Legal Question?

"Dear Alan I've appreciated your excellent service so will be in contact again if I want to purchase another property Thanks and regards Louis"
Louis - November 2015
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your time, advice and recommendations. We found ourselves in a very unwelcome situation as we came to sell our first home. We have learnt a lot during the past twelve months and feel that we have reached a good resolution following guidance from you. You managed our expectations of the outcome realistically from our first meeting and offered clear information and direction throughout our correspondence.
Sandra - November 2015
Dear Gordon Once again I/we could not have managed without you. Yes we are very very pleased with the service you provided. Please let others know. Warm regards Sincerely Anne and Colin
Anne and Colin - November 2015
"We covered an awful lot of ground in the initial fixed fee meeting regarding a boundary dispute. Many thanks for your time, advice and insights. I liked the way that you set out a “gameplan” and strategic objective – then explained all the tactical approaches available to achieve that objective. I was surprised at how many different threads I could follow up and delighted that they were all laid out so clearly and in terms it was easy for me to understand. Because it was a fixed fee meeting, I had come along with a sheet of background and questions to get the most out of our time. All my questions – and more – were answered with good detail. I feel a lot more confident and informed, with a clearer list of next steps.
Cathy - October 2015
Barrett & Co have been our family solicitors for nearly 20 years and have always provided us with a first class professional service. Over the years we have worked with various members of the team and have found them all to be excellent. The team at Barrett & Co take the time to get to know their clients which then allows them to offer advice and guidance tailored to your situation. You can always be certain they are there to serve your best interests. A big thank you to Simon, Hilary, Justin, Martin, Nigel and Sandra for all your support over the years, your help and guidance are very much appreciated.
Peter - October 2015
I would rate all aspects of the service as Very Good. I have recommended your firm to many people and I will continue to do so and use your services myself. Nigel is incredible at what he does, it's an absolute pleasure dealing with him and I look forward to using your services again in the future.
Gary Williams - October 2015
We have used Barrett & Co for a number of years for both commercial and employment issues. Most recently they have reviewed and updated a number of our precedent contracts to reflect the company’s evolving business model. Simon (Barrett), Justin (Sadler) & Rob (Jefferies) are a pleasure to deal with and always focus on what we, as a client need to achieve. I would recommend Barrett & Co to any business, whether new or established, but especially those considering a brand new venture.
Louise - Auriga Consulting Oct 2015
Justin is a very helpful and knowledgeable solicitor providing me with an excellent service on my recent needs. I would recommend him to anyone who is requiring guidance.
Robert - March 2015
Dear Gordon & Sandra Thank you for sending confirmation of the sale of 22 Lysander Close. We have appreciated your work and efficiency Gordon with this sale, as with our purchases last year. We will most certainly be in touch if we have the need for further conveyancing services in the future. We will also happily recommend your services to others.
Wendy and Eric - March 2015
Justin's professional advice to me was extremely valuable and was delivered in a timely and thorough manner. The matter was resolved with a very positive outcome and so I would not hesitate to recommend him. February 2015
Peter - Commercial Client
The service I have received from Barrett and Co and in particular John Harrison has been excellent. Throughout the process of purchasing my property John has always displayed the highest level of professionalism. He communicated all information clearly and concisely and without unnecessary jargon. I would highly recommend Barrett and Co. and will certainly be using them again in the future.
James - March 2015
A very clear consultation with great advice. Justin was well informed and I would have no hesitation in recommending his services.
Nigel - 2014
Dear Nigel and Sandra, Thank-you very much for doing such an excellent job as usual. I am very pleased with the service received. I will continue to recommend you and use you again if the opportunity arises in the future. Best Wishes,
Nicola - 2014
Justin quickly grasped a fairly complex legal situation and gave excellent advice during a first one-hour consultation over the phone. I would be comfortable using his services going forwarded, if the need should arise.
Mads - 2014
Justin gave me immediate confidence to entrust him with a sensitive legal matter. His balance of guidance, direction and support was exactly what I needed and I would have no hesitation engaging his services again. Mark
Mark - 2014
Hello Richard, On behalf on my mother and I we would like to thank you for all your help during our will related project a few weeks ago. Thank you once again for your fast and professional handling of the matter.
Vadima and Ksenia - 2014

Care home fees and your home, solicitors Reading

Normally, an elderly person who lives in a care home is required to pay all or part of the cost of their care based on criteria laid down in the Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide (CRAG).

A local authority is not required to charge for care where the period of accommodation lasts for fewer than eight weeks. After eight weeks, the local authority must charge at the standard rate and carry out an assessment of means to ascertain the appropriate level of charge to be made to the resident. A resident who refuses to be assessed will pay the full standard rate without contribution from the local authority.

