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

Consider Funeral Planning – C of E Funeral Costs to Increase Again

The cost of funerals held by the Church of England is set to rise once again.

The C of E has voted to increase costs from £102 to £160 from January next year – a rise of over 50%.  It has defended itself by saying the new costs are necessary for it to cover lighting and administration fees.

Not all members of the Church are in agreement however, correctly pointing out that this will inevitably have a negative impact on lower income families.

Whether you agree or not that the Church needs to view its activity as almost a business operation in order to remain sustainable, this fee increase is certainly going ahead and so you need to plan in order for your loved ones to remain debt free after you’ve gone.

The average cost of a funeral is now around £7000.  With this in mind, many people who have the funds available are choosing to plan now with a funeral planning service.  Speak to your Will writing expert who will advise you of ways in which you can prepare financially for the inevitable.

Seek Help with DIY or Online Wills

A lady wrote into a national newspaper recently saying that her husband had purchased a DIY Will from a newsagent.  When making a will, he left the family home to all five of his grandchildren once they reached the age of 25.

On the face of it, this seemed to be a fair and straightforward instruction.  However, as the legal advisor rightly pointed out, this would in fact mean that the Executors of the Will would then need to look after the interests of the home until the first grandchild reached 25.  This could mean that if the Executors decided to sell the home to make it a cash asset rather than a property inheritance, the gentleman’s wife may be forced to move out.

This is an excellent example of why, although buying cheap online wills or templates and writing it yourself may seem like a great idea, you should always seek legal advice when preparing it to ensure that you have avoided the numerous legal pitfalls and remembered to include everything.

Remember too that a professional Will writer should also be able, whilst preparing the document, to advise you on making decisions which will benefit your next of kin in the best way possible, including planning your Estate specifically to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax which will fall due.

Making a Will – DIY Wills Cause Confusion

A case whereby a man appeared to sign a new, handwritten Will on his deathbed continues to cause debate and indecision, eight years on.

Martin Lavin signed an initial Will in 2002, a fact which was concealed from the court by his niece, who had been a legal secretary.  For reasons unknown, he was said to have signed another Will, prepared by his niece Hanora Bem, only hours before his actual death – a Will which left most of his Estate to his sister, Anne Liston, Hanora’s  mother.

Mrs Liston unfortunately died only a few months later – leaving behind a case which has been dragged through the courts ever since by Ms Bem and Mr Lavin’s other nephew.

This case has come before the courts four times, with the Will declared invalid then valid then invalid again.

Why?  Because although those present at the time of the signing swore that Mr Lavin had signed the document himself (whether or not he was of sound mind at the time is also up for debate), later evidence and testimony revealed that Mrs Liston had in fact “helped” her brother to sign it as he was so weak.

All the more reason then, to ensure that you have your Will formally prepared right now and not only file a copy but circulate copies around any beneficiaries that you have mentioned.

In the meantime, legislation is being presented to try and prevent last minute, making a will from being legally recognised.
 

When Someone Dies Abroad – Overseas Probate

If your partner or relative dies abroad whilst you are still in the UK, and you are responsible for picking up the pieces, you should be notified by the police. However, should you hear the dreadful news from anyone else, you should always contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to confirm the facts. Staff from this office will liaise with the British Consul regarding your wishes for the funeral until the deceased is buried or returned to the UK.

If, however, you are with the person abroad when they die, the British Consul will prove invaluable in helping you with any funeral arrangements and overseas probate.

Wherever you are, the death will need to be registered with the appropriate authorities and a Death Certificate obtained. However, it should be noted that it is not possible to register the death with British authorities in a number of locations including Gibraltar or South Africa.

Should you decide to bring the deceased home, the coroner back home where the funeral will take place, should be informed as if you require a cremation, a Certificate for Cremation will need to be supplied by the coroner.

Special arrangements will need to be made to bring the deceased home and for this purpose, an international funeral director will be required.

Check to see whether funeral costs will be covered by travel insurance in which case, the insurance company will make the necessary arrangements for you. If not, you will need to meet all associated costs including bringing the deceased home and any hospital bills.

Follow the link to find out more about overseas probate and inheritance law in Spain, France and Jersey.

Avoiding Inheritance Tax – How Can I Make Gifts?

Weddings

In addition to the permitted annual gift of £3000 in any one year, each parent of a couple being married (whether a traditional wedding or a civil partnership) is able to make a gift to the couple of up to £5000, and each grandparent can give £2,500. Otherwise, a wedding guest can make a present of up to £1000.

So, whether your child, grandchild, friend or member of the family is getting married and you have the funds available, consider giving them a gift in the form of money. In these difficult economic times, they will no doubt welcome the additional cash and you will benefit from using your exemptions and avoiding inheritance tax.

