More than £5.2 billion in inheritance tax (IHT) was paid in the last tax year – the highest figures ever recorded.
Official statistics from HMRC's latest monthly estimate have revealed the unprecedented amount is an increase of £400 million on the previous tax year.
But it appears that not all those entitled to claim the new IHT allowances have been taking advantage of these, leaving them with a higher than necessary IHT bill – in some instances, families could be paying as much as £40,00 extra.
Sir James Munby, the outgoing President of the Family Division, has had a number of divorce cases brought to his attention. It appears that a number of Decree Nisis and Absolutes have been incorrectly granted, as they did not meet the required time limits.
There are strict timeframes for when a petitioner can submit a divorce petition; couples must have been married for an entire year before being able to submit a petition. It appears that, in some cases, a full year had not passed before the petitions were sent to the divorce centres. In other cases, divorces were processed despite there not being the full required separation period of either 2 years or 5 years.
Since the introduction of regional divorce centres in 2015, the paperwork is routinely handled and processed by legal advisers who are supervised by Judges. As the legal advisers are not necessarily legally trained, it is perhaps not surprising that there have been some errors in the processing of legal documentation and applications.
There have been renewed calls by family lawyers, Resolution and Baroness Hale for the introduction of no-fault divorce. These calls come as we near the much-anticipated Supreme Court hearing of Owens V Owens on 17th May 2018.
Baroness Hale recently created history by becoming the first female President of the Supreme Court. At the annual Resolution conference in Bristol, she said, “It may seem paradoxical to suggest that no-fault divorce is aimed at strengthening responsibility, but I believe that it is. The contents of the [divorce] petition can trigger or exacerbate family conflict entirely unnecessarily. Respondents are encouraged by their lawyers to ‘suck it up’ even though the allegations are unfair. There is no evidence at all that having to give a reason for the breakdown makes people think twice.”
Many people will only write one Will in their entire lifetime. They may write it several decades before their passing, but still find, as they reach their final years, that it continues to reflect their wishes.
However, the reality for most of us is that the circumstances and details of our lives, as well as those of the people around us, change over time: we get married, get divorced, get remarried, friends and family become estranged, financial situations change, health alters our constitution and outlook, and our visions for our legacies evolve.
This is why it is so important to ensure we amend our Wills as often as we need to. Whether it is because we wish to change executor, change beneficiaries, set up trusts, provide for charitable legacies, support the future needs of a new partner, or for some other reason; by revisiting a Will and changing its contents we can, with just a few sentences and a familiar flourish of signature, help provide clarity for the future while also reducing the possibility for contentious Wills and inheritance disputes among our loved ones.
Only 180 years after the Wills Act was introduced, there is a suggestion that the law around making Wills may need updating to reflect “changes in society, technology and medical understanding”. When one considers that Queen Victoria had just succeeded to the throne and that neither the car nor the computer had been invented, the statute has lasted rather well. However, recent developments in medicine and technology present new challenges not envisioned in Victorian times. As a member of ACTAPS, I had the pleasure of being invited to a Law Commission meeting on their proposals for bringing the law of Wills into the twenty-first century.
There had been quite a lot of sensationalist reporting on their proposals which they were keen to correct.