The means assessment is based on the capital and income of the resident. The home of a resident is disregarded when they intend to return to it and it is still available for them to occupy, or they are taking reasonable steps to dispose of it in order to acquire another home to which they intend to return after temporary residence in the care home. A property owned jointly with others will be considered to be an asset proportionate to the number of joint owners, so where there are three owners, a one third share of the total value would apply. There are special rules governing the valuation for assessment purposes of properties held in different legal forms or where the property is difficult to realise.

In general terms, financial assets are regarded as part of the resident’s capital but personal property is not, provided the purpose of the acquisition of the personal property was not to avoid the amount of assessable capital. There are special rules for some types of investment, such as insurance bonds.

Generally, the income assessment includes all income, although there can be exceptions where appropriate, such as, for example, for business income where the business is being sold.

At present, a resident in a council care home must use their own capital to pay for their care until the capital is reduced to £23,000. After that, a contribution is made on a reducing scale until the resident’s capital is reduced to £14,000. This is done by the local council assessing each additional £250 of capital as producing an income of £1 per week. When the capital is reduced to £14,000, no further contribution is necessary.

The value of a house is not taken into account as capital for the first 12 weeks of residential care and is not taken into account at all if your spouse or civil partner continues to live there. However, if a permanent transfer to a care home is likely, as is often the case, then the home becomes an assessable asset. It may be thought, therefore, that it is a good idea to transfer the home to (say) a family member so it falls out of assessment. However, when an attempt has been made to manipulate the income or capital of the resident to prevent it falling into assessment, for example by transferring an assessable asset, CRAG allows the local authority to make an assessment to recover the charge from the person to whom an asset has been transferred in the six months prior to admission to the care home. In principle, if the purpose of the transfer is to avoid care home costs, the council can challenge a transfer made at any time, so even if if the transfer happened more than six months before you moved into care, it can assess you as if you still own the assets.

It is naïve to think that simply transferring assets shortly before going into a care home will be effective as a way of avoiding liability for the fees. Any arrangements to transfer assets should be part of a family wealth preservation plan based on advice from your solicitor.

Mental capacity, what it is and what it means – solicitors Reading

Mental capacity has always been something of a problematic area of the law.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 was enacted to put mental capacity law on a firmer footing and is based on the concepts of ‘best interests’ and ‘capacity’. Under the Act, capacity is stated to be absent when the person is unable ‘at the material time…to make a decision for himself in relation to the matter because of an impairment of, or disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain’. Interestingly, the lack of capacity need not be absolute or permanent – it can be limited in both time and to the matter which is under consideration. A person may lack capacity at one time and not another and may lack capacity with regard to some sorts of decisions and not others.

Capacity is considered to be lacking in a person if he or she:

cannot understand the information relevant to the decision, including the consequences which flow from making or failing to make it;
cannot retain the information long enough to make the decision;
cannot use the information as part of their decision-making process; or
cannot communicate their decision by any means.

Once it is decided that a person lacks the mental capacity to make a decision, those responsible for making decisions on their behalf are required to do so in whatever way is in that person’s best interests.

A person is assumed to have capacity unless it can be established that he or she does not. Before that is decided to be the case, all practical steps must have been attempted, without success, to facilitate their making a decision.

The fact that a person lacks capacity does not mean that their wishes should be ignored. An attorney appointed to make decisions on their behalf should consider their current and past wishes, the views of relevant others (such as family members) and any beliefs or values that the person who lacks capacity might hold which would affect a decision.

The Act provides for the creation of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs), which may allow the appointed attorney to make decisions relating to the person’s property and financial affairs, personal welfare, healthcare and medical treatment. LPAs cannot be used, however, unless they are registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

It is normally straightforward to make arrangements for your affairs to be managed by a trusted person in the event that you can no longer do so yourself. The execution of a power of attorney ‘just in case’ can give you and your family the assurance that your affairs will be managed smoothly in the event of a loss of mental capacity. Contact us for further information.

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Meeting long term care costs – solicitors Reading

One of the often forgotten issues in retirement planning is the possibility of having to fund long-term care at some future time. Such care is means-tested and most care home residents of means will pay in full for their care. With an ageing population and severe pressure on government finances, this situation is only likely to get worse.

At present, a resident in a council care home must use their own capital to pay for their care until the capital is reduced to £23,000. After that, a contribution is made on a reducing scale until the resident’s capital is reduced to £14,000. This is done by the local council assessing each additional £250 of capital as producing an income of £1 per week. When the capital is reduced to £14,000, no further contribution is necessary.