Funds, Pensions & ISAs

Grandparents are able to invest up to £3,600 a year into each grandchild’s stakeholder pension until they turn 18.
Existing Child Trust Funds (scrapped by the government in January 2011) can also provide a route for investing funds which will then be placed outside the remit of IHT. Up to £1,200 can be invested in each account annually. These investments are also exempt from any other tax.

Introduced in November 2011, junior ISAs are a valid alternative to Child Trust Funds in that they allow annual investments of up to £3,600. Whereas a child cannot access the funds from their CTF until they are 18, a junior ISA will allow them to manage their account from the age of 16 although again, they may not access the money until they are 18.

To find out how to manage your money effectively now, to avoid your loved ones having to pay a large Inheritance Tax bill after your death, contact a estate planning professional today.

Probate Dispute Over Inheritance

Another sad probate dispute was reported in the press recently.
 
This one focused on the deceased owner of Corby Castle, Sir John Howard-Lawson and his businessman son.
 
The castle was sold in 1990, but the surviving son, Mr Howard, claimed that his father was not legal owner of the castle at that time and so he felt that he should be entitled to receive £1.5 million from the proceeds of the sale.
 
It appears that Sir Howard-Lawson’s own great grandfather had inserted a “name and arms” clause into his Will which stated that to inherit the castle, his descendants should adopt the Howard surname and coat of arms. 
 
The son felt that his father had not complied with these terms, but the case was rejected by the Court, who was satisfied that Sir Howard-Lawson had indeed complied with the terms before the sale had taken place.

Law Firm Probate Fraud

Having read an article recently about a former legal executive from an East Sussex law firm, I was astounded to read that despite being placed in charge of Will writing and probate, she had absolutely no formal legal training.

Leanne Harris of Arscotts Solicitors in Hove went on to commit probate fraud; stealing almost £500,000 from clients.  It is reported, that this was to maintain a lifestyle many of us can only dream of.

Mrs Harris made transactions between clients’ accounts and wrote several false cheques to obtain the money. She also took advantage of one client, for whom she had been given power of attorney, taking almost £65,000 from the woman.

This case continues to highlight the need for the Will writing industry to be regulated – a move which is absolutely supported by IWC Ltd. Currently, the industry is self-regulated but it is highly unlikely that Mrs Harris would ever have been accepted within any of the industry bodies without having had any formal training.

This is a lesson to all of us – when looking for a Will writing and probate expert, always check that they are a member of an appropriate organisation.

How to Prevent Probate Fraud and Will Forgery

An interesting, yet sickening case has been highlighted, whereby a woman has been charged with forgery, after inventing a Will after her partner was found dead at his home.

After finding her partner dead, Karen Phillips went on to forge a Will before notifying the deceased’s family and indicating that he had written a Will prior to his death – a Will in which it is claimed that she was to be the sole beneficiary of his Estate, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Unfortunately for the accused, the Will was obviously full of errors which raised the suspicions of the deceased’s family members during probate. They then went on to contact the police.

It is unfortunate that the man in question, particularly being the owner of a business, had not had a Will professionally prepared and several copies distributed to its principal beneficiaries and family members, before he died.

Although he was only in his forties, and so no doubt felt that he was in the prime of his life, making a will would have removed any doubt about what should happen and how his Estate should be distributed, thus preventing any probate fraud from taking place.

Want to reduce your Inheritance Tax liability?

Despite the suspected economic recession, rise in living costs and freeze on salaries, most of us are still able to retain our homes and assets which means that a high percentage of people will find that they have assets which have pushed them over the Inheritance Tax threshold of £325,000.

If you suspect that this is the case with your Estate (bearing in mind, the value of your home will also be taken into account), then there are ways to bring you back within the threshold, if you act now to prevent the tax man taking 40% of the value of your Estate.

Your first task should be to prepare a Will, if you haven’t done so already. If you’ve had a simple Will prepared without having planned specifically to reduce Inheritance Tax liability, have it looked at again.

It is worth noting that transfers between spouses and formally recognised civil partners are recognised as being exempt, known as the IHT nil-rate band. This means that when the first partner dies, their entire Estate can be transferred to the surviving spouse, without any Inheritance Tax being charged. When the survivor themselves die, any nil-rate band not used when the first partner died, can be claimed.

If you own a business, your next of kin may be able to claim Business Property Relief upon your death. This could mean that if you pass your business assets onto your children, they could claim IHT exemption for up to 100% of the value of your entire business assets.

There are a number of ways to plan effectively to reduce your Inheritance Tax liability simply by planning the content of your Will carefully. A probate expert will outline the choices available to you, which could potentially keep thousands of pounds in your Estate to be passed to your children – not the tax man.

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