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12th May

Dying Matters

Dying Matters Awareness Week

The 8th-14th May is Dying Matters Awareness Week.  The Dying Matters Coalition is an organisation founded in 2009 to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement and is dedicated to supporting changing attitudes towards these issues. Parker Rhodes Hickmotts is a member of the Coalition.

Many of us are reluctant to discuss death or dying, believing it to be morbid and something which does not bear thinking about.  However, considering matters surrounding death, however difficult, often makes things easier for both ourselves and our families when the time comes.

What can we help you with?

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Making a Will

It is estimated that over half of the UK’s population does not have a Will.  This can be due to a number of factors such as not feeling that it is necessary, believing that a family member will “do what is right” or the fact that people cannot bring themselves to think about what would happen upon their death.  Making a Will is the only way to ensure that your assets will pass to those who you would wish to receive them.  You may also include in your Will details of your funeral wishes and your desire to donate your body for the purpose of medical research.

Lasting Powers of Attorney

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA’s) are the only way to ensure that your affairs can be handled by someone of your choosing should you become ill or lose mental capacity. These people are known as your Attorney’s.  There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney: one which deals with your Property and Finances and another which deals with Health & Care Decisions.  The Health and Care Decisions LPA allows you to decide whether or not you would want your Attorney’s to give or refuse consent to life sustaining treatment on your behalf.  You may also include your preferences as to the type of medical and healthcare treatment you receive, details of where you should live in the event that you are no longer able to live at home and decisions in relation to day to day matters such as your diet and routine. This type of LPA only comes into effect in the event that you can no longer make decisions for yourself and it is important that it is made whilst you still have the capacity to do so.

Advance Decisions

An Advance Decision is more commonly known as a “Living Will”. It is a decision which you can make now to refuse a specific type of medical treatment in the future should this become relevant and you may specify the circumstances in which do not wish to receive the treatment.  It is a way of letting your family know your wishes in the event that you become unable to communicate them due to ill health. An Advance Decision must comply with the Mental Capacity Act and it is important to seek both professional legal advice and the advice of a medical practitioner if necessary.

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28th April

Probate fees on hold

Probate fees increase on hold

It is welcome news to see that the highly controversial Probate fees have been placed on hold ahead of the snap general election.

It was announced last week that the changed fee structure, set to be implemented from May 2017, would not be going through imminently as planned.  The Ministry of Justice cited a lack of time for the proposals to go through Parliament.

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The Conservatives are understood to be non-committal about whether the plans will be resurrected if they are re-elected.

The planned fee increase was to raise revenue to assist in running the UK Courts and Tribunal Service, but was subject to much criticism and mistrust as it was viewed by many as a hidden tax rather than an administrative fee.

Currently, Probate fees are paid to the Government via the Probate Court. The Personal Representatives of the estate pay the fee at the time of applying for a Grant of Representation, a legal authority that allows them to gather in and deal with a deceased's estate.   At the present time, the fee is fixed at either £155 or £215 for all estates over £5,000 depending on whether a solicitor or personal application is made.

The proposed new changes introduce increased fees of up to £20,000 depending on the value of the estate.

As the UK faces an uncertain future, we wait to see what the outcome will be on this subject that has been hotly debated and perceived as an additional way of raising money – some have dubbed it a “death tax”.

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21st April

buying or selling your home

Is your house on the market?

Do you need a solicitors’ conveyancing quote?

Contact PRH Solicitors for a non-obligatory fixed fee quote.

Download our handy conveyancing summary sheets, so you know what to expect!

FREE DOWNLOAD - Summary of the Conveyancing Process : Buying

FREE DOWNLOAD - Summary of the Conveyancing Process : Selling

13th April

Why everyone should have a will1

Why do I need a Will?

Many people put off making a Will, they feel it is morbid and tempts fate.

However, ask yourself the following questions:-

  • What happens if I die without a Will?
  • Who will be guardian for my children?
  • Who inherits my estate?
  • Who will sort everything out?
  • Will my spouse/partner inherit my house?
  • Will there be Inheritance Tax to pay?

Do you know the answers to all these questions?

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A Will enables you to decide what happens to your estate when you die. Without a Will there is a strict legal order as to who deals with your estate and who inherits your assets – this is known as Intestacy. Under Intestacy if you are unmarried but have lived with your partner for 20 years in your house, when you die your partner will get nothing! Under the laws of intestacy if you are married with children then depending on the value of your estate your spouse may only get a proportion.

Before making your Will there are a few things you should consider:

Executors – These are the people who will sort everything out, they will collect in your assets, pay any debts and then distribute the assets between your Beneficiaries, as your Will instructs them to. This must be someone who you trust. It can be a partner, a friend, family members or your solicitors.

