What About Your Pet?

In the UK, around 46 percent of the population own at least one pet. That’s about 65 million different creatures living with us in our homes. But what would happen to your pet if you were to die unexpectedly (or even after an illness)?

Many people actually choose to leave money to their pets in their will. Sort of. Although a pet can’t technically inherit any money or property, there are ways to ensure that your estate can provide for them.

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One way is to name someone in your will who will take care of your pet after you have died. This could be a friend or family member. It is important that you discuss your plans with the person you would like to take your pet in for you, just in case they are not happy with the responsibility. They might not like animals, they might have an allergy (or someone else in the household might), they might have pets already who wouldn’t get on with a new animal in the house. If the person you have chosen says that they would prefer it if you named someone else then that is exactly what you should do. This is the case even if you had your heart set on that particular person – there is no point in naming someone who will have to put your pet into rehoming centre in the long run.

As well as naming someone to care for your pet, you should also leave them money in order to do so. Think about the money you spend on pet food, vet’s bills, insurance, even bedding and toys… Leaving money to your pet’s guardian is the next best thing to leaving the money to your pet itself.

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Finally, if there is no one who can look after your pet, or no one you would want to, and they will have to be taken to a shelter, why not leave money to the shelter itself? You can check that your pet will be re-homed instead of destroyed, make sure that they will be comfortable, and generally find the perfect shelter. Make sure the name of the place is written in your will. 

Justin Bieber’s Will

Justin Bieber has made some fairly poor decisions in the past, and one might be forgiven for thinking that his latest one is bound to be just as bad. However, when it turns out that his most recent decision is to write a will, it could be that the Canadian youngster is actually growing up and becoming a tad more sensible. Even if he does go back to his wild ways, at least this one particular decision will still hold true. And the reason behind this sudden grown up attitude is, so the reports say, that Bieber was shocked by the passing of some of the greatest performers of our age, such as Prince and David Bowie.

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Bieber’s estate is said to be worth around £180 million, and an estate of that size – or any size, come to that, but the larger the estate often the more difficult  it is to distribute and work with if there is no will.

Justin Bieber hasn’t only written a will, but has also detailed what he wants to happen at his funeral. Again, this can be a good idea as it will help bereaved loved ones who may not feel up to making the important decisions required at this time. If everything is set out and decided in advance it can all happen more quickly and without fuss or upset. Bieber’s plans include a solar powered headstone which plays his music videos on a screen, as well as a life sized hologram of… himself.

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No matter what we think of these requests, the fact that Justin Bieber has had the sense to write a will and to think about his own mortality should be applauded. More people should do it to save the problems that come with dying intestate. And hopefully, now that Justin Bieber has done this, perhaps more young people will realise that a good idea it is. At the moment less than 50 percent of the population has a will. Anything to promote the idea that it should be done is worth looking into. 

What Happens When An Estranged Parent Dies?

The death of a parent is always a shock – even when it is expected. But what if you and your deceased parent were estranged in life? And what if there is no other family? What should you do?

The first thing to do is to find out whether there is a will or not. It could be that the executor of the estate, or the solicitor dealing with probate, will contact you directly to let you know whether you have been made a beneficiary. If you don’t hear anything, you will need to get in touch with the executor yourself, which could mean some investigation will need to take place. This will include searching through paperwork, contacting your deceased parent’s bank or solicitor, searching the London Probate Department, or putting in a request with the numerous companies whose job it is to store wills.

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It may turn out that there is no will. In this case, the rules of intestacy will have to come into effect.

Unless you have expressly been made executor of the estate, it is unlikely that you will need to do anything in regards to distributing inheritances and dealing with property – as well as the other jobs that an executor has to contend with. And even if you have been made executor, it is entirely possible to renounce your executorship if it is not something you feel comfortable doing. Alternatively, if you do want to stay with the role that your estranged parent chose for you, you can employ solicitors to help you ensure that everything is done properly.

Whatever the circumstances of your estrangement, sometimes children of parents who no longer have contact with them can find that they have been disinherited. However, this does not mean that you are not entitled to a share of the estate. Some people simply cannot be disinherited – children can fall into this category as the High Court has ruled that parents should leave ‘reasonable provisions’ for their children. You may have to make a claim, and each case is looked at individually, but it could be that you still receive some of the estate. 

What Should An Executor Know About Selling The Home Of The Deceased?

As an executor, you will have a number of different jobs and duties to perform. One of these could be selling the property of the deceased; what do you need to know before you get started?