The value of a house is not taken into account as capital for the first 12 weeks of residential care and is not taken into account at all if your spouse or civil partner continues to live there.

How Divorce Works, Solicitors Reading explains

More than one in three marriages in England and Wales ends in divorce. Where both parties to a marriage wish to divorce, the actual legal process involved is relatively straightforward. Where difficulties generally arise is over custody arrangements for children and over the division of the family assets.

There is only one valid ground for divorce, which is that the marriage is considered by the court to have irretrievably broken down. If you think that there is a possibility that any marital problems you are having could be overcome, it is important to investigate this possibility first.

The person who commences the divorce proceedings is referred to as the ‘petitioner’ and their spouse as the ‘respondent’. To satisfy the court that an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage has occurred, the petitioner has to establish one of five facts:

1. The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to carry on living with them;

2. The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to continue to live with them;

3. Immediately prior to the divorce proceedings having been commenced the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of two or more years;

4. Immediately prior to the divorce proceedings having been commenced the petitioner and the respondent have been living apart for a continuous period of two or more years and the respondent consents to a divorce; or

5. Immediately prior to divorce proceedings having been commenced the petitioner and the respondent have lived separately for a continuous period of five years or more.

Once the divorce petition has been agreed and signed, it is sent to the court, together with the marriage certificate and details of any children and the arrangements being made for them.

If the court is satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for a divorce, the petition is ‘served’ – i.e. posted to the respondent, who then has a limited period to complete and return an Acknowledgment of Service form, confirming that they have received the petition.

When the form is returned to the court, a copy is sent to the petitioner. The next step is for the petitioner to swear an affidavit in support of the divorce petition, confirming that the details contained in it are correct. This is then sent to the court, which reviews the papers. Where there are children involved, further information on the arrangements made for them may be requested. If the court is satisfied that the documentation is in order, a date is set for the decree nisi to be pronounced. Financial matters and arrangements for children will need to be approved by the court at this stage. The decree nisi is the first step towards the divorce.

The final stage in the divorce process is the decree absolute. The petitioner can apply for the decree absolute six weeks and one day after the issue of the decree nisi. The respondent can apply for the decree absolute after a further 3 months, if the petitioner fails to do so. At this stage, the court will check that all the necessary arrangements are in place and, if satisfied, grant the decree absolute. When you receive your decree absolute, the divorce is final and you are no longer married.

In 2013 the Government effectively removed legal aid for family disputes and it is now normaly for the financial side of a divorce to be dealt with through a mediated process.

We can advise you on all aspects of family law.

Managing the affairs of elderly relatives – solicitors Reading

Managing the affairs of elderly relatives who cannot make their own decisions needs skill and some understanding of the law. In one case, a daughter who lacked both those characteristics was placed under professional supervision by the Court of Protection.

Although she had acted in good faith, the daughter was inflexibly adamant that she alone knew what was best for her dementia sufferer mother and would brook no opposition. Amongst other things, she had spent about £250 a month of her mother’s limited funds on buying her biscuits, cakes and other treats. The pensioner had no appetite for such goodies and often used them as ammunition to pelt staff at the nursing home where she was resident and where she received a nutritious and well balanced diet.

The daughter had complete control over her mother’s finances under an enduring power of attorney (EPA). However, the Court found that she had no understanding of her legal duties and no intention or desire to learn about them. Despite her good intentions, she had thus failed to act in her mother’s best interests. In those circumstances, the EPA was revoked. Although the daughter would continue to act as her mother’s deputy, she would do so under close supervision by a professional with expertise in the field.

Divorce and child maintenance – solicitors Reading

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) – a statutory non-departmental public body – was established in 2008 to take on the work of the Child Support Agency. At the same time, the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (CMOPA) removed the obligation for new claimants who are on benefits to use the CSA. Unsurprisingly, statistics based on the first quarterly figures since this change was made show that the number of new cases being brought to the CSA has declined.

In October 2008, the obligation for existing CSA clients claiming benefits to continue to use the Agency was removed. All parents can now choose the child maintenance arrangements that best suit their individual circumstances. This could be a private arrangement or the statutory maintenance arrangements. A new Child Maintenance Options Service has been established to provide information and support to help parents reach a decision.

Since April 2010, all child maintenance has been fully disregarded when calculating out-of-work benefits.

