1. Can I make my own Will & plan my estate?
Yes, it is possible to make your own Will. However, the more complex your assets and affairs, the more opportunity it will go wrong.
For peace of mind, it is best to take professional advice to ensure that your wishes are followed in the event of your death. Many homemade Wills have failed due to ambiguity or invalid execution. It is possible that by trying to save money now, much more of your estate is wasted in litigation or administration on death. In short, the document becomes much more expensive than having taken professional advice at the outset.
2. Are all Wills the same?
The simple answer is no, not all wills as the same. A Will is personal to you and your circumstances. Therefore, it needs to reflect your case and ensure that your wishes are fulfilled, tax minimised, and asset protection maximised.
If there are issues regarding the jurisdiction of assets, the taxation of gifts, the distribution of your estate, and appropriate wording, your tax and legal specialist must take the time to listen to your circumstances to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family.
3. What is estate planning?
Estate Planning involves considering what actions you will take both during your lifetime and after death to ensure the most advantageous outcome in terms of minimising tax, maximising protection, and ensuring your assets are protected from third parties. For those with combined assets of over £1 million (but also for some under that value), estate planning is crucial. We will work with you to achieve this plan.
4. What is a Trust?
Trusts are arrangements in which assets are held by trustees on behalf of beneficiaries. There can be many different reasons for this, perhaps the beneficiary is underage, lacks capacity, or the assets need protection for divorce or bankruptcy reasons. Trusts can also be used as an effective mechanism for tax planning.
We can advise you on the right type of trust arrangement that will suit your circumstances.
5. Which Trust is right for me?
If the Trust is to be contained in your Will, then you can use our flowchart as a starting point as to what Will is right for you. The majority of these contain Trusts of some structure. We can advise you on what options might be suitable for you when reviewing your estate if you are considering gifting assets during your lifetime.
6. What should I be looking for in a solicitor or tax expert?
When looking for any adviser, you should be aware and have confidence that this individual:
- Is adequately insured.
- Is regulated in the area where you require advice.
- Provides you with a clear understanding of their level of qualification and experience in this area.
- Instructs individuals who are full members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and/or Chartered Tax advisers (especially if tax advice is required).
- Is respected/well known in this area.
- Ensure that this is someone you can work with – you want an expert who will listen to you, understands your circumstances, and creates a bespoke solution for you.
7. What happens if I decide to leave my estate unprotected?
If you die without a Will, then the intestacy rules apply, which means that the law dictates how your estate will be administered. What happens, depends on where the assets are located and the family that you leave behind. Apart from being more costly, you could end up with assets passing to individuals you did not wish to benefit. There is also more likely to be litigation as disappointed beneficiaries did not get what they were expecting.
8. What can go wrong when dealing with an estate?
As a multitude of things can go wrong, especially if you have not planned properly and have not taken appropriate advice, there is no easy answer to this question.
Some examples include:
- Not writing your life assurance into a trust means that additional inheritance tax is payable on your death.
- The inexact wording of legacies means that a beneficiary may not receive the gift or may get more than you were expecting.
- Misunderstanding as to the location of assets, meaning that they pass to different beneficiaries under a different Will.
- Partial intestacies if you have Wills in multiple jurisdictions but nothing tying them together.
- Insufficient use of exemptions and reliefs, or you did not organise your estate in a way before death to make use of available exemptions and reliefs.
- There can be many disputes, including claims by dissatisfied beneficiaries, disagreements over values, business disputes over inheritance, and arguments surrounding mental capacity.
9. What is the value in the level of charges?
The value you receive is in the level of advice. During this process, we spend much of our time getting to know you and understanding your situation, and then we advise you on the best structure and plan for your situation. By following the advice given, we will minimise your tax liabilities, ensure appropriate asset protection, and ensure your estate is administered in a timely manner without wasting time and funds.
10. Do you offer free consultations?
The value that we offer is in our advice. We will spend some time getting to know you and seeing if we are an appropriate fit and can assist you. We will then provide you with an indication of costs and timescale. We will not provide advice until you have agreed to our terms of business.
11. How long does the process take, and what does it involve?
This very much depends on your circumstances and your wishes. Some plans take many months to achieve due to decisions and/or timing issues. In other cases, we can complete your estate plan or report and any supplementary documents within a few weeks.
The first step is to understand your circumstances and then we can advise you of timescales going forward.