Guardians – These are the people who would look after your children should you die during their minority.

Legacies – A legacy is a specific gift.

Residue – This is what is left in your estate after all debts and funeral expenses are paid and after all legacies have been paid. This can be shared between as many different people as you want.

Beneficiaries – These are the people who inherit part of your estate. If they are under the age of 18 at the date of your death then the asset will be held in trust until they reach the age of 18. You may believe that 18 is too young and change this to age 21 or even 25. During this time the Executors would be subject to strict controls as to how the monies could be dealt with and they are under a duty to act in the best interests of the Beneficiaries.

I am married - Do I still need a Will?

Married couples do not automatically inherit the whole of each other’s estates. It is therefore very important to ensure you write a Will to reflect your wishes.

You should always bear in mind:-

  • Marriage generally revokes any previous Wills you have made;
  • Without a Will your children will not always inherit your estate;
  • A divorce excludes an ex spouse from your Will,  separation does not;
  • Without a Will a cohabitee will not inherit any of your estate.

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7th April

How would marriage affect my will

How would marriage affect my Will?

Tying the knot? Untying my Will!

There are only a few situations which will revoke your Will.  You would think that only your clear intention to either make a new, updated Will or to simply destroy it would revoke it.  However, you would be incorrect, there is a slightly more unknown way which revokes your Will.  This could have happened to you, and you may not even know it!

If you create a Will and then tie the knot a few years down the line, your Will is no longer effective!

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Therefore if your Will was made prior to being married, and now you are, if the worst should happen and you passed away, your Estate would fall under the intestacy rules and not as you had previously planned under your Will.  Naturally, when divorce and remarriage occurs family situations become increasingly complex, having no control over how your Estate is distributed in these situations can be difficult for those dealing with your Estate.

Unless your Will was drafted in consideration of marriage, your marriage will have revoked your Will, rendering it ineffective.  Therefore, any legacies and any specific wishes you may have included may not be fulfilled.

This highlights the importance of reviewing your Will and updating it when necessary. Without a valid Will you, and your family, have very little control over your affairs.  It is important for your peace of mind and ensuring that your wishes are met.

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31st March

Absent Homeowners

Beware all absent homeowners and landlords
– is your property being sold by an identity clone?

Another property fraud case has recently hit the headlines whereby a firm of solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, were found to be liable where their buyer client was duped into buying a London home from a tenant posing as the owner.

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This again acts as a stark reminder to all absent homeowners and Landlords to be vigilant and alert to the risk of an increasingly common scam where rogue tenants or other criminal identity thieves pose as homeowners to sell your property right from under your nose.

Nowadays, we all need to be alert to identity fraud and Parker Rhodes Hickmotts Solicitors advises all homeowners, particularly absent Landlords of empty or tenanted properties to try and reduce this risk by signing up to the Land Registry Property Alert Service, which sends out free notifications if certain activity occurs on a registered property.

For further information on how to register for the Land Registry Property Alert Service please visit The Land Registry

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17th March

LPA

Lasting Powers of Attorney

- By Katy Delaney, Wills, Trusts & Probate Solicitor

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document which allows persons who you nominate to deal with your property and financial affairs and or your health and welfare. The two are separate documents and you can choose to have one or the other or both.

Do I need a Lasting Power of Attorney?

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Have you considered who would look after you and your affairs if you were unable to deal with things personally in the future due to ill health, loss of capacity or because of physical impairments?

  • Your spouse? Perhaps to some extent but there will be limits on the things that can be dealt with and what if they were to pass away before you? Then who would look after you?
  • Your children? Although you might class them as your next of kin, in fact it is often the case that Social Services take precedent over your own flesh and blood. Your children may be able to manage for a time but they will undoubtedly, eventually come across barriers that they cannot cross without the appropriate legal authority to do so.

A Lasting Power of Attorney ensures that a person or persons of your choosing can deal with your affairs. It also means that you can expressly exclude persons who you consider untrustworthy. Lasting Powers must be prepared whilst the person making the Power has the necessary capacity to do so. Lasting Powers of Attorney are therefore extremely important to persons recently diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.

I know someone that needed one but it was too late…

The alternative to a Lasting Power of Attorney is an application to the Court of Protection to appoint a Deputy to deal with a person’s affairs – it is still possible to assist a person who lacks capacity but the process takes much longer and is considerably more expensive.

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10th March

Inhertaince Tax

Inheritance Tax – rules and forthcoming changes

After the tragic death of George Michael on Christmas day, speculation mounts as to who will receive his £100,000,000 fortune.

It is expected that he will benefit close members of his family and his god children.

With an estate of that size, it will also no doubt be of interest to HMRC.