In November 2008, the CMEC took over responsibility for the work of the CSA. In 2012, this was closed and the responsibility was transferred to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

During 2009/2010, new enforcement powers were introduced under the CMOPA to ensure that parents meet their child maintenance responsibilities. These include allowing the CMEC to seize the passport and/or driving licence of parents who fail to pay, without the need to involve the courts as is currently the case. Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell says that the Government is keen to support parents in these tough times, but for those who choose not to support their own children, “we will not stand by and do nothing. If a parent refuses to pay up then we will stop them travelling abroad or even using their car.” The Commission can also seize money from bank accounts, where a parent has failed in their financial obligations toward their child, without having to go through the courts. The CMEC will also be able to apply for a curfew or to recover money from a dead person’s estate.

In late 2012, a new child maintenance scheme was introduced, claimed to be fairer and faster than the current system. It includes annual reviews of maintenance assessment, an increase in the ‘flat rate’ child maintenance deduction from state benefits and the removal of the necessity for parents who share child care equally to pay maintenance through the statutory scheme. Couples wishing to make their own agreement can use the ‘family-based arrangement form’ available from the Child Maintenance Options website.

The new system bases the maintenance payable on a flat rate per child with the rate varying depending on:

the gross income of the payee;
the number of nights the child spends with each parent on average; and
other factors related to the family circumstances.

For more information see the see the CSA website ,which includes a child maintenance calculator.

From 30 June 2014, all new applicants using the Child Maintenance Service will be charges an application fee of £20, unless they qualify for exceptions from the charge under one of the qualifying categories.

On 11 August 2014, collection charges will be levied for users of the Child Maintenance Service’s ‘Collect and Pay’ system.

The charges will be 4 per cent, made by way of deduction from the payments received by the parent with caring responsibility for the children and an addition of 20 per cent to the child maintenance liability for the parent who does not have caring responsibility for the children.

Spreading the cost of inheritance tax by Solicitors Reading

Meeting the cost of an inheritance tax bill can be stressful, particularly if it is first necessary to sell the deceased’s assets in order to raise the funds from which to pay the tax. However, in certain cases, you can opt to pay the tax due in instalments.

Due date

Inheritance tax is due by the end of the sixth month after the person died. For example, if any inheritance tax due on the estate of someone who died on 3 March 2015, it must be paid by 30 September 2015.

Need to know Interest is charged on payments made after the due date.

IHT liability not yet finalised?

It may be that the final IHT bill is not yet known by the due date, particularly if the deceased’s affairs are complex. Even if the IHT account is not finalised, interest will still be charged from the due date. Therefore, to minimise the interest charge, it is advisable to make payments on account of the inheritance tax bill by the due date.

Paying in instalments

Depending on the assets comprised in the estate, it may be possible to spread the cost by paying some or all of the IHT due in annual instalments over 10 years. This can alleviate cashflow problems by allowing time to sell assets to raise the funds to pay the tax. If you wish to pay in instalments, you must tell HMRC this on form IHT400.

Need to know Interest is payable where the instalment option is chosen.

The instalment option is only available in respect of the IHT due on certain assets. If the asset is sold, the outstanding balance of the tax due in respect of that asset must be paid immediately.

The option to pay in instalments is available in respect of the following assets:

House – payment of 10% of the bill can be made each year plus the interest due if you decide to keep the house to live in.
Shares and securities where the deceased’s holdings provided control of at least 50% of the company.
Unlisted shares and securities where they are worth more than £20,000 and at the price at which they were first sold they represented 10% of the value of the shares in the company, or 10% of the ordinary share capital of the company.
Business – the instalment option is available in respect of the net value of a business run for profit, but not its assets.
Gifts – any IHT to pay on gifts of buildings, shares and securities or all of part of a business can be paid in instalments.
The option to pay in instalments is also available if at least 20% of the IHT on the estate relates to assets which qualify for the instalment option and paying the IHT in a lump sum will cause financial difficulties.

Need to know – Each annual instalment is due on the anniversary of the due date (i.e. the end of the sixth month after death).

Passing on your home inheritance tax free – Reading Solicitors

As widely anticipated, in his summer 2015 Budget, the Chancellor announced measures that will eventually allow couples to pass on their family home to their children or grandchildren free of inheritance tax, as long as the home is not worth more than £1 million. However, the relief, taking the form of a main residence nil rate band in addition to the general nil rate band, is being phased in progressively and the £1 million limit will not be reached until 2020/21.

Additional nil rate band

For deaths that occur on or after 17 April 2017 and additional nil rate band, the main residence nil rate band will be available when a residence is passed on to a direct descendant. The main residence nil rate band is set at:

£100,000 for 2017/18;
£125,000 for 2018/19;
£150,000 for 2019/20; and
£175,000 for 2020/21.

