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26 September 2016

In the business world, the law of commerce underpins all commercial dealings. Commerce lies at the heart of a democratic society and having effective legal recourse when things don't go to plan is essential. However, the established model for facilitating this needs to change and law firms must bear the brunt.

There's currently a very real dichotomy between supply and demand. Availability, cost, and accessibility are the three key watchwords and the Legal Services Consumer Panel has taken the unprecedented step of recommending regulatory intervention after figures showed that just 17% of law firms are being transparent about their fees by displaying prices on their websites.

22 September 2016

Recent years have seen an rise in divorces among the older generation. In a trend that has been coined as 'silver splitting', more and more people over 60 are deciding to separate, moving in contrast with the statistics of other age groups, which have all seen a fall in the number of separations. According to the Office for National Statistics, 2011 saw the number of male divorcees over 60 shoot up by 75% compared to two decades earlier.

As for the reasons why so many of this age group are deciding to divorce, sometimes after long marriages of two decades or more, much speculation has occurred.

Increased life expectancy means that some people look to reinvent themselves as they move into their later years, which, it has been argued, may involve changing the person with whom they spend time with. Some lawyers have blamed empty-nest syndrome, that the couples no longer see a reason to stay together when their children become adults and leave home, while others believe that most of those who are splitting up are doing so simply because, once they have their sizeable pension supporting them, they can now afford it.

But whatever the reason, spouses leaving each other at a later age – when it is more likely that their children will now be young adults – has led to repercussions in other areas of law, particularly inheritance disputes.

The problem is that since the couple have been together for many years, it may have long been assumed that their estate will be divided among their children. But if one or both of them then go on to remarry and their respective spouses have families of their own, all of a sudden there are multiple other potential beneficiaries thrown into the mix, completely upsetting any sense of balance and, from the original family's point of view, fairness.

Second marriages, and the blended families they create, are one of the most common sources of Will disputes. A Will may have been made by a parent while still in a first marriage and this may remain unchanged when embarking on a subsequent union. The excluded second husband or wife and their children will no doubt contest the orders of the Will if they feel them to be outdated and therefore no longer reflective of the testator's true feelings when they died. But this could be very hard to prove.

On the other hand, an older person in a happy second marriage may amend their Will to include their new family, diminishing how much is left to their first family. Of course, the circumstances of each case will vary based on each blended family's situation (no one family history is the same as another, with differing levels of estrangement between parents and their children making inheritance a sometimes thorny issue), and it is possible for stepchildren to be left more of the estate than the testator's biological children. This may understandably lead to many hurt feelings and bitterness – even a sense of abandonment – and leave some family members disputing what they see as a gross injustice.

Such scenarios can lead to a major clash of the deceased's two families, which is becoming an increasingly common situation seen by lawyers in Will disputes.

If you are currently in the process of making your Will and wish to avoid causing any future battles between your loved ones, there are things you can do to mitigate a potential inheritance brawl. It is advisable to leave a letter with your Will to explain why you have decided to divide up your estate in the way you have. If anyone has been excluded or left less than they may be expecting, it's best to give a good reason for this in the letter. The same is true if you have left a large sum to a charity. Clearly spelling out the reasoning behind your decision will mean that there is less of a chance for the disappointed beneficiary to feel the need to fight against your wishes and greater likelihood that a court will uphold your wishes.

Making a Will is hardly a simple task at the best of times, and having multiple spouses and acting as a parent to many children throughout your life will only make it that much more harder. This is why it's a good idea to enlist the help of a lawyer experienced in Wills and probate to help make the process as straightforward as possible.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

Click here to return to the main Wills area.

 

21 September 2016

 In the wake of Brexit, everyone knows that the political world has been in uproar. So much is happening that the spotlight is, understandably, firmly fixed on those entering and exiting the key political roles. But this huge change doesn't just affect politics; what about the further layer upon layer of repercussions resulting from the UK's exit from the EU?

