, if no objections arise or further investigation is not required. Once an LPA has been granted, estate planning in the form of IHT arrangements can begin.


Lasting Power of Attorney facility now online

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has revealed plans that it is to introduce a means of completing a Lasting Power of Attorney document (LPA) online.
Currently, applying for an LPA demands a significant amount of paperwork to be completed, which can prove to be quite complex. It is for this reason that many forms are returned as they are either incomplete or incorrect, if not prepared by a professional.
An LPA is normally created at the same time as a Will is prepared. It simply indicates that should a person become mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to carry out their normal financial or legal affairs, a nominated family member or legal representative can do this instead.
Unfortunately, this simply means that individuals will find it easier to complete the documentation using digital technology, rather than being able to arrange an LPA online – a function which has still yet to be discussed due to issues of security.
In the meantime then, people are still advised to use a will writing professional to complete and order an LPA.

Dispute over inheritance rages on

A dispute over inheritance, which has raged for the last three years; is still continuing even after the death of one of the people involved.
Several years ago, a widowed pensioner invited his nephew and family to come and live in his expansive farmhouse, to keep him company and offer additional security.
Unfortunately, the relationship quickly soured, with the family taking over opposite wings of the farmhouse and rarely interacting.
In 2009, the owner, Mr Taylor, prepared a Will, leaving over half of his estate, which was valued in excess of £1 million to various charities. The remainder of the estate was to be divided between his remaining family members, stipulating that his current guests were only to receive their inheritance if they were to leave the farmhouse within six months of his death.
When they learned of the contents of this Will, the family members within the farmhouse were outraged and began a legal battle, stipulating that the uncle had verbally promised to leave them the entire farmhouse, meaning that the other relatives and charities would receive precisely nothing.
After his death, a judge overruled the contents of the Will, awarding the family members the entire farmhouse – attracting an Inheritance Tax liability of £160,000 on the estate.
Subsequently however, this decision is now undergoing another review at the Court of Appeal, brought about by the executors of the estate, who have stated that there was never any proof of this verbal agreement.
And the moral of the story? Make your wishes regarding your death and your estate, transparently clear to everyone who is set to benefit.

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