The main residence nil rate band will be increased in line with the increase in the Consumer Prices Index from 2021/22 onwards.

Each individual is entitled to their own main residence nil rate band, which is available in addition to the existing nil rate band, set at £325,000. As is the case with the existing nil rate band, if a person dies without using their full main residence nil rate band, the unused proportion we will be available on the death of their spouse or civil partner.

The introduction of the main residence nil rate band will eventually allow a couple to pass on a family home worth up to £1 million free of inheritance tax.

Direct descendants only

The additional relief for passing on a residence will only apply where the property is passed on to direct descendants, such as children or grandchildren. The measure does not benefit childless couples as the additional nil rate band is not available where the property is left to someone other than a direct descendant. This would be the case where, for example, a maiden aunt left her home to a niece.

Downsizing

Although the new nil rate band is only available for deaths that occur on or after 6 April 2017, the nil rate band will also be available where a person downsizes or on or after 8 July 2015, or ceases to own a home on or after that date and assets of an equivalent value, up to the additional nil rate band, are passed on to direct descendants after death.

High value estates

Those with high value estates (in excess of £2 million) will not be able to benefit from the full amount of the additional nil rate band. The additional nil rate band is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which the estate exceeds £2 million. For 2022/21, the additional nil rate band is lost completely where the estate exceeds £2.2 million.

Need to know: The additional nil rate band is only available where deaths occur on or after 6 April 2017 and where the property is left to a direct descendent. The relief is reduced where the value of the estate exceeds £2 million.

Inheritance Tax Forms – what to do when someone dies – Solicitors Reading

When someone dies there are various forms that need to be completed for inheritance tax purposes, even if there is no inheritance due on the estate. However, the forms are different depending on whether or not IHT is due.

When is IHT payable?

Inheritance tax is payable on someone’s estate exceeds the inheritance tax threshold. The threshold is currently £325,000. This can be doubled to £650,000 where the deceased’s spouse or civil partner did not use their nil rate band on their death.

There is no tax to pay if everything is left to the deceased’s spouse or civil partner. There are also other exemptions which may reduce the tax due.

Valuing the estate

Before you can decide which form you need to complete, the executor must value the estate. Broadly this involves valuing the assets and deducting the debts and liabilities. Guidance on valuing a person’s estate for inheritance tax purposes can be found on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/valuing-estate-of-someone-who-died/overview.

The forms

The inheritance forms should be sent when applying for a grant of representation (see www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance/applying-for-a-grant-of-representation for further details).

The form that you should use depends on whether there is any inheritance tax to pay.

If there is no inheritance tax to pay, you only need to complete the short form, form IHT205. You will need to provide information about the person who died and also some information about the deceased’s estate, including details of any gifts that they made in the seven years prior to their death.

Form IHT205 and the accompanying notes are available to download from the GOV.UK website..

If the deceased lived abroad and there is no IHT to pay, form IHT207 should be used instead of form IHT205. This can be downloaded from the GOV.UK website.

If the deceased’s spouse or civil partner did not use their nil rate band when they died, it is necessary to claim the unused portion for use against the deceased’s estate. This is done by completing form IHT217. Where relevant, this should be sent with form IHT205.

If there is inheritance tax to pay, it is necessary to complete the longer IHT400 form. Unlike the short forms, this form must be sent to HMRC within one year of the end of the month in which the person died. So, for example, if a person died on 10 April 2015, the form must be submitted by 30 April 2016. A penalty may be charged if the form is submitted late.

Form IHT400 is the inheritance tax account and comprises a form and separate schedules, some or all of which may need to be completed. Prior to completing the form, it is necessary to apply for an IHT reference number and payslip. This can either be done online or by completing form IHT422.

When completing IHT400, you will need to provide details of the deceased, their will, the estate and what makes up the inheritance tax account. The form and guidance notes on its completion are available on the GOV.UK website.

Need to know: Penalties may be charged if the information provided is inaccurate.

Probate Solicitors Fees in Reading and Thames Valley

Here is a guide on probate from your Solicitors in Reading.

We hope this is useful, if you have any questions please call us.

It is easy to put off making a will. However, this is the only way to guarantee that your money goes to who you want it to upon your death. If someone dies without making a will they are said to have died intestate. If a will is made before someone’s death then everything will be normally be distributed with ease. Should a will not be made however, the laws on intestacy will apply.

