Experience is key during difficult times

Helen Milburn, associate solicitor for wills, trusts and probate at Jacksons Law Firm, explains how important expert legal advice is when you need it most…

Given how much ‘red tape’ surrounds us in our lives, it will not surprise you to know how much there is when someone passes away.

Administering estates is part and parcel of what the private client department at Jacksons Law Firm does and it makes sense to get expert advice to tackle what can be a complex legal process during a particularly difficult time.

Appointing a solicitor with a depth of knowledge and years of experience in dealing with all the intricacies of estate administration can be invaluable.

Someone who will advise you from the outset from what the terms of a will mean, without the legal jargon, explain the rules of intestacy or whether a grant of representation would be required to deal with the estate.

So much information can be gleaned from all sorts of sources these days, but there is no substitute for practical advice from a solicitor who specialises in this area of law.

It is also vital that you get the right person on board to deal with technical matters like valuing the estate and whether there is any inheritance tax liability.

There are several reliefs available for inheritance tax and these must be claimed by the estate, by the completion of a series of forms for HMRC; your solicitor will explain what reliefs can be claimed and utilised in your particular set of circumstances and will guide you through all the steps process.

Your responsibilities as a ‘personal representative’ can be onerous and the Private Client team at Jacksons Law Firm can provide the necessary guidance to ensure every stage of the estate is dealt with correctly, particularly with the following aspects for which engaging a solicitor can be especially beneficial.

In 2017, the Residence Nil Rate Band was introduced which provided for an additional inheritance tax relief to be used against a person’s residence.

Used to its maximum potential, this can reduce or even remove the value of your home from the inheritance tax calculation. However, the rules around the application of the relief are complex so a comprehensive understanding of its operation is paramount.

People often think that a person’s will is ‘set in stone’. In fact, the law allows the beneficiaries of a will to change its terms, as long as all persons affected by it agree.

Even if there is no will, the rules set by HM Government (known as the ‘intestacy rules’) may be varied by the beneficiaries entitled under these rules.

This is done by using a ‘deed of variation’, a tool that can also reduce the impact of inheritance tax.

We have dealt with deeds of variation for a wide range of circumstances, most frequently for the benefit of the next generation, where receiving an inheritance in early adulthood can be life changing.

This is particularly relevant where the original beneficiary already has an inheritance tax issue; why pay inheritance tax, at the rate of 40%, when you can legitimately benefit your children at the expense of the tax man?

Deeds of variation are a ‘cure’, but prevention by prior planning is more prudent.

Always use a solicitor to prepare your will to ensure that the estate administration process is as smooth as possible and to minimise your inheritance tax liability.

Unnecessarily complex estates come into being because there is either a defective will or no will at all.

Whether you want to make a will, gift assets, set up a trust or create a power of attorney, our private client department is equipped to provide you with specialist and tailored advice.

To discuss any aspect of estate administration or estate planning, you can email contact Helen Milburn on hmilburn@jacksons-law.com or call 01642 873 050.