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Influence

BY: Paul / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: Will Writing

 

A recent ruling by the High Court determined that a claim brought by 3 sons for a share of their mother’s £1 million family home was unsuccessful.

Mrs Rea died in July 2016 at the age of 86 and in her final Will which she made in 2015, she left her South London home, which was her main asset and worth roughly £1 million, to her daughter Rita. It was found she had left a note with her Will which stated

‘My sons do not help with my care and there have been numerous calls for help from me but they are not engaging with any help or assistance. ‘My sons have not taken care of me and my daughter Rita has been my sole carer for many years. ‘Hence should any of my sons challenge my estate I wish my executors to defend any such claim, as they are not dependent on me and I do not wish for them to share in my estate save what I have stated in this will.’

It was found that her 2015 Will replaced an earlier Will in 1986 which had left her entire estate to be shared equally between her 4 children.

The sons who were written out of the mother’s Will, brought a claim on the basis that their sister had “poisoned” their mums mind by claiming the sons had abandoned their mother so that she would solely inherit the family home.

It was relevant that the 3 sons had only been left a very small legacy, which, after funeral expenses would leave them with nothing. On that basis, they had made an application to strike out the 2015 Will and reinstate the earlier Will made by their mother in 1986.

The Court held that there needed to be evidence to show that Rita had “poisoned her mother’s mind by casting a dishonest aspersion on their characters.” On hearing and considering the evidence before them, the Court found there was no evidence to show that Rita had “poisoned her mother’s mind,” rather the sons relied on inference and therefore their claim was unsuccessful. It was noted that Rita had provided extensive daily care to her mother whilst the contribution from her sons was very little. In September 2015 Nino and David (Mrs Rea’s sons) had set up a rota to help with their mother’s care but within a few weeks, it had collapsed.

It was found that Mrs Rea had always had a close relationship with her daughter and a “soft spot” for her. It was her daughter who had moved into the family home to solely care for her during the final years of her life after Mrs Rea had suffered a heart attack in 2009.

On hearing the evidence from Rita, it was found the brothers each had a key to the family home and were welcome to visit as and when they wished to. It was only until late 2015 or 2016 when her relationship with her brothers became strained that the locks were changed.

With regards to the brothers contesting the Will on the grounds of undue influences, it was held Mrs Rea was very strong minded and at the time she made her revised Will, it was clear she knew what she was doing. Whilst English was not her first language, she understood enough to know the implications the change in her Will would have. Therefore, her mind had not been influenced and she made the decision to write her sons out of her Will on her own accord.

This case highlights just how important it is as professional will writers to exercise caution where cases are likely to be contentious and ensuring that detailed attendance notes are kept with your file.

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Advising Expats On The Importance Of Making A Will

BY: Paul / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: News, Will Writing

Advising Expats On The Importance Of Making A Will

To quote Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind – “death, taxes, and childbirth, there’s never a convenient time for any of them”.

When it comes to the Grim Reaper, if he comes for your client whilst they are living in a foreign country, he is not bothered about whether they have organised their affairs or not. And few situations are messier than dealing with the fall-out from someone who is domiciled abroad and dies intestate.

An estimated 5.5  million British people live overseas. According to the data, over 1.5 million reside down under (Australia and New Zealand), 761,000 in Spain, 1.2 million in North America, 240,000 living in Dubai, and 212,000 in South Africa.

For succession purposes, where a matter involves more than one legal system it is necessary to apply the conflict of laws (also referred to as private international law (PIL)) rules that determine which law of succession applies. Where the PIL rules of one jurisdiction conflict with the PIL rules of another jurisdiction, it is necessary to determine which jurisdiction can decide the matter.

Fortunately, since 17 August 2015, the rules surrounding dying intestate within the European Union have been simplified. If someone dies in an EU Member State without a Will, the rules of intestacy will be the rules of the country in which they were habitually resident as at the date of their death.

The concept of domicile

The country in which a person is domiciled refers to the nation with which they have the closest ties. A person’s domicile of origin is typically their father’s domicile as at their date of birth.   One can choose to be domiciled in a different country from that where they were born; however, a person can only be domiciled in one country at a time. To establish whether a person has changed their domicile, consideration must be given to whether they have left their domicile of origin and settled in their country of choice and whether that move is permanent.

Conceptually, this may not be difficult. But take the increasingly common case of a mixed-nationality couple, who, once their children have grown up, decide to divide their time between two jurisdictions, e.g. Australia and France; this may continue for many years until one dies without a Will. In such circumstances, establishing which domicile applies is far from straightforward .

