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What Are The Different Types Of Will?

30th June 2021

If the world going through a pandemic taught us anything, it is that tomorrow is never assured. No matter who we are or where we come from, we all want our legacy to be passed down, regardless of how big or small. 

A Will lets you decide what happens to your finances, property and possessions when you pass and gives you the peace of mind that those decisions are respected and adhered to.

Talking about death is still a taboo subject for many, but knowing how to draft a Will and making sure it is validis critically important regardless of how uncomfortable it may be to consider our own mortality. 

Choosing a solicitor and ensuring your Will is drafted by an expert is an important way you can guarantee your family, spouse and  even pets are looked after when you pass away.. 

This article will help you understand the most common types of Wills and how each works, so when it’s time for you to write one, you have the confidence and understanding that you are handling your estate properly.

Types Of Wills

Single Will

A single Will, aptly named, is the most common, as it is suitable for any person that wants to outline their wishes and how they want their assets distributed when they pass away. Single Wills are generally for those who have uncomplicated circumstances and estates.  

They can be used by single or divorced individuals.  Single Wills are also useful if you are married and have children from a previous relationship because this will help divide your estate between your current family, your children from both relationships and your former spouse.  A trust may be needed if there are special circumstances to consider for your children/family, more details below. .

Will trusts

There are many different types of Will trusts and they can be made for many different reasons. A trust can be made to benefit a child,  spouse or a person with special needs. 

Will trusts should be considered if you have children from a different marriage and you have remarried or are cohabiting with a new partner. 

Will trusts are not always straightforward but offer protections that other types of Wills do not. You may not know if a Will trust is the right type of Will for you so it is important to take legal advice from an experienced solicitor who can help with all the options. 

Mirror  Wills

Mirror  Wills  are normally used by married couples.  They usually appoint each other as Executors and give each other their estates and name their children if they have any as common beneficiaries.  Mirror Wills are normally straightforward, but you should always seek legal advice to ensure you consider all the options to protect your family when you pass.  

Regardless of which option is best for your needs, it is important that you create a legally binding Will for the sake of your loved ones and your peace of mind. 

Drafting a Will all on your own can be difficult which is why it is always recommended that you consult a solicitor to ensure that it reflects your current circumstances. 

Need help writing your Will?

Visiting a solicitor to draft a Will should be an easy and warm experience. At Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors, you can be assured to get that kind of treatment as soon as you walk through the door. Your wishes will be listened to as we give our expert advice during your time with us.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors are at the ready with an experienced legal team ready to assist you. Contact us for more information about writing your Will, as well as your other legal needs for Probate, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Equity Release, and Settlement Agreements.

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Which Type of Will is Right for Me?

Which Type of Will is Right for Me?

20th June 2021

Wills are legal documents that help spell out how you would like your affairs and assets handled and given out after you pass away. There are many types of Wills you can choose from and one may be better for you and your estate than another. 


Choosing the best options for you requires a bit of knowledge on what each type of Will covers. This article will take a look at a few of the most common types of Wills and Trusts in order to better prepare you for planning for your estate.

Understanding the Different Types of Wills

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a simple Will and a Will Trust, and compare the benefits:

A Simple Will Versus a Will Trust

The most significant difference between a simple Will and a Will Trust is that a simple Will gives away all of your estate after you have passed away, while a Will Trust is used to protect your estate. Therefore, your Trustees will administer it for your beneficiaries until the Trust comes to an end or is wound up.  Having a simple Will or a Will Trust is a personal choice but both are normally used to protect your assets or loved ones.  

Trusts in Will Trusts are complex and take longer to finalise. Professional advice should be obtained before deciding whether this is the right vehicle for you.

Single Will

If you are single, do not have vulnerable beneficiaries and your circumstances are straight forward, a simple Single Will may be appropriate for you.

Mirror Will

A Mirror Will is a Will that mirrors its counterpart.  They are normally used by spouses but can also be used by siblings or people who live together. There are two Wills, one for each individual, each identical or similar with what they specify for end-of-life plans. Mirror Wills are designed for couples who have the same or similar wishes and who are usually the beneficiaries of each other’s Wills should the other person die.  The couples may be married or cohabitees.

A Mirror Will may not be appropriate if  you do not have the same end of life wishes as your partner. Keep in mind you can change your Will without the other party knowing at any time..

Advanced Decision or Living Will:

A Living Will is active when you are alive and invoked in case of a health emergency or accident. An Advanced Decision or Living Will is a legal document that specifies what medical treatments you want to opt in or out of if you are unable to make or communicate those decisions yourself. You can also choose if you want to be kept alive in the event of an accident, as well as other preferences for medical decisions like organ donation.  It will be attached to your Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney.

A Will Trust

A Will Trust can be used in different scenarios.  It all depends on what you require.  For example, if you would like to protect your estate against possible care fees, this can be used to help.  A couple can use them to protect their estate for their children by giving a life interest to each other on the first death.  If the survivor needs care, the share of the first one to die is protected for the children.  