It is important before making a will to consider exactly what you wish to include in it and who you want to benefit from it. Financial assets such as the home, money and possessions are advised to all be included with clear statements of who will receive each; especially for example if there is a special item that you want to specifically leave to someone. If you have children under eighteen you can also make provisions for them and state who you want to care for them should you die.

The laws on intestacy provide that should someone die intestate and they have a spouse or civil partner and children then they can inherit up to £250,000 of the remaining estate. If there is a remaining spouse or civil partner and parents or siblings but no children then they can inherit up to £450,000 of the estate. Smaller estates will be inherited in full.

These statutory legacies only apply when the state exceeds the minimum value of that prescribed by law. The statutory limits applied to estates exceeding the minimum permitted are as follows:

1. If there is a husband, wife or civil partner, and children:

• The spouse/partner gets the personal chattels, the first £250,000 and a life interest in half of what is left

• The children of the deceased, including illegitimate and adopted children, share between them half what is left straight away, if they are 18 or over; and the other half when the surviving parent dies.
2. If there is a husband, wife or civil partner, and relatives but no children:

• The husband or wife gets the personal chattels, the first £450,000 and half what is left.

• The parents of the dead person, or if they have died, the brothers and sisters or their descendants, share the other half of what is left.

3. If there is a surviving husband, wife or civil partner, but no other relatives:

The surviving spouse/partner gets everything.

4. If there are children, but no living husband, wife or civil partner:

The children share everything equally.

5. If there is no husband, wife, civil partner or children:

Everything goes to the next available group of relatives.

6. If there are no available relatives:

The entire estate goes to the Crown.

Inheritance tax must be paid on all estates valued at £325,000 or more. However, spouses, civil partners and donations made to charities are exempt from inheritance tax. Other exemptions are gifts up to a certain value to those marrying or having a civil partnership, gifts of £250 to individuals (a total gift allowance of £3000 a year is permitted) and any gifts made seven years or more prior to the death of the person making the gift are normally tax free. Also where the deceased owned a business, farm, woodland or National Heritage property, some relief from Inheritance Tax is available. If inheritance tax is applicable it is payable at 40% on any amount above this.

It is also important to note that should you make a will prior to marriage or a civil partnership it becomes invalid upon that marriage or civil partnership. If therefore you wish for your assets to pass to someone other than your wife or husband or kids and so forth a new will must be made.

If you and your partner never marry but cohabit the situation can become more complex depending upon whether a will has been made or not. If it has then the process is simple. However, if a will has not been made then unlike with married couples and civil partners the deceased’s assets will not automatically pass to the remaining partner. This can come as a shock to people and it is important to be aware of this and to make a will setting out what you and your partners wishes are should one of you die. Another option is to set out a trust agreement as either tenants in common or joint tenants.

Assets that are held jointly such as joint bank accounts will normally follow the joint tenants trust process and automatically pass to the surviving partner. However, once these types of assets have been dealt with any residual assets will pass to other people in accordance with the rules on intestacy.

All is not necessarily lost however, as an application to the courts can be made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. An application can be made by a surviving dependant if they are someone who the deceased person would likely have made provisions for had they not died intestate. A claim will be permitted when the surviving cohabitee had been living with deceased as if they were married or civil partners for two years prior to their death or if the remaining partner was being completely provided for or partially provided for by the deceased just before their death.

The courts have considerable powers to determine what money or assets should be passed to the remaining partner and will choose what if any provisions should be granted to the applicant. If the surviving partner is successful in their claim they will not be exempt from Inheritance Tax as a spouse or civil partner would be.

It is often thought that upon someone’s death their will must be executed in accordance with their final wishes as stated within that will. In fact if everyone who is to benefit from that will agrees to a change or changes then they can be made. In order to do this however, an application must be made within two years of the person’s death.

Provisions of the will are changed in this way using a Deed of Variation (also known as a Deed of Family Arrangement). Originally this type of legal document was introduced in order to protect dependants who would otherwise be left unfairly deprived by a will. In reality these arrangements are mostly used to reduce Inheritance Tax.

Anyone who would have benefited from the deceased’s will and who will lose entitlement to the affected part of the deceased person’s estate must sign to agree to this on a Deed of Variation which is set out in writing. If any of the beneficiaries are under eighteen then the courts approval may be needed before a Deed of Variation can be made.

Understanding tax and wills can be really difficult. It is always best to seek advice in relation to any aspect you are unsure of rather than wait for nasty surprises to emerge in the future. What is certain is that making a will is highly desirable and is not something that should be put off.