The law of intestacy in different jurisdictions

Once domicile or habitual residence is established, the intestacy laws of that country will apply. What many British migrants fail to realise is that other countries’ laws often differ substantially from that of England and Wales.

Australia

Each state in Australia has its own intestacy laws. For example, if the deceased dies in Perth, Western Australia, allocation of the estate is governed by the Administration Act 1903 (WA). Division will depend on the value of the estate and the type and number of potential beneficiaries. Unlike English intestacy law, cohabitees do have inheritance rights under the Administration Act, if they can establish they have been in a de-facto relationship with the deceased for two years or more.

Generally, anyone over the age of 18 who is entitled to a share of the estate can apply for Letters of Administration to the Probate Office of the Supreme Court for the right to manage the estate.

United States of America

Like Australia, each State has its own laws of intestacy. However, the laws are fairly uniform for small estates. In most cases, if the estate is valued at less than $100,000, rather than file Court proceedings, family members can file a Declaration of Small Estate through a bank. In California, this can even be done through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DVA). The person filing the Declaration must swear an oath that no other person has any greater claim to the deceased’s property.

State law varies for estates over $100,000 and where there are spouses or partners, and/or children involved. For example, in New York State , in the case of an intestacy where there is a spouse but no children, the spouse receives the entire estate.  If there is a spouse and children,
the spouse inherits the first $50,000 plus half of the balance. The children* inherit everything else.

Unmarried partners have no right to inherit under New York intestacy law. This has led to a growth in ‘deathbed’ marriages. State law provides the right for family members to have such a marriage annulled if they can prove the nuptials were made specifically to achieve fraudulent financial gain.

Dubai

If an expat dies without a Will in Dubai, the default is that Sharia law will decide who inherits their estate. Sharia law is not codified, and there is no system of precedent in the UAE Courts.

Under Sharia law, if a husband dies intestate, the wife will qualify for only one-eighth of her deceased spouse’s estate. In addition, all assets (including bank accounts and shares) will be frozen until liabilities have been discharged.

Conclusion

For those advising clients who have property in the UK and are likely to acquire assets in the country they move to, it is imperative they are advised on the importance of having a valid Will in place, not only in the UK but in the jurisdiction they are moving to.

Dying intestate in the UK causes complications enough. For the survivors of expats who die without a Will, the resulting administrative and financial problems can be a nightmare – and one that is completely avoidable.

  • by TWP Main Admin
  • Aug 13, 2019

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WHEN A BENEFICIARY HAS A SUBSTANCE ABUSE

BY: Paul / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: Will Writing

Estate Planning Conundrum: What to do when a beneficiary has a substance abuse problem

 

Many parents have raised the issue of what to do when a child or grandchild struggles with substance abuse. With the recent death of Whitney Houston and her connection to substance abuse, it reminds me of what this means during the estate planning process. These parents are heartbroken and need guidance on how to address this difficult situation in their estate planning documents. Substance abuse – whether it’s alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal narcotics – affects many of the families we advise. As a result, we developed a list of questions for families to consider when designing their estate plan:

  1. Has the beneficiary ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?
  2. Is the beneficiary having a particularly hard time – is divorce on the horizon? Has he lost his business? Does he gamble?
  3. What is his relationship with other family members?
  4. Who does he trust?
  5. Who is giving him money?
  6. Is he eligible for government assistance?
  7. Who is paying his health insurance?
  8. Is he employed? For how long? What types of jobs?
  9. Has he ever been treated for his addiction?
  10. Is he a member of Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar organisation?
  11. Do these issues run in the family?
  12. Has there been a family intervention?
  13. Is he open to counselling? Has this topic been addressed?
  14. Where is he living? Can he live alone?

I have noticed that substance abuse often masks other underlying mental health issues, including undiagnosed or untreated schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. That these issues are often part of a larger family pattern makes having the discussion much more difficult, but much more essential.