There are other Will Trusts , such as discretionary, property, and flexible trust, for example , which can be used to help you, so make sure to speak with your solicitor who will discuss the options that most suitable for you.. 

A Life interest Will or Discretionary Will Trust  can be used to cover complex marital and legal aspects of your estate, such as granting income or property to a second spouse during their lifetime, but then  the children all benefit equally on the death of the second spouse.. 

A Will Trust can also be used to fund education for your children and grandchildren, or simply provide for your loved ones that may be or become vulnerable. 

Your Will Is In Good Hands With Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

Drafting a Will  is always complex, as  most people don’t know how their circumstances will change over time, or their affairs are not straightforward or simple.  Make sure to contact an experienced solicitor to help you create a Will that will guarantee all your affairs are in order and leave you with the  reassurance that your wishes will be followed to the letter. 

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors has an excellent and knowledgeable staff who are ready to help assist you with your estate planning needs. We will help you plan for the future and solve any legal issues you may have with expertise, professionalism, compassion and kindness.

Call us today or make an appointment on our website for more information about assistance with your Will, as well as your other legal needs for Probate, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Equity Release, and Settlement Agreements.

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At What Point In My Life Should I Write A Will?

At What Point In My Life Should I Write A Will?

10th June 2021

A Will helps you divide your estate and other assets amongst whoever you choose when you pass away. There are a few factors you will want to consider when instructing a STEP qualified Solicitor to draft a Will. 

In this article, we will go over some of the details that will help you better understand when to do so. It is an important step in anyone’s life when they choose to plan for their estate and their family’s future — and ensuring that it is done when one is still mentally capable is critical.

Requirements For Making A Will

In order for your Will to be valid, you must make sure it meets the following criteria:

  • The person who is writing the Will must be at least 18 years old.
  • The Will instructions must be given without any pressure by anyone else.
  • You need to be of sound mind, which means that you must understand that you are making a Will and  that it will take effect on your death 
  • Your Will must be signed by the person making the will and two witnesses.
  • The two witnesses must also sign the Will in the presence of the person drafting the Will after that person has signed it.
  • As soon as the Will is signed and witnessed, it is valid.

Importance Of Having A Will

A Will isn’t just so you can divide up your material wealth when you die  —  it’s a way for you to have the peace of mind that your wishes are carried out on your death. No matter your age, unexpected and unfortunate events can occur, and having a Will can save you and your family time, stress and struggle in an already difficult time. 

Young people commonly believe they don’t need a Will because they are too young and have few possessions, however, what determines whether a person requires a Will is whether they have property or their particular family circumstances. 

Major life events should always trigger a new Will or an Update

A Will is especially important for those with considerable wealth or assets, those who are recently married or divorced, have had their own children or gained stepchildren, or any combination of major life events. For example if you have remarried, unless you change your Will in favour of your new spouse, your previous spouse could be the main beneficiary.

If you die without a Will, which is known as dying ‘intestate’,  your assets become much more difficult to distribute which may lead to family disputes.

Other important ways a Will can help 

Here is a list of some of the other ways a Will can be used to reflect your wishes and protect your loved ones in the event of your passing:

  • Funeral arrangements: some may think it morbid to think about this before old age, but injury and death can unfortunately happen anytime. Saving your family the need to argue what you “would have wanted” is something very important that a Will can specify for you. Specifics like whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated are important choices and are best clarified in writing.
  • If you have children, you are able to name their guardian in case anything happens to you if they are under 18 years old. This allows you to choose the best option for their wellbeing and care, rather than leaving it to chance or the state who might put them into care.
  • If you have a partner but are unmarried, keep in mind they are not entitled to anything from your estate unless you specifically state it in your Will. Writing a Will ensures your partner  receives what you wish them to have on your death.
  • Whatever you leave to your spouse or civil partner will be exempt from inheritance tax. The amount of inheritance tax that is charged to your estate depends on the size of your estate. Writing a Will allows you to get advice so that you can find out whether inheritance tax is an issue that you need to address.
  • You can name an Executor (or more than one if you would like) who will be in charge of carrying out your wishes after you pass. Choosing an Executor ahead of time makes sure you have a dedicated party that will handle the affairs of your estate when you pass.. 

Many more factors go into creating a Will. There is no definitive age to start drafting your Will, but having one in place when you are young — and updating it when major life events happen — helps ensure that you are securing your estate and that your loved ones will be cared for according to your wishes once you pass.

Ensure Your Future With Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

Visiting a solicitor, no matter what age, should be an easy and welcoming experience. At Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors, you can be assured to get that kind of treatment as soon as you walk through the door. Your wishes will be listened to as we give our expert advice during your visit.

Visit us online and book a meeting using our easy-to-use appointment calendar system. We offer many appointment times for your busy schedule. For empathy, understanding, professionalism and the expert care you are looking for, contact Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors today.

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How Does Tax Planning Come Into Effect When Writing a Will?

How Does Tax Planning Come Into Effect When Writing a Will?

