Wills and Probate
Safeguarding your family’s future
No one likes to think about losing mental capacity, dying or the loss of a loved one, but the more prepared you are for any such eventuality the better protected you and your family will be.
Our goal in Branch Austin McCormick’s private client team (the collective term for our wills and probate solicitors) is to protect you and the people you care about both emotionally and financially.
This includes helping you make a will that ensures your assets go where you want in a tax efficient way, preparing for if you lose your capacity to make decisions about your health or finances and ensuring that a loved one’s estate is dealt with in the least stressful way when they die. We offer a very personal service – you will have a close connection with the solicitor dealing with your case.
Our wills and probate solicitors make sure that you understand each step in the process and that you are comfortable with any document we draft on your behalf. Our practice is wholly focused around you and on making everything clear and comprehensible. Not only do our wills and probate solicitors have a detailed understanding of a particularly complex area of law, but we are highly experienced when it comes to supporting people in difficult and emotional personal circumstances.Contact us
How can our private client team help you?
Some of the areas our wills and probate solicitors cover include:
- Lasting Powers of Attorney
Do I need a wills and probate solicitor?
Our team of wills and probate solicitors provide expert advice and legal services on all matters relating to someone’s estate when they die. If your loved one left a will, this involves applying for probate; if they died without a will, an application for letters of administration needs to be made by individuals who are related to the deceased, as set out by law.
How does Branch Austin McCormick handle wills and probate cases?
When you instruct us, the first thing we will do is answer your immediate questions and give you some breathing space. These questions are often about organising a funeral and its payment and how quickly things need to be done.
If there is a Will we will explain its ramifications and explain the probate process. We will help executors (named in the Will) or administrators (if there is no Will) by:
- ascertaining the value of the estate at date of death;
- completing inheritance tax forms if the estate is taxable;
- helping to source funds for inheritance tax which needs to be paid before probate is applied for;
- corresponding with HM Revenue & Customs;
- making an application to the probate registry for a grant of probate or letters of administration;
- corresponding with third parties and paying creditors;
- closing accounts and transferring assets including shares;
- selling or transferring property;
- preparing estate accounts for the executors and residuary beneficiaries to approve;
- distributing the estate in accordance with the will or intestacy.
Our wills and probate solicitors will also advise on:
- income tax and capital gains tax for the estate and how to minimise this where possible;
- whether it is appropriate to make a deed of variation redirecting an inheritance for inheritance tax and capital gains tax purposes;
- international probate, including working with lawyers in other legal regimes;
- applying to reseal Commonwealth grants of probate and applying for English and Welsh grants of probate for international estates.
Making a will
Everyone is wonderfully unique, and we pride ourselves on our bespoke will drafting service to take account of this. We want to make sure that your wishes come into effect when you are no longer around. How do we do this?
Our wills and probate solicitors will:
- have a meeting with you to discuss what your estate is made up of and the family, friends and charities that are important to you and how you would like to benefit them;
- talk you through various options with a view to saving tax and protecting your loved ones;
- discuss different scenarios that you may not have thought of and how to protect younger beneficiaries;
- consider how to protect intergenerational wealth, possibly by using a discretionary trust;
- take into account previous relationships and how you can protect a subsequent partner whilst ensuring your children from an earlier relationship do not miss out;
- act as executors to assist lay executors, if required.
We are happy liaising with any existing accountants or financial advisors you may have in place so you get joined-up and well-rounded advice.
Lasting Powers of Attorney and deputyships
Two of the most important documents you can make are a health & welfare and a property & finance Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). These are documents that let you nominate attorneys who can make decisions for you if you are not able to do so (subject to any restrictions you include). It is all very well that your estate goes where you would like when you die, but what is going to happen to you whilst you are alive and vulnerable?
We like to equate a Will to life assurance – you’ll definitely be claiming on that policy as no one gets out alive; LPAs are more like buildings insurance — hopefully you will never need to claim on that policy but if you need it and you do not have it, it can get very complicated, time consuming and expensive. It can be incredibly stressful for your family if they are having to deal with both your lack of mental capacity and possibly moving you into a home and trying to access your finances.
Mental Capacity is a time- and decision-specific concept, and thankfully the default presumption is that you have capacity. Just because you make an unwise decision doesn’t mean you lack it. For example, a spontaneous purchase that you know you’ll never use may show a lack of wisdom and self-knowledge but does not mean incapacity!
An LPA allows you to appoint attorneys and replacement attorneys who can make decisions about your health and welfare and/or property and finance if you are not able.
Our team at Branch Austin McCormick will:
- discuss the implications of making an LPA and the best way to protect yourself;
- advise on powers and restrictions;
- act as your certificate provider confirming you understand the document;
- supervise the convoluted way the document needs to be signed;
- submit the LPAs for registration at the Office of the Public Guardian as they need to be registered before they can be used;
- provide certified copies of the LPA for you and your attorneys;
Advise business owners as to whether they should make a separate business LPA and on whether their articles of association should be amended as the standard articles do not cover mental incapacity sufficiently.
Deputyships — what happens if you don’t have LPA?
If you lose mental capacity, no one can deal with your affairs until someone applies to the Court of Protection to be appointed your deputy. The court will grant property and finance deputyships, but it is very rare to obtain a health and welfare one. The Court order can take over a year to be issued and the application requires a great deal of paperwork and bears a fee of £371 which is significantly higher than the £82 fee to register an LPA.
During that time no one can access your bank account to pay your costs or indeed cancel direct debits. For example, we made an application for a gentleman who was moved into a care home and we could not stop his unnecessary outgoings such as his internet and satellite access at his empty home for a year. It’s worth bearing in mind that the person appointed to be your deputy may not be who you would have wanted to look after your finances.
Our wills and probate solicitors can assist in applying for a deputyship if a loved one has lost mental capacity without making an LPA. We will talk you through the process and prepare the application forms for you and the issuing of the application.
We also assist in other Court of Protection matters such as statutory wills, the making of gifts and tax planning and the winding up of trusts.
Other services we offer
Trusts – We draft and can assist in the running of discretionary and life interest trusts, including spousal bypass trusts, life assurance trusts and will trusts. We can also advise on the registration of trusts and assist in the process.
Deeds of variation and tax planning – We can advise on the best way to protect intergenerational wealth including Family Investment Companies, making use of tax reliefs and sign posting options.
Probate disputes – Our experienced dispute resolution team are highly skilled in advising on contentious probate matters and will fight your corner in any probate dispute. We are well recognised and respected in this area of law.