Wills and Solicitors Fees – Reading Solicitors explain


You may think that solicitors
fees for writing wills are expensive. However, there’s no substitute for getting proper, qualified legal advice. Wills cost from £200-£400 for a general will without complications…call us for detailed quote…

Death-bed wills are fraught with problems and certainly legal advice, should be taken wherever possible. Recently, a death-bed will led to a family tearing itself apart in High Court proceedings over a £630,000 estate – when the input of a solicitor could well have averted conflict.

A daughter had accused her late father’s four ‘traditionalist’ siblings of conspiring to reduce her inheritance because she had ‘shamed their family’ by being born out of wedlock. She claimed that her paternal aunts and uncle had undermined her position because they ‘never liked her and didn’t want to know her’.

House in countryHer father’s only child, who would have inherited everything had he died intestate, she had been left just £100,000 of her his £630,000 estate by the will which he signed two weeks before his death from throat cancer. She claimed, amongst other things, that the will had been forged or procured by undue influence.

The daughter claimed that her father had ‘treated her like a princess’ and promised her that she would have no money worries after he died. The animosity within the family was so powerful that, after their brother’s death, his siblings had initially refused to accept that the claimant was his child and she had to undergo DNA testing and obtain a court order to prove her paternity.

However, in dismissing the daughter’s challenge and upholding the validity of the home-made will, the Court ruled that, despite the ‘colossal distrust’ that had blighted the family’, her father had known his own mind when he executed the will, had understood its contents and his bequests were not irrational.

The Court acknowledged that suspicions were raised by the absence of legal advice prior to execution of the will, which was completed on a stationer’s form, and the fact that the will had been ‘encouraged and drawn up by members of the family who stand to benefit under it.’

However, the daughter’s accusations of dishonesty were not backed up by evidence and she had failed to undermine the validity of the will, which had been lawfully executed. The Court observed that her father had been generous to her during his lifetime and had endured ‘divided loyalties all his adult life, and recognised them at the last’.

Although there was ‘plenty of evidence’ that two of his sisters ‘had the opportunity’ to exert pressure on him, his daughter – who suffered from multiple sclerosis and had undergone surgery for cervical cancer – had failed to prove that he was too sick to appreciate the importance of the will or that he lacked the required knowledge and approval of its contents.

SDLT 3% Increase and how to avoid it for second home and investments.

Did you know that SDLT is increasing by 3% for investors and second home buyers from April 1st?

DID YOU KNOW THAT EVEN IF YOU EXCHANGE CONTRACTS BEFORE THEN BUT COMPLETE AFTER THE DATE YOU WILL STILL HAVE TO PAY THE HIGHER RATE?

Many people are under the misunderstanding that you only have to exchange before April 1st to pay the existing rates. And this is understandable because that’s what happened the last time in December 2014 when people exchanged before the deadline.

This time is DIFFERENT.

You must have completed the transaction by April 1st to avoid the 3% increase.

You can’t expect to avoid the increase by merely exchanging contracts.

There may be some legal ways to extend the deadline and if this applies to you…please get in touch with us so we can help…

Filling in Inheritance Tax Forms IHT400 – Solicitors Reading

Inheritance Tax Forms can be complicated. Solicitors Reading can help you with Inheritance Tax however, here is some basic information which may help you if you have simple questions.

When someone dies there are various forms that need to be completed for inheritance tax purposes, even if there is no inheritance due on the estate. However, the forms are different depending on whether or not IHT is due.

When is IHT payable?

Inheritance tax is payable on someone’s estate exceeds the inheritance tax threshold. The threshold is currently £325,000. This can be doubled to £650,000 where the deceased’s spouse or civil partner did not use their nil rate band on their death.

There is no tax to pay if everything is left to the deceased’s spouse or civil partner. There are also other exemptions which may reduce the tax due.

Valuing the estate

Before you can decide which form you need to complete, the executor must value the estate. Broadly this involves valuing the assets and deducting the debts and liabilities. Guidance on valuing a person’s estate for inheritance tax purposes can be found on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/valuing-estate-of-someone-who-died/overview.

The forms

The inheritance forms should be sent when applying for a grant of representation (see www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance/applying-for-a-grant-of-representation for further details).

The form that you should use depends on whether there is any inheritance tax to pay.

If there is no inheritance tax to pay, you only need to complete the short form, form IHT205. You will need to provide information about the person who died and also some information about the deceased’s estate, including details of any gifts that they made in the seven years prior to their death.

Form IHT205 and the accompanying notes are available to download from the GOV.UK website..

If the deceased lived abroad and there is no IHT to pay, form IHT207 should be used instead of form IHT205. This can be downloaded from the GOV.UK website.