20th May 2021

Are you considering writing a Will? Do you have children and want to ensure their care?  Do you have a business or assets that you wish to retain control of? We all want to leave our affairs in order so that our loved ones do not struggle to administer our estates while they are grieving. 

The concern is often where to begin when you decide to have a Will drafted for you.  What tax considerations there are? Who oversees the assets, receives them, pays taxes if the estate is taxable and distributes your estate?

If you die without a Will, your loved ones will not know your wishes. If your wishes are written down in a generic document, they can be disputed which could escalate to legal action. Family relationships may suffer as your loved ones are left trying to interpret what your intentions were. 

What Is A Will?

A Will is a legal document which gives away a person’s estate after they pass away. To legally create a Will, you must be 18 years of age. It states who will benefit from your estate when creating a Will, it is essential to recognise that one’s spouse does not automatically inherit everything.  In addition, unmarried partners are not legally recognised although they have a claim against the estate of the loved one that has died. 

Your Will needs to be protected and safely stored. Only the original Will is a legal document. A copy can be admitted by the Probate Registry but you have to follow certain rules which makes it complicated and expensive.

Components Of A Will

When you are ready to give instructions for your Will to be drafted, it is essential that you  understand the different elements that will make up the Will. Here are the four main features.

1. Executor

You will appoint an executor who will administer your estate when you pass away.

2. Beneficiaries

You choose who will benefit from your Will.   Your Will must identify who receives which assets as well as the method of distribution.  They can be outright or through a trust. 

3. Witness

Legally the final document needs to be witnessed by two people who are not the  beneficiaries. If a beneficiary is a witness, their gift under your Will will fail.

4. Updates

Do not make any amendments on the face of the Will because they will not be accepted by the Probate Registry.  Make an appointment with your Solicitor and let them know what changes you would like made. They will produce a new Will for you to sign and make sure that it is valid.

Tax Planning When Writing A Will

When writing a Will, it is essential to see a Solicitor so that they can advise you whether your estate will be subject to inheritance tax.  

Gifts

Gifts given to your beneficiaries can be exempt from inheritance tax if you survive the gift by 7 years. Special 14 year rules apply in certain circumstances. Contact us for more information. 

Exemptions

Consulting with a tax consultant will ensure that you obtain the best advice as to what exemptions are available to you.

Trusts

Establishing a trust when writing your Will can save potential taxes that may be due to the estate. With a trust, ownership transfer occurs while still retaining some level of control. Trusts are a great way to leave assets to children and grandchildren. 

Life Insurance and Pensions

Considerations when making a Will are life insurance and pensions.  Speak to your pension Advisor or Financial Advisor so that they make sure that you have nominated beneficiaries who will benefit so that they pass outside your estate. 

Charity

Donations to legitimate charities help to reduce the tax burden to your beneficiaries because they are exempt. 

What Is Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance taxes are paid if a person’s estate is over the threshold.

When writing a Will, you also need to consider the tax consequences of your estate at the date of your death.

The tax deadline in the UK is six months after the end of the month when the person died.

How To Plan For Inheritance Tax

Potential exemptions can occur for gifts in the previous seven years before a person dies. Different periods may require a calculation based on a sliding scale. 

Legal consultation can help determine if inheritance tax, capital gains taxes, or other taxes are due. Additionally, seek professional guidance on life insurance and pension funds. Donating to charity is free from inheritance tax in the UK as well as many other areas. 

Creating a Trust can help reduce or eliminate the burden of inheritance tax. The amount of tax due could be a fraction of the tax burden without a trust. 

It’s No Secret That You Need a Will

To ensure your estate is taken care of promptly, a Will or trust is the best course of action. Your loved ones will be able to handle your last wishes with ease when they are outlined clearly and tax preparations are accounted for.
Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors are at the ready with an excellent staff to assist you with your estate planning needs.  Contact us for more information about assistance with your will, as well as your other legal needs for probate, lasting powers of attorney, equity release, and settlement agreements.

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Appointing a Guardian for Your Children: What You Should Know

Appointing a Guardian for Your Children: What You Should Know

10th April 2021

If you have children, it’s important to appoint guardians in your Will. s

Our children are our top priority. We want to make sure they are cared for if something happens to us.. Who will act in their best interests? If your children are under 18, it’s imperative that you have a Will appointing a guardian to look after them.. 

You will need to consider who your children’s guardians will be and if they are able to care for your children. 

You also need to consider who would look after your children and make decisions on your behalf if you lose capacity, especially if you are the only parent with parental responsibility.

What Is A Legal Guardian?

A guardian is someone who has legal responsibility for your children. They have all the rights, duties, powers, and authority that a parent has. 

If both parents are alive and they have parental responsibility, if one loses capacity the other will continue to look after the children.  If both parents, for example, were to lose  capacity in the same accident, who would look after the children?  The Local Authority would assess the situation.  They may approach the family if they are in England and Wales to see whether they can look after the children.

It is better to appoint a guardian in your Lasting Powers of Attorney so that your children can be looked after if you are alive but incapacited.   

If, unfortunately, both parents were to pass away, it is also vital to have appointed guardians in both your Wills.  