Sadly, some malignant, unseen forces are now at work, taking advantage of the chaos and, unfortunately for the UK, this means that cybercrime is on the rise. If Brexit could be encapsulated in one word, it would be uncertainty and there is a tidal wave of change looming; increases in cybercrime identity theft and financial fraud may slip under the radar - unless we are careful.

20 September 2016

It is that time of the year again, when we see everyone around us with a golden tan and we have just arrived back to the miserable England weather from a fantastic holiday abroad. It is usually around this time of the year when the English think about owning a holiday home abroad and make their dream a reality.

However, so the dream doesn't turn into a nightmare, follow these top tips to make sure that buying a holiday home is plain sailing before you follow your dream. Unfortunately, we have seen far too many households disrupted when clients have chosen to ignore professional advice.

1. Make sure you have a Will in England dealing with your English assets

A Will ensures that your affairs are in order in England and if the worst should happen to you, your loved ones will be looked after.

2. Take advice about your inheritance tax position in England

You should take advice about your inheritance tax position in England and how this interacts with your assets worldwide. For example, someone who is domiciled in England (i.e. born and live in England) he/she is subject to pay inheritance tax on his/her worldwide assets. Each individual in entitled to a Nil Rate Band of £325,000. Anything above this is taxed at 40%! (subject to a few exemptions and reliefs).

3. Take advice about your domicile status

If you are not domiciled in England, you could still be "deemed" to be domiciled here for tax purpose. If this is the case, the inheritance tax rules are different. Individuals domiciled in India, Pakistan, France and Italy can take advantage of a favourable tax treaty and avoid paying additional inheritance tax.

4. Take advice about a Will in the country where you are thinking about purchasing your home

An English Will is not necessarily recognised abroad, so it is imperative that your assets abroad are dealt with under a Will. You should see a local solicitor specialising in this area of law, in the locality that you are thinking of buying your house.

5. Take specialist advice from the country where you are thinking about purchasing your holiday home

You should ensure that you speak to a specialist about your tax affairs. You could be subject to income tax, inheritance tax and capital gains tax abroad and it is important that you familiarise yourself with this before you purchase your property.

The way that you purchase your property could have a huge impact on how you are taxed in the future, so it is important to obtain the correct advice before you sign on the dotted line!

6. Ensure that both countries advisors communicate with each other and your English Will does not revoke your foreign Will and vice versa.

In England it is common to have an opening clause in the Will "revoking all previous Wills", and this could be the case abroad also. If you have two Wills, i.e. one in England and one abroad, it is important that this clause is altered; otherwise you could be left without a valid Will.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

 

Click here to return to the main Inheritance Tax area.

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20 September 2016

In the last few years, the scale of the problem posed by dementia has become all too clear. According to the most recent statistics, some 800,000 men and women are currently afflicted by the condition, and that number is set to double within the next few decades.

Unsurprisingly, more people are making sensible arrangements should they also lose the capacity to manage their own affairs.

They are making documents giving nominated individuals what is known as Lasting Power of Attorney (or LPAs, for short), allowing decisions to be made on their behalf either about their property and finances or their health and welfare – or, in fact, both. However, such has been the popularity of LPAs that the Office for the Public Guardian (OPG), the body charged with registering them, has admitted struggling to cope.

Figures which my colleagues and I have uncovered show that the number of LPAs has almost doubled in the last two years.

The OPG has claimed that the demand for the documents has outstripped its “ageing technology” and resulted in it taking longer than planned to process them.

As we have discovered, that has resulted in cases in which people have made LPAs setting out their intentions to refuse life-prolonging treatment only to be treated against their wishes. It’s a topic which I’ve spoken to the Daily Telegraph about.

Despite such difficulties, though, there are distinct benefits to making an LPA or ‘living Will’ as they have become known.

They enable someone to have a say in what should happen to them even if they are prevented from exercising full control because of a deterioration in their health.

I have been advising those making LPAs to inform their GPs and hospital consultants so that the documents become part of their medical record, thereby avoiding the potential for confusion and complication.

 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

Click here to return to the main Wills area.

 

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