Firstly, you will need a grant of probate in order to sell or transfer the property. This can take some time to come through – in a straightforward case it can take around three months, and if there is inheritance tax to pay it can take much longer. In the meantime, the mortgage will still need to be paid.

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You will also need to get a valuation on the property in order to process the grant of probate. This should be carried out by three separate estate agents, and the average used as the final valuation. Another option is to obtain a surveyor’s valuation.

Next you will need to check the title of the property to ensure it is under the right name. This can be done by downloading a copy of the plan through the Land Registry and checking that the deceased’s name is on it. You will also need to check that the plan shows the full extent of the property. If the property is not registered with the Land Registry, you will need to locate the paper copies of the title deeds.

When the deeds are to hand, any defects and restrictions to the property should also be noted – these may need to be dealt with before the property is legally able to be sold.

It is perfectly possible to put the house on the market as soon as a valuation has been carried out, but you must remember that it cannot actually be sold until the grant of probate has been authorised. Any potential buyers – and the estate agent themselves – must be made aware of this in order for a realistic timeframe to be discussed.

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Once the property has sold, capital gains tax will need to be considered. For 2016-2017, executors have a CGT allowance of £11,100. Inheritance tax should already have been paid, but if the property sells for less than the valuation, the executor will be able to claim back what they overpaid.  

Who Can Claim Using The Inheritance Act?

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 is in place in order to allow specific people to file a claim against a deceased person’s estate. The reason for the claim needs to be that they require financial provision from the estate, and there are certain circumstances that need to be reached in order to be able to do this.

Each claim is taken on a case by case basis, as the circumstances for each individual estate, claim, and situation will be different. However, there are only certain people who can claim under this act. The first of these is the spouse or civil partner of the deceased, and, perhaps surprisingly, this extends to any former spouses or civil partners. They must, however, not have re-married or entered into a further civil partnership. As well as this, there must be no provision within the divorce which means that they cannot make a claim under the Inheritance Act.

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Another person who can make a claim is a cohabitee. But, there is a set of requirements that this person must satisfy before they will be able to make a claim. They must have lived with the deceased as husband or wife, and they must have lived with the deceased in that state for at least two years immediately before the death.

The children of the deceased are also able to make a claim. This includes both biological and adopted children. For deaths that occurred after 1st October 2014, this also extends to anyone who was treated as a child by the deceased. This category is sometimes a subject for debate as it allows adult children who have not been financially dependent on the deceased for a long time to file a claim.   

Finally, anyone who was a dependant of the deceased. This means someone who was looked after by the deceased, and for whom the deceased was making a substantial financial contribution to. 

What Is A Caveat In Probate?

In probate terms, a caveat is a way to have a look at someone’s will if the executor of the estate is reluctant to let you see it. You may want to contest a will, and to do so you will need to have a copy of the will that you have a problem with. The easiest way to get a copy is to speak to the executor and ask for one, but they may refuse for a number of different reasons. If you still want to see a copy of the will, lodging a caveat could help you.

A caveat is issued by the Probate Registry and is a legal document which prevents a Grant of Probate from being issued. It basically stops probate from even beginning, and can remain in place for up to six months. This can have a huge impact on the estate of the deceased and the beneficiaries who are waiting for their inheritance.

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A caveat could be used if you have concerns over the validity of the will itself, or if there is a dispute between anyone included within the will and the executor him or herself. It can also be used if you have any concerns about whether the testator had the capacity to write the will in the first place, or if you are worried about any potential fraud issues.

Remember, however, that an executor can have the caveat removed if they believe there is no reason for it. One way to do this is to issue a warning on the person who has entered the caveat. The caveator will then have eight days to enter an appearance – this is used to explain the full reason behind the caveat.

It is best to talk through the problems with the executor before immediately entering a caveat, which should really only be used as a last resort. 

What Are The Benefits Of Probate?

Some people try to avoid probate if at all possible. And there are ways around it. But before you start to go down that route, are you sure that you don’t want to go through probate? Yes, it can be complicated and it can take a long time, but equally it can be simple and could be quick. And there are a number of benefits.

One major benefit of going through probate is that any creditor who has not yet filed a claim against the estate will have to claim within four months, rather than the year that they would have without probate. This can mean that less money has to be paid out of the estate to cover outstanding debts.

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Property cannot easily be put into trust without probate. Putting a property into trust keeps it ‘safe’ for future generations or a later date. But you need to have the title to that property in your name, and this can often only be done through probate.