What Does A Guardian Do?

Essentially, a guardian is responsible for caring for your child until the age of 18. The guardian is responsible for the children’s health, wellbeing and education. 

How Do You Choose A Legal Guardian?

Considering legal guardians is a significant decision as a parent. It requires balancing both emotional and rational choices. So how do you make the decision? 

Ideally, you should select guardians with similar values to yourself and your partner. 

Things to consider when choosing your children’s legal guardian:

  • What is the environment in their home? Is it stable? 
  • Are they currently involved in your children’s lives, or does the relationship need to be built? 
  • Do your children have special needs, and if so, does the potential guardian have experience or a fundamental understanding of what will be involved in the children’s care? 
  • Does the potential guardian want to care for your children long-term?
  • Where does the guardian live? Will the children need to be uprooted from their schools? 
  • Do the guardians have children of their own, or have they had experience raising children? Will your children and theirs get along?
  • Are they mentally capable of caring for your children?
  • Are they over 18?
  • If you are considering appointing your parents, are they in good enough health?

These are tough questions to ask but they are crucial in determining who would be the most appropriate guardian for your children. 

How Do You Appoint A Guardian In Your Lasting Power of Attorney and Your Will?

You will need a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney to appoint a guardian if you lose capacity during your lifetime.

You need a Will to appoint guardians for your children if you die. It is also a good idea to appoint alternatives in the event something unforeseen happens to your first choice.  It is crucial to review your Lasting Powers of Attorney and your Wills every three to five years to make sure your choices are still appropriate.. 

Sometimes, parents choose a couple to be guardians of the children, but legally they can choose up to four in England and Wales. 

What If You Don’t Appoint A Guardian?

If you lose capacity the Local Authority will step in to help your children.  Unfortunately, they may go into care while they assess the suitability of the family or friends that express an interest in looking after your children.

If you don’t appoint a guardian before you die, the courts will make decisions regarding the welfare of your children. 

If there is no surviving parent with parental responsibility, the interested relative will have to make an application to the  Court to be appointed as  a guardian.  Social services need to evaluate potential options and provide their findings to the Court. Considering guardian options can be a lengthy process.  In the meantime, the children might be put in care while waiting for a final decision from the Court.

Who Can Choose A Guardian?

In England and Wales, a person who has parental responsibility can appoint a guardian. The mother automatically has parental responsibility unless the Court has decided otherwise.

The father can obtain parental responsibility through the following ways:

  • Marrying the mother
  • Registered as the father on the birth certificate if the child was born after 12/1/2003
  • He and the mother file a parental responsibility agreement with the High Court in England and Wales
  • A Court Order gives him parental responsibility
  • He is appointed as the child’s guardian in the mother’s Will.
  • Adoption

We Can Help You Draft Lasting Powers of Attorney and a Will to Effectively Appoint Guardians For Your Children

To give you peace of mind, let us help protect your children while they are young.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors can help you create your will. Don’t wait — contact us today to get started.

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How to Talk to Your Family About What’s in Your Will

How to Talk to Your Family About What’s in Your Will

30th March 2021

Conversations relating to Wills are often pushed to the side in favour of more uplifting and positive ones. No one wants to talk about what happens when they die.  Ensuring your family is prepared for your death is essential if you want to make sure your wishes are met. 

So, how do you talk to your family about what’s in your Will?

It may be  difficult for you to find the words to articulate how you want your wishes to be carried out. But to make sure that your family is prepared to hear your thoughts, you need a Will stating who will look after your estate and benefit from it as well. 

Preparing for these difficult conversations can be intensely challenging.  We are here to help. Here are some tips when approaching your family and loved ones to discuss what will be in your Will 

Why It Is Important to Talk About Your Will

Death is traumatic and ignoring the conversation now may leave your loved ones with a more complicated situation to deal with. 

It is much better to ensure that your loved ones know your wishes before you die.  This stops any arguments or ambiguity as to what your wishes were. 

Your Will Is Not Just About Money 

Contrary to popular belief, a Will contains more than just your wishes for what happens to your money and assets when you pass away.   It can make provision for family heirlooms or items of sentimental value to family and special friends which can’t happen without a Will.

A well drafted Will can protect your assets so that your children get at least half of your property if you’re married in the event that the surviving spouse requires care.

It may also protect a vulnerable beneficiary so their gift does not affect his receipt of benefits.  

Making Preparations

Before going into this conversation with your loved ones, (if you want to discuss it with them) you should be prepared. It’s encouraged to have notes prepared on the rough topics you want to address- do you want your funds to go to a charity, or do you want them to go to your grandchildren’s education? Establish the answers to these questions and more before opening this conversation with your family. 

Bringing Up Finances

Conversations about your finances are never easy, especially when you’re talking about your finances after you pass.  It is helpful to think about who has the legal responsibility for carrying out your instructions.  Choose someone you trust.

Do you only want to leave money to your children or do you want to leave aside money for future grandchildren you haven’t met yet? These are some of the points you might want to think about before instructing a Solicitor to draft your Will.