Families in Conflict An addicted child may have already taken a significant emotional, physical, and financial toll on the entire family. Parents who find it difficult to handle this child become increasingly disturbed when they consider who would step in if they are unable or unavailable. This helplessness often leads to anger, frustration, and conflict. One parent may want to cut off the beneficiary while the other parent cannot consider doing so. One parent may want to kick the child out of the home, while the other parent believes that doing so would make matters worse. These conflicts add stress to their marriage and the family at large. Grandparents may have different opinions than the parents. Siblings may already be resentful of their addicted sister or brother. In many families, the troubled child has already received significant emotional and financial assistance. His troubles have already taken centre stage at the dinner table. His presence in the home and attitude toward the family may have already created constant disruption. Estate Planning Tools and Options As complex and emotional as these issues are, families must address them. And they will welcome having an impartial, yet compassionate adviser to provide guidance, suggestions, and choices. One planning tool for parents to immediately consider is for that child to designate them as the agent under his health care proxy and his attorney in fact under the durable power of attorney. Without these documents, HIPPA will prohibit the parents from being involved with his treatment. Also, these documents give parents legal access to his health and financial records, which could be extremely important if it becomes necessary to apply for government benefits. Inevitably, an estate planning discussion will include disinheritance. In my experience, this is a subject frequently discussed and rarely implemented. No matter how angry and frustrated they are, parents still want to provide some sort of safety net for their child. This pressure to disinherit the troubled child may come from the sense that he has already taken more than his fair share of the family’s resources, possibly at the expense of the other, more responsible children. As the family’s adviser, however, you should ask the parents:

  • If you are not here, how will the child be cared for with no existing financial resources?
  • Who will be responsible?
  • Who will he call?
  • Will disinheriting him place a financial burden on your other children, or will they be able to walk away?

Establishing a Trust Rather than disinheriting him, a common solution is to establish a trust that includes him as a permissible beneficiary – or is only for his benefit during his lifetime. The hard decision, however, is who will serve as trustee after both parents die. Parents are understandably reluctant to place that burden on their other children or on other relatives. If there are significant assets, then choosing a corporate trustee is the simple choice. The other children or trusted friends or advisers can then have the right to remove or replace that trustee during the trust duration. If there are not sufficient assets to warrant a corporate trustee, then the parents must identify friends or trusted advisers – who should be paid for their services. The trustee should review the trust document to ensure that he has the right to resign from his office, and understand the mechanism for subsequent trustee appointments. The document should provide the trustee with the authority to expend funds for purposes such as counselling, detectives, drug testing, and private security. Trust

Terms and Provisions  After deciding on the line of succession and identifying who will operate the trust, parents need to focus on the various purposes for which the trustee may or may not distribute income and/or principal from the trust to the beneficiary. If the beneficiary is likely to require government assistance, then the terms of the trust must contemplate that. The trust document may also give the trustee authority to withhold payments if deemed advisable. This is often preferable to asking that trustee to determine whether a beneficiary is drug-free. Those suffering from substance abuse can be clever, and making such a determination is tricky. Many parents have a sense of shame or denial, and may rightly choose not to make these troubles public, or put them in a trust document that others can access. I encourage parents to write an annual side letter to the trustee that describes their observations and offers details that they are reluctant to share while living. This letter could be placed in a sealed envelope, kept with the original estate planning documents, and updated/revised as circumstances change. It can be comforting to the trustee to understand more about the parents’ goals and objectives from their own voice. Planning for the beneficiary with a substance abuse issue is complex and can have consequences that affect the entire family. Remind parents that life is a movie, not a snapshot. A plan created now should be good enough to handle today’s circumstances, yet flexible enough to contemplate the unknown. Encourage parents who are dealing with this difficult situation to revisit their plan every few years as circumstances change and evolve.

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Wedding Will

BY: Paul / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: News, Will Writing

Weddings are wonderful and it is most certainly one of life’s main events and can be a complicated affair, just the planning of them causes couples to have some very serious conversation’s together and with both sides of the families.

Some issues often discussed:

  • How many Bridesmaids
  • Who sits next to old uncle or Auntie and spend all day assisting them
  • No kids’ policy?
  • Does the member of the family no one speaks to (family black sheep) really have to be invited?
  • Is he really going to be best man?

Yet all these questions being relevant the most important question is often never discussed and is one really important question which should be talked about before a couple get married but often isn’t: the question of what happens when one of them dies.

 

Couples usually spend the pre-wedding period surfing on a wave of optimism and looking forward to a life of wedded bliss and of course marriage is about a new beginning.

Who wants to think about their future husband or wife dying and put the mockers on the whole day, and yet it is of the utmost importance to consider this question.

Sadly, for some couples a tragic event end the happy ever after take Kirsty Maxwell who fell from a 10th floor whilst on a friend’s hens party in Benidorm and who had just been married 7 months earlier a complete accident no one could have predicted.