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As most of us know, Inheritance Tax is one of the highest rates of tax in the UK and with a large estate there often comes a large tax bill.

With that in mind, it is worth a recap of the rules and a brief look at the forthcoming changes:-

Each UK domiciled individual has an Inheritance Tax free threshold of £325,000 that allows them to leave assets of this without value Inheritance Tax becoming payable. There is no Inheritance Tax to pay, regardless of value, on assets passing to a UK domiciled spouse or qualifying charity and certain business assets and agricultural property can pass free from Inheritance Tax or at a reduced rate. If none of these exemptions apply, and your taxable estate exceeds £325,000 Inheritance Tax is payable at a rate of 40% over the excess. This figure of £325,000 is fixed until 2021.

It is interesting to note that there is a further allowance coming into effect from April 2017 and increasing from £100,000 to £175,000 per individual between April 2017 – April 2020 based on the value of property, provided that that property has been occupied by the individual as a home and is passing to lineal descendants – children and grandchildren.

Whilst this is a welcome introduction for many of us, it has antagonised some of society who find the provisions discriminatory to the childless or “renters” or those with an estate over £2,000,000 who will not benefit from the extra allowance. Whilst we are yet to see the impact of this in practice,  it is likely that this will be a subject of great debate post April,  as it opens up a new chapter for the private client adviser as we get to grips with the effect of the legislation that many perceive as ill thought out and divisive.

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3rd March

Brexit

Brexit & the potential issues for European nationals and their family members

- By Paul Hindley, Senior Caseworker &
Christopher Cole, Partner & Head of Immigration

Around 3 million people live in the UK relying on European Law for their legal right of residence; if formal applications are required for all these people once Brexit occurs, this will be a logistical nightmare for the Home Office - there will be significant backlogs, errors and lost applications would seem inevitable.

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If European nationals are required to prove their status at the point we leave the EU, nobody currently knows how this will look in practical terms. Questions remain around what evidence will be required, what fees will be associated, what the processing times will be, what the qualifying criteria will be, and what appeal rights refusals may attach. Potentially all of these could be more punitive than they are for European nationals currently.

In relation to the above point the work status of European nationals during the period any fresh applications are under consideration would be uncertain. If we are no longer a member of the EU and free movement rights no longer exist, it follows that the basis under which European nationals currently work no longer exist.

Very little of the debate around European nationals has focussed on the status of any third party national family members. Currently they can join their European national family members in the UK relatively easily and cost effectively. Should the status of third party nationals change significantly this could discourage European nationals from seeking employment or remaining in the UK, or make such an option prohibitively expensive for either individuals or employers.

If European nationals were required to meet the Tier 2 requirements for employment in place for non-European nationals, many positions in the NHS, such as porters, canteen staff, cleaners etc. would not be met. This is a real concern.

There are many uncertainties surrounding the impact of Brexit on European nationals and their family members living in the UK. Parker Rhodes Hickmotts would advise those affected to keep a close eye on any announcements from the Government and from the Home Office and seek expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

 

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28th February

prh-logo

Why it is imperative for committed couples who are not married
to have up to date Wills & Cohabitation Agreements in place

Joy Williams had lived happily with her partner for 18 years when he suddenly and unexpectedly died at the relatively young age of 69. Ms. Williams not only had to suffer the trauma and sadness of bereavement but has in addition had to face a harrowing and expensive legal battle because her partner’s estranged wife claimed half the home Ms. Williams and her partner shared.

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Although Ms. Williams has won the current round of this case, it may not be over as her partner’s estranged wife has indicated she will appeal which will involve further expenses for both sides as well as more emotional distress.

The trauma, upset and expense of this legal battle could have been avoided if Ms. Williams and her late partner had had up to date Wills and a cohabitation agreement in place.

Current law does not recognise the importance of two people in a relationship cohabitating under one roof.

It is imperative, that committed couples who live together who are  not married have up to date Wills and a Cohabitation Agreement in place.

The team at Parker Rhodes Hickmotts have a wealth of experience in writing Wills, from the simplest of Wills leaving everything to a spouse, to complex Trusts incorporating Inheritance Tax planning, and Cohabitation Agreements.

We offer fixed fee packages as well as no credit card fees to help you manage the cost.

Protect your self and your loved ones by being ready for tomorrow, today.

Call 01709 511100 to book your no-obligation appointment now.

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24th February

hs2 house small

Are you affected by HS2?

As you are probably aware, the Government has recently announced its preferred route for the next phase (Phase 2b) of HS2 (the high speed rail link to London).