You should also consider important password information and how the executors of your will would access your finances if you are no longer around. For example, if you have cryptocurrency, your family will need access to your login information in order to administer your Estate

Changes to Your Will

Updating your Will  is essential to keep up with your changing circumstances.  The law changes as well from time to time therefore your Will should be reviewed to make sure that it is up to date.

Now is the Time to Write Your Will

Once you have decided what you would like in your Will such as who you would like to benefit the it is time to instruct us. . Our experienced lawyers at Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors know and understand the importance of having a Will and how to ring fence your estate against care fees so that your children get at least half of your estate.

Our modern office in Winnersh Triangle has facilities second to none.  We will look after you, make you a coffee or tea to make sure you are comfortable before taking your instructions.  We can also meet you at your own home (COVID rules permitting). Contact us today so that we can help have the right Will for your estate.

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What Is a Life Interest Will Trust?

What Is a Life Interest Will Trust?

10th March 2021

Death can come unexpectedly and without warning. With COVID-19 still ravaging the globe, the odds of an untimely demise are perhaps the highest we’ve ever known. It’s easy to see the prudence in laying out a plan for end-of-life affairs.

There’s a lot to consider. We want our family to be comfortable — with their lifestyle and future provided for. While it may seem like there’s little need to worry, it’s unfortunately easy for things to go awry.

So how do you ensure that your estate makes it to those you wish it to when you no longer have any control over the situation? The answer may lie in a life interest Will trust.

The Issues With Wills

What’s wrong with a simple Will? Well, nothing, but it does have its weaknesses.

One of the simplest and most common types of Will is a simple mirror Will. Under this arrangement, your entire estate transfers wholly to your spouse (or civil partner, or whoever you designate). Then, upon their passing, the estate is distributed to your children according to the terms in the Will. Your spouse, then, usually has a similar Will, where their estate would transfer to you, should they pass first.

There are a couple of risks with  this. First, your spouse can spend it. The surviving spouse might need care in a residential home or care home.  Care fees can rapidly consume the value of your estate. The government will step in eventually and begin to cover costs, but your children could end up with as little as £23,250 between them — no doubt a paltry sum compared to the value of your property!

The other risk to consider is rather uglier, but it happens. It’s called the “sideways disinheritance trap,” and it has to do with the fact that if your spouse remarries, they can draft a new will. . If the Wills you had were simple mirror Wills, and they die before their new spouse, your estate would pass to the new spouse and thereafter their children.  ,  Your children could end up with none of your estate. We’d like to think that people have kinder hearts than this, but it happens often enough to so many people, therefore you have to protect your own estate for your children. 

How a Life Interest Will Trust Is Different

This kind of Will is very important for you because you control who receives your estate and when. Your spouse receives what is called life interest, allowing them to continue living in the house while still having control over their share of its value. They could even sell the house and downsize if necessary.  The share of the first to die is always protected. 

Furthermore, under a life interest Will trust, your spouse is entitled to any income made from the property, whether that be from renting it out or investments if they are included in the trust.. This income can help cover the costs of a care facility should the surviving spouse’s health fail.

Ultimately, a life interest Will trust protects your estate from it ending up belonging to children who are not your own. 

The Downside to a Life Interest Will Trust

The most common issue with a life interest Will trust is resentment on the part of the new spouse who is prevented from giving the share of the estate of the first one to die to their own children who shouldn’t get it in any event. 

The law allows the surviving spouse to make a claim against the estate of the spouse who has died. It does not protect the estate of the spouse who died first. For example, Amanda and Brendon are married with three children. Amanda dies first and Brendon remarries Susan. The law says that Brendon has to provide for the spouse at the date of his death. Therefore, if he leaves a simple Will with Susan as his sole beneficiary, his children from the first marriage may get nothing unless she enters into a deed of variation giving some of her late husband’s estate to his children. 

The other alternative that Brendon has is to have a mutual Will with Susan where she agrees to give part of his estate to his children on her death. Brendon’s children probably have to take Susan’s estate to court if she doesn’t honour Brendon’s mutual Will. This is expensive and time consuming.

A life interest Will trust protects Amanda’s share of the estate that she had with Brendon. Susan wouldn’t be able to sell the property because there would be a restriction stopping her from doing so without the children’s consent. This gives them control of their inheritance. 

Having a Will In Place is Important

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors offers the legal expertise you need to plan for the future and protect your assets. We understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and our friendly and approachable legal team works to develop Wills, lasting powers of attorney, and tax and estate planning suited to your unique needs.

Contact us today to learn how our services can help you and your family prepare for the future and protect your estate.

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How Should Wills Be Handled for Unmarried or Cohabitating Couples?

young attractive couple having breakfast in bed

1st March 2021

Being married has many benefits, including legal ones. But some people don’t want to go down that route. When it comes to your Will, it’s essential to know what that means for the parties involved. Wills for cohabiting couples are a crucial component of financial planning and future provisions. 