Probate can be an ordeal, but the benefits might be of use to you and mean that it is worth the hassle. And don’t forget, you can hire a solicitor or lawyer who is a probate specialist to help you. They can help you with the paperwork, advise you or what course to take, and even work out a plan for probate in general. 

Should everyone think about inheritance tax planning?

Inheritance tax planning sounds like something that only the rich and famous need to really think about, but is it actually something that everyone should consider? Although it may seem as though it’s only something that affects other people, inheritance tax can actually affect anyone and everyone, so ensuring that your estate won’t fall foul of the laws is an important part of creating your inheritance plan.

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Inheritance can affect more people than you might think because once you add up your estate – savings, belongings, life insurance proceeds, your pension, and your property, it could well be over the threshold for having to pay inheritance tax. When property involved this is even more likely since house prices are rising.

There is an inheritance tax allowance of £325,000 on any estate. If the estate is worth more than that then tax will be owed on the ‘extra’ amount, and it is payable at 40 percent. However, if you have a spouse or a business interest (or both) then it is possible to carry out inheritance tax planning through your will. It could be that inheritance tax won’t be due at all since there is a spousal exemption from the tax, and also business tax relief.

If you are single, living with a partner but unmarried, or you have no business then your will may not be able to help you reduce inheritance tax. But there are other things you can do. For example, everyone has an annual inheritance tax exemption of £3,000 which can be used to give gifts. If you give more than £3,000 the rule is that you must ‘outlive’ the gift by a further seven years (otherwise it could still be subject to inheritance tax).    

The best thing to do is to contact an expert who will be able to talk you through your options and reduce your liability for inheritance tax as much as possible. 

Is It Possible To Have More Than One Executor?

Every will must have an executor. That’s the law. Or is it? Well, although it is true that there must be an executor for each will, the truth is that there must be at least one executor. In reality, it is perfectly valid and possible to have more than one should the testator require it. But why would more than one executor ever be needed?

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In law, as many as four executors can be named in a single will and, if necessary, all four (or up to four) can apply jointly for probate. Once probate has been applied for, whomever is named as executor must continue in that role – but before this happens they can step down in need be. If this happens, and more than one executor has been named, then probate can still go ahead as there will be one, two or three other executors to take on the work. Executors should be told that they are being named as such in a will before the testator dies, but sometimes this isn’t the case and therefore it could well be that some of them may wish to walk away from the position. Having more than one executor makes this much easier.

Once probate has been granted, the executors must work together to make the process run smoothly. This can be difficult with more than one executor, and the concern is that some jobs won’t be done at all as everyone thinks someone else is doing them, and some jobs will be done more than once as everyone thinks it is their job to do. The best way that multiple executors can deal with the estate of the deceased is to work together, discussing all decisions before acting. It is fair, although it is time consuming and can sometimes be difficult to get in touch with everyone.

In this case, one person should be named as ‘lead executor’. How this person is chosen is not particularly important, although if someone has experience or knowledge of probate then they may well be the best person to choose. Alternatively, the executors can apply jointly to appoint a solicitor to carry out the work for them. 

Bank Limits Raised

Many of the UK’s biggest banks have limits on the amount of money that is allowed to be released from deceased customer’s accounts without the need to apply for probate first. However, these limits are set to increase for some banks.

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Normally a bank or building society will freeze the accounts of someone who has died. This is in order to give the executor the time to apply for the grant of probate. However, this process can take a long time – sometimes months, and, in the case of incredibly complicated estates, years. The executor will be able to access money required to pay for any funeral expenses and inheritance tax that might be owed.

Some banks also allow small amounts of money to be withdrawn to give to bereaved relatives as long as a death certificate can be produced. Each bank is different, but in general, the amounts that were allowed to be withdrawn without probate would be between £15,000 and £20,000.  

Recently, however, some high street banks and building societies have agreed to raise this limit. This will help those who are trying to wrap up their deceased relative’s estate and ease the burden at a difficult time. The Royal Bank of Scotland, for example, has raised its limit from £15,000 to £25,000. Lloyds Bank has raised its limit from £25,000 to £50,000. HSBC has removed its upper limit and has said that it will assess each case individually.  Nationwide are looking at doing the same thing.

The raising – or removal – of these limits will mean that the estate can be dealt with much more quickly, and although probate will still be required for other assets, at least those left behind will be able to continue their lives without money being too much of an issue.

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