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If your property falls within one of the safeguarded areas, then your property will have become ‘blighted’, meaning that your property has been reduced in value as a result of the proposed HS2 development.  In such circumstances, you may be entitled to serve what is known as a ‘Blight Notice’ on The Secretary of State for Transport, requiring them to buy the property at its untainted market value (that is, the value as if HS2 had never been announced), pay your reasonable moving costs (including legal fees and Stamp Duty Land Tax on the alternative property), plus you may be eligible for compensation (an additional home loss payment).

To be eligible to serve a Blight Notice under the Express Purchase Route:-

  • You must have a qualifying interest in the property (own the freehold or a lease with more than 3 years left to run and you must live at the property.  Note – an investment property owner is not entitled to serve a blight notice); and
  • the property has to be partly or wholly within the safeguarded area.

If your property has been affected and you are a resident homeowner, then subject to you having a qualifying interest, you may be able to serve a Blight Notice.  This has the benefit of speeding up the compulsory purchase procedure should you wish to sell and move home a.s.a.p.

Our firm is offering a fixed fee service for initially checking if you qualify and preparing and serving the initial Blight Notice on your behalf, in the sum of £200.00 plus VAT.  If your Blight Notice is accepted, these fees may be recoverable by you as part of your claim.  However, please note that such fees will not be recoverable where a Blight Notice is rejected.

Should you wish to discuss the matter in further detail, then please do not hesitate to contact Mrs Paula Gregory or Mr Ben Couch within the Property Department on 01709 388373 or 01709 388939.

The maps of the route and further information can be found at:-

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/535307/CS550A_South_Yorkshire_Report_WEB.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/high-speed-two-limited

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13th February

Getting a prenuptial agreement

A time to love and a time for business: Pre-nuptial agreements.
- By Rebecca Baker, Senior Solicitor

I have recently become aware of an explosion of hearts and flowers. As I wander through Rotherham town centre, where I practice as a family law solicitor, I have noticed each card and craft shop festooned with pink and red, tempting the consumer to embrace the forthcoming 14th February as the perfect time to declare passion to their soulmate. Whilst I don't want to be labelled as a cynic, whose business is quite the opposite of romance, I always feel as though Valentine's Day leaves me a bit cold. I don't want to be told when to say I love you.

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In my work, timing can often be important, and I am rarely consulted at the start of love's young dream when a couple are considering marriage.  However, in recent years, I have noticed a sea change. Pre-nuptial agreements.

Often clients feel a pre-nuptial agreement is very much reserved for the very wealthy or for those across the pond.  However, this is no longer the case. In today's modern world, we often want to preserve hard won assets and couples often remove rose-tinted glasses, particularly the second time around, and seriously consider what will happen if this goes wrong.

It is important to remember that pre-nuptial agreements are not strictly binding on our Courts. However, in the event of a divorce, it is very likely a pre-nuptial agreement will be upheld if it is fair. This is why timing is so important. Amongst other things, such as exchanging financial information and each getting a lawyer, the agreement is best finalised well before the wedding.

So whilst it is always the right time to say I love you, remember to properly time popping the question of a pre-nuptial agreement. Make sure the church isn't booked and those far flung relatives haven't yet agreed to fly long haul to share your special day.  However, if one does forget in the excitement of preparations, a post-nuptial agreement may well save the day.

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10th February

Carers

Is your carer one of the estimated 100,000 people looking after children who haven't taken the opportunity to boost their state pension?
- By Fiona Shinner, Managing Partner

In a lot of families, older relatives, often grandparents, help to look after children to enable their parents to work.

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In 2011, the government recognised that some of these older carers were losing out because they did not have the required 35 years of National Insurance contributions to qualify for a full state pension and had, by not working, because they were caring for children, lost the opportunity to do so.

The government therefore, launched the Specified Adult Childcare Credits Scheme (also known as Grandparents’ Credits) which allowed the working parent to pass to the carer the national insurance credits the parent would qualify for if they weren’t working, but looking after a child. This gives the carer the opportunity to top up their own national insurance contributions and assist them in gaining the magic 35 years of contributions to qualify for a full pension.

Information from HMRC, indicates that only 1,298 people registered for this benefit up to September 2016, even though it is estimated that about 100,000 qualify.

To check to see if your carer (be it grandparent or more distant relative) qualifies:-

  • Is the child, being cared for, 12 or under?
  • Is the carer over 16 but under state pension age?
  • Do the child’s parents receive child benefit?
  • Does the parent have a full national insurance record for the relevant tax year?
    Note. This does not mean they have to have worked all year.
  • Does the carer look after the child for some time for most of the year?

If you have answered ‘yes' to the questions above, then your carer may well qualify.

Applications for the National Insurance Credit Transfers can be made to HMRC and must be signed by both the parent and the carer.

https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-credits/eligibility

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