Cohabitation is a new norm. The number of cohabiting couples doubled to 3.3 million in 2017, up from just 1.5 million in 1996. Many people may assume that there would be new legal protections for couples with these numbers in case one dies. 

Sadly, when it comes to inheritance, property, children and dependents, there are no legal protections for couples in this position. Therefore, ensuring Wills are correctly in place is essential to ensuring your partner is protected. 

The Law of Intestacy 

The law of intestacy explains what happens when someone dies without a Will. This law applies differently to married couples, civil partnerships and cohabitees.

The law doesn’t give cohabiting couples any rights. If someone in a cohabiting relationship dies, the other does not automatically receive anything. Here are some instances of what happens in these situations. 

  • Lance and Samantha have been cohabiting for a decade but are not married. Lance has £50,000 in savings and a company pension. Lance suddenly dies. Samantha doesn’t get any of his assets. The assets go to his closest living relative (his sister, Amelia). If Lance wants Samantha to benefit from his savings or his company pension, his Will is the only way he can do this. If Samantha has been living with Lance for two years immediately before his death, in the same house, then she will have a legal claim against his estate.  She has to instruct solicitors to bring a claim against Lance’s estate. The procedure is complicated.
  • Jenna and Jasmine are married. Jenna dies, leaving behind £100,000 in savings and £100,000 in investments. Jasmine is entitled to everything. She inherits the first £250,000 of everything that Jenna owns and would be allowed 50 percent of what she owned above that figure if they had children
  • Tristan and Jessica are not married but have one child – Mackenzie. Jessica suddenly dies, leaving behind £400,000 in savings. This money will bypass Tristan and go directly to Mackenzie. Mackenzie is 14, and so the £400,000 will be held in trust for her until she is 18. Tristan will have a claim against Jessica’s estate if they were living together in the same house, as a couple, for two years before her death.

Cohabiting couples don’t realise there is no legal protection because there’s no legal recognition of their relationship. “Common-law spouse” is often used to describe couples who are not married and aren’t in a civil partnership. But no law recognises this term or any benefits to it. So, Wills are essential to ensuring that a person’s wishes are met in the event of their death. 

Handling Assets

  • Money in the bank: If a partner in a cohabiting couple dies, the money in the bank under their sole name goes directly to their estate. The other partner will have no access to it. If there’s a joint account, then the surviving partner will have access to the account. But, part of it could be part of the deceased’s estate. 
  • Debts: Any debts accumulated by both partners may be left to the surviving partner solely. They may be left with debt, with no additional inheritance to help pay for them. 
  • Property: This part depends on how the property is held by both cohabitees. . If the two are tenants in a common, and one person dies without a Will, their part of the property will pass on to their estate, not their partner. If the property is held by the couple as beneficial joint tenants, then the part belonging to the partner that has died passes to the surviving partner.. 

Couples and Children

When it comes to children, Wills are highly important for cohabiting couples. Partners who are parents have legal rights regarding their children and can make decisions about significant parts of their lives. 

A mother that gave birth to a child automatically has parental responsibility. Still, the father doesn’t unless specific circumstances exist–if he was married to the mother at the time of birth, got married afterward, or his name is on the birth certificate. Issues can arise if one partner dies with responsibility and the other doesn’t have parental responsibility. 

Without parental responsibility or a Will, the surviving partner could be left without any rights to ensure the child remains with them. 

Claims Made Against the Estate

A surviving unmarried partner can claim against the deceased partner’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act of 1975 if there’s no Will. A claim like that gives reasonable financial provision necessary for the maintenance of the surviving partner. 

This takes into account facts like their own financial circumstances and the estate’s value. But, there are no guarantees that the surviving partner will obtain the estate. The process can also be time consuming and expensive. Having a Will in place is much simpler, more straightforward, and far less stressful. 

The Benefits of Wills

  • Ensure the surviving partner is entitled to cash or assets the deceased would like them to have. A Will can lay out the details, whether part or all of their assets get left to their partner. 
  • Provides security when it comes to property ownership. For instance, if the property is held as tenants in common and the deceased’s share gets left to a different beneficiary, the survivor has no security in the property. . Without a Will, a proportion of the property can become legally owned by someone else-likely the deceased’s closest living relative. This situation can cause significant issues, especially if that person wants to sell the property. 
  • Issues with children are secured. A Will will lay out the inheritance and how children will be cared for in the event of one’s death. 
  • Avoids the need for a surviving partner to have to make a legal claim on the deceased’s estate. Making a legal claim can be messy and complicated. Avoiding the need to do this is almost always in the best interest of all parties involved. 
  • Minimises the possibility for more heartache or issues with relatives who have inherited what the deceased partner would have wished the survivor to have because of intestacy laws. 
  • Proper estate planning to minimise the impact of inheritance tax where it’s applicable. 

How to Tie Up Your Loose Ends

Wills for cohabiting couples give security and peace of mind for the future. Although it’s never possible to predict when something will happen, a Will in place will help cohabiting couples have some protection against any legal problems when it comes to being unmarried in the event of a partner’s death. Wills can lay out all the details of someone’s wishes so that everything will be evident in the event of one’s death. 