If the deceased’s spouse or civil partner did not use their nil rate band when they died, it is necessary to claim the unused portion for use against the deceased’s estate. This is done by completing form IHT217. Where relevant, this should be sent with form IHT205.

If there is inheritance tax to pay, it is necessary to complete the longer IHT400 form. Unlike the short forms, this form must be sent to HMRC within one year of the end of the month in which the person died. So, for example, if a person died on 10 April 2015, the form must be submitted by 30 April 2016. A penalty may be charged if the form is submitted late.

Form IHT400 is the inheritance tax account and comprises a form and separate schedules, some or all of which may need to be completed. Prior to completing the form, it is necessary to apply for an IHT reference number and payslip. This can either be done online or by completing form IHT422.

When completing IHT400, you will need to provide details of the deceased, their will, the estate and what makes up the inheritance tax account. The form and guidance notes on its completion are available on the GOV.UK website.

Need to know: Penalties may be charged if the information provided is inaccurate.

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One Character Typing Error Triggers Home-Made Will Dispute – Reading Solicitors Advice

Solicitors in Reading advise that if ever there was a cautionary tale which should discourage people from making home-made wills, it must be that of a one-character typing error which triggered a costly High Court dispute between a multi-millionaire & his loved ones over the destination of his Spanish villa.

The will took the unusual form of a type-written letter to the businessman’s solicitors. There was no evidence as to who had typed it.  It contained a purported bequest to his partner of his villa at 87 Loma Del Rey; a luxury development on the Costa del Sol.  He in fact had no property at that address, although he did own a villa at 81 Loma Del Rey.

The partner, who had formed a relationship with  him following his divorce, argued that it was obvious that an error had been made and that he intended to leave the villa to her. However, his three sons were adamant that the mistake meant that there had been no valid bequest of the villa, which should therefore pass to them as his next of kin.

The sons put forward a theory that the partner had typed the letter and that their father had deliberately given her the wrong address as a ruse so that she would not inherit the property. However, she denied being the typist and the Court noted that there was no evidence to support the sons; speculations. In those circumstances, the Court declared that the businessman intended to leave the villa to his partner.

If you would like any advice about making your will and you live in the Reading area then maybe we are the right law firm to help you get it organised. Please contact us on the number on the top of website for a consultation.

Case Notes

Guthrie v Morel & Ors. Case Number: HC 14E02810

Divorce and Separation Solicitors Reading

From: Paul Wild
RE: Mini-Consultation about divorce
Fast Track consultations can me made by click here

Dear Prospective Client,

When a marriage ends, spouses and their children often face a perfect storm of stressful events: new living arrangements, parenting schedules, and of course, decisions about property and money.

The emotions caused by these changes can make it difficult for spouses to understand the legal process of divorce, and may even impair their ability to make sound decisions.

Getting through a divorce may be easier if you’re informed about the process before it begins.

That’s why I recommend talking to a fully qualified, experienced solicitor, before you make ANY decisions.

I know it’s not easy to pick up the phone and make an appointment. I also know that it’s tempting to look everything up on the internet rather than paying for advice…but…in my experience a proper meeting with a solicitor early on can save a lot of time and money – that’s why I have this special hour-long mini-consultation available.

60 minutes is an amount of time that allows you to get the basics of what you need to know…without having to pay over the odds. And for me, it’s a way of offering my expertise at a reduced rate, to see how I can help potential clients.

I only do a few of these each month as my schedule allows, so please get in touch as soon as possible so we can meet up.

PS You can book this special rate, £95 hour long consultation by emailing me Paul@BarrettandCo.co.uk or clicking www.Divorce95.co.uk

Pensions and divorce – solicitors Reading

Divorces among the over-60s are by no means infrequent and, whilst the potential for acrimony arising from issues concerning young children is absent, they often do produce a great deal of dispute regarding the division of the family assets.

There are two assets which are typically substantial – the family home and the value of pension entitlements. The former is normally relatively easy to value, even though there may be disagreements over what to do with it: the latter can be more problematic, however.

The first step is to obtain a valuation of the pension rights. Where large sums are involved, seeking professional advice is sensible. The pension can be dealt with either by a sharing of the pension when it vests (this is called ‘attachment’) or as a value to be taken into account when a division of the assets at current values is under consideration.

When an attachment of a pension takes place, the attachment will cease if the person benefiting from it remarries. The attachment will be in the form of an entitlement to an agreed percentage of the fund as calculated on the relevant valuation date, not as a percentage of a particular figure.

The alternative is for a part of the fund to be transferred to a pension provider to administer for the spouse receiving it.

For advice on all aspects of family break-up, contact us.