 

Unfortunately, random events like this do sometimes occur early on in a marriage and when they do the remaining partner is left having to deal with a newly created joint estate. This is never a pleasant task but if couples have never discussed how they would like their assets to be distributed then it is infinitely more difficult and distressing.

 

As morbid as it may seem, if you are getting married, while you are planning your exciting future together you need to ensure that future includes a plan for what happens when one of you inevitably dies. Hopefully that will be far in the future after you’ve celebrated your golden wedding anniversary but none of us can ever know.

 

Getting married automatically invalidates any pre-existing wills and in the absence of a new will, an estate is subject to intestacy laws. It is possible for fiancés to make a will declaring that it is made in anticipation of an upcoming marriage and that it should not be invalidated once the marriage has taken place and you should consider doing this.

 

 

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Residential Nil Rate Band

BY: Paul / 0 COMMENTS / CATEGORIES: Will Writing

The residence nil rate band – do I qualify and should I change my Will?

A key promise in the Conservative Party’s manifesto prior to the last election was an increase in a married couples’ “nil rate band” (the amount they can ultimately pass to their children or others free of inheritance tax ) from £650,000 to £1 million. The Party had picked up on a growing disquiet that the nil rate band hadn’t kept up with house price increases which were pushing more and more families into the inheritance tax net. The standard nil rate band has been capped at £325,000 per person until 2021.

On the back of that promise, for deaths on or after 6 April 2017, the new, additional “Residence Nil Rate Band” (RNRB) will be available where the estate contains a family home (“a qualifying residence”) left to children or other “direct descendants” .

A maximum RNRB amount of £100,000 per person is available for deaths this year, increasing to £175,000 in 2020. If you double these figures for a married couple, the magic £1 million figure is reached by 2020.

A “qualifying residence” is any home that an individual lived in before they died (so buy-to-let properties, for example, are not included). If you own more than one residential property when you die, your personal representatives will need to nominate which property the relief should apply to.

At the end of the day, the property needs to end up in the hands of “direct descendants”. They are defined quite broadly in the legislation and include children (including adopted, foster and step-children), grandchildren, together with the spouses and civil partners of children and grandchildren. It does NOT include nieces and nephews, siblings or other relatives.

There are three main ways a property can be “inherited” by direct descendants. These are:

  1. Under the terms of a Will;
  2. Under the intestacy rules; and
  3. By survivorship.

The main perceived difficulty arises when the property is left to a trust, for example a discretionary will trust. In these circumstances, the property will NOT be treated as having being inherited, even if the class of beneficiaries is made up entirely of direct descendants. It should however be possible to appoint the property out of the discretionary trust to direct descendants within two years of death, so that the RNRB can be captured. Where the direct descendant has an absolute entitlement to the property (for example, under a bare trust), the property will be treated as inherited.

For estates with a net value of £2m or more, the RNRB will taper away £1 for every £2 over £2m. Therefore currently, the RNRB will not be available for an individual estate over £2.2m. There may be cases where lifetime gifting is appropriate to ensure the estate is within the limits.

Where the family home has been sold (perhaps to move into a smaller, rented property or a retirement flat or nursing home) “downsizing relief” means that the RNRB can still be claimed. The calculations involved in downsizing relief are complicated, but the essence of the relief is that you can still clam the benefit of the RNRB where you disposed of a qualifying residence on or after 8 July 2015.

Where does this leave us now in terms of estate planning; should we all be changing our Wills to ensure that the RNRB is captured? The short answer is “no”. I have already mentioned that in the case of a discretionary trust, it should be possible to appoint the property out within two years to take advantage of the RNRB. A deed of variation within two years of death, if appropriate, will achieve the same result. In any event, if you have left the property under your Will to individuals who are NOT direct descendants, I doubt those wishes will have changed by reason of the introduction of the RNRB.

Specific provision can be made for the RNRB in the Will, if this gives the testator some peace of mind. One option would be to leave assets equivalent in value to the maximum available residence nil rate band on discretionary trusts, with an accompanying letter of wishes to trustees requesting that they exercise their powers to ensure that any qualifying residential interest is inherited by direct descendants to take advantage of the residence nil rate band.

While a change in inheritance tax reliefs might be a trigger to pull our Will out of the drawer, my guess is that most Wills should prove compliant with requirements for the relief unless, of course, there was never any intention of leaving the estate to children or other “direct descendants” anyway. Only, perhaps, where (rarely) the whole estate is left to a mixture of direct descendants and others, might some redrafting be necessary to ensure that the RNRB will apply to the qualifying part.

Please contact us for more information 01325324515

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