Let Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors Help

For assistance in preparing your Will and ensuring that all witnessing and signatures are conducted lawfully, reach out to Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors. We are pleased to offer virtual, COVID-safe options to ensure that your estate is properly planned and your wishes made known. 
Contact us today to learn how our services can help you and your family prepare for the future and protect your estate.

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What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

10th February 2021

As you are looking through your loved one’s belongings, you wonder what you will do with it all. Who gets the family china? What did they want to be done with their residence? Which of the relatives will receive a portion of the money left in the deceased’s bank accounts?

Unfortunately, people often have to decide each of these things when there isn’t a will to be found. By not having a will, families are left in the dark about what to do with the deceased’s belongings and how to proceed legally.

Figuring out Who is in Charge of the Estate.

When a person dies without a will, this is known as “dying intestate”. This means the law decides who inherits the estate by criteria called “intestacy rules”.

A relative or friend can choose to sort out the estate, but they also have to take care of the estate promptly. For someone to take over the administration of the estate, the person wanting to be responsible will need to apply for a “grant of letters of administration”. 

The grant will allow the administrator to value the estate, pay any debts and distribute the estate according to the intestacy rules. It will take quite a bit of time to sort out an estate if the person who died wasn’t prepared, so it is best to apply for probate as soon as possible. The sooner you have administrator status means the sooner the heirs to the estate can receive their inheritance.

Who Will Inherit?

The intestacy rules are laid out so only close relatives will receive anything from the estate before distant relatives. It is laid out in this order:

#1. Spouse or Civil Partner

A spouse or civil partner will receive the entire estate if there are no children. 

If there are children and a surviving spouse or civil partner, the surviving spouse or partner will receive: 

  • The first £270,000 of the estate
  • Half of anything left over
  • The deceased’s personal possessions

The children will receive what is left. This doesn’t include step-children who aren’t legally adopted. Step-children have no stake in the inheritance unless they have been adopted before the deceased’s death. If step-children are treated as children of the family and you want them to inherit any of your estate you need a will to state your wishes.

#2. Offspring

If the deceased was not married , but had children who survived him, they  will inherit everything. It will be divided equally among his  children.  

If there is no legally binding marriage at the time of death but the dearly departed had a partner who was living with him, the partner’s position is precarious.  The complexity of the partner’s situation depends on whether they lived with the dearly departed in the same house for two years before the death. If it’s less than two years, they are not entitled to any of the loved one’s estate, unless they owned assets jointly. If they owned property jointly, they will have to pay part of the inheritance tax liability due from the deceased’s estate, if the estate is taxable.

If the partner lived with the deceased for two years immediately before the death, as long as it occured in England or Wales, the partner will be entitled to a claim for maintenance. Unfortunately they have to engage solicitors to start court proceedings to make sure that they get what they are entitled to, under their loved one’s estate. Engaging solicitors for this type of claim is expensive especially if it goes to court. Costs of over £25,000 are not uncommon. 

Depending on the relationship with any children that the dearly departed may have, the partner may not even be allowed to take part in the funeral preparations. This can be very stressful and painful for any surviving partner, especially if they lived with the departed for a long time.

The myth of the common-law wife or husband does not exist.

#3. Grandchildren

There is a possibility the deceased may not have any living children left. It is the grandchildren who inherit if that is the case. 

#4. Parents

The deceased’s parents are the next to receive the inheritance if the dearly departed died without offspring or adopted children. This doesn’t include step-parents. Step-parents have no legal standing to receive anything from the estate. If a child has been brought up by a step-parent and sees that step-parent as their parent, the child needs to have a will giving the step-parent whatever they wish them to have.

#5. Siblings

Siblings will only receive the inheritance if there are no offspring, grandchildren, or parents. This does include half-siblings. It does not include step-siblings. 

#6. Nieces and Nephews

Say the deceased is the last of the family’s brood left. When they die, the nieces and nephews will inherit the estate. 

#7. Grandparents

Grandparents are the next to be granted the inheritance if there is no one else. This does not include step-grandparents.

#8. Aunts or Uncles

The next in line are aunts and uncles. This doesn’t include the step-aunt or step-uncles. It does include any half-aunt or half-uncles the deceased may have. 

#9. First Cousins

First cousins will inherit the estate if there are no aunts or uncles left. This does not include any step-children the aunt or uncles may have unless they have been legally adopted. 

#10. The Crown

If there are no living blood relatives left to inherit the state, the entire inheritance will go to the Crown. This is a process known as “bona vacantia”.

Bona Vacantia means any vacant goods. The ownerless property is given the name “bona vacantia”, and by law, then passes to the Crown. 

The Treasury Solicitor acts on the Crown’s behalf to administer the estate of people who pass intestate without blood relatives. Assets and other ownerless goods are collected by the Treasury Solicitor and become properties of the Crown. 

What Happens to Jointly Owned Property?

There are many cases where a home is owned jointly by someone who is not a blood relative. They are called “joint tenants” or “tenants in common”. 

If the deceased passes away and the house is owned by both parties as joint tenants, it is not considered part of the estate. This means if one person dies, the other will inherit their share, even without a will. 

However, if the property has the owners listed as tenants in common and one dies, the shared half of the property isn’t automatically given to the other owner. The intestacy rules  are followed if there is no will and whoever is next in line for the estate now owns the other half of the home. 

Who Can’t Inherit if there is no Will?

When there isn’t a will, it makes a challenging situation for everyone in the deceased’s life. Without a will, anyone who is not in a legally-recognised relationship with the person cannot inherit any of the estate. This includes:

#1. Unmarried partners

Common law partners do not exist.  Therefore any partner who lives with the dearly departed needs a will to give them authority to administer their loved one’s will. As heartbreaking as it sounds, there isn’t a legally-recognized relationship, and it goes to a blood relative instead.

#2. Relations by marriage

Even though the step-children may have been raised by the deceased for their entire lives, they have no claim on the estate. Unless there is a formal adoption or they are maintained by the dearly departed the step-children will receive nothing. 

This also includes parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, and sisters-in-law. While the spouses are legally bound to each other, their respective families are not. 

#3. Close Friends

While a close friend may have helped the deceased in their last days more than their own family, they cannot inherit the estate unless the dearly departed leaves a will giving them a gift

Having a Will is Important

Passing on without a will outlining who you want to inherit leaves a very complicated process for the loved ones  to follow. The best thing you can do for your loved ones to give them peace of mind after you are gone is to outline your final wishes in writing formally while you are still of sound mind and body, and long before you ever need to.
Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors are at the ready with an expert legal staff to assist you with your will needs.  Contact us for more information about assistance with your will, as well as your other legal needs for end of life.

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Should My Will Be Kept Secret? Where Should It Be Kept?

30th January 2021

As you age, the feeling of worry creeps in about what will happen to your home and belongings when you die. It is a fact of life human beings pass away, but the possessions accumulated throughout one’s life stay behind for our loved ones to cherish or pass on to others who might appreciate them more. 

The smart thing to do to prepare your relatives for the end of your life is to have a will or trust in place and be sure your wishes will be met. In the event of your passing, a document laying out precisely what you want and what happens to your belongings will make your loved ones’ life less stressful and allow them to focus less on logistics. A will can make life less complicated, and your relatives can grieve without worrying about what to do with your assets left behind. 

However, not everyone may be happy with what you outline in your will or want the will discovered if they are left out of the inheritance for any reason. This makes it challenging when preparing your final wishes, and you need to decide what to do with your will to protect your last decisions.

Your Rights to Privacy and Your Will

Your will is your private, personal wish for what happens to you and your possessions after you pass away. However, people do have these two questions when it comes to keeping their final wishes private.

Question #1. Do I have to tell my family members what is in my will?

The age-old tale of the children being unhappy with the will their parents created occurs more often than you might think. A demand to change the will can come up, and a fight will more than likely ensue. 

This situation can make everyone in the family unhappy and cause rifts that might never heal. The best thing to do in this dynamic is to inform your relatives you have a will and not disclose the contents of the document.

You have no legal obligation to show your will to anyone. The family members may bluster and try to bully you into showing themyou your will’s contents but it is important to stand your ground. You do not have to disclose the contents of the will to anyone.

Question #2. Is my will a public document?

When you create your will, it is not a public document. The legal form is your private wish on paper in the case of your passing. Its contents aren’t known outside of those who you choose to share it with, the solicitor who helped you create it, and yourself. 

The document only becomes public after probate is granted. After your passing, the estate’s executor is the only one allowed to see the will’s contents. Once probate is granted, your will then becomes a public document.  

Places to Keep Your Will

Once you have the legal document in hand, it is often difficult to figure out where you want to keep it. There are a few places you can keep your will, and it is up to you to decide which one is best in your situation.

#1. Your own home

If you have a personal safe at home, it is an excellent option to store your will in your own home. There are no fees, and the document is at your fingertips to look over whenever you feel the need. You can easily modify and adjust your will as needed when your circumstances change.

However, there are some risks involved. If you store it in your home you run the risk of someone reading it without your knowledge, damage to the document, or the will being destroyed if you have a flood or fire in your home. You will also need to ensure that someone you trust will have access to your will after you pass away.

#2. With The Solicitor

After writing your will, you can choose to store it with your solicitor. Solicitors are regulated, giving you recourse if the will is lost or damaged. Storing with a solicitor also ensures that your will can be made available when it’s needed.

Be aware that an additional fee may be needed if you have to store it with the solicitor who didn’t write the document. 

It’s No Secret That You Need a Will

To ensure your estate is taken care of promptly, a will or trust is the best course of action. Your loved ones will be able to handle your last wishes with ease when they are outlined clearly. 
Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors are at the ready with an excellent staff to assist you with your will needs.  Contact us for more information about assistance with your will, as well as your other legal needs for probate, lasting powers of attorney, equity release, and settlement agreements.