2018 saw a lot of changes in most industries with GDPR, increased regulation and changes in law. As a quick reminder, here are the ‘highlights’ of 2018 and our predictions for 2019!
Changes were made to the Probate procedure with the intention to simplify and streamline processes.
But the areas of Wills and Probate are far from simple and we are already seeing delays at the Probate Registries as they get themselves organised. The changes were rushed through at the last minute and they Registries are currently running the old system and new one side by side. Alongside that, the cuts to Probate Court Staff are being felt.
More importantly, people who choose to deal with the applications themselves rather than seek advice from a solicitor may find that they do not get vital advice on the tax position, on how to save tax on death and in the future and how best to protect assets going forwards.
So what can we look forward to in 2019 on the Probate front?
Towards the end of 2018 we saw the reintroduction of a controversial policy to put in place a sliding scale of probate fees. Although they have reduced the maximum amount payable compared to the previous proposals, the fees bear no relationship to the cost of approving the probate application and have been heavily criticized as another ‘death tax’. Given that they are now streamlining the application process and making it simpler, we simply cannot see the justification for the current proposals.
The highest fee, on estates valued at more than £2m, would be £6,000, coming down from the original £20,000 that was proposed!
It is likely that some increase of fees will become law, but exactly at what level is yet to be seen.
For those who have not properly administered a loved one’s estate, they should certainly be urged to take advice and take steps to deal with the estate now, before and increase in fees comes into effect.
We may also see an increase in wealth and financial planning utilising trusts to try to ring fence assets outside of a persons’ estate to avoid higher probate fees from applying.
Wills and Trusts News
For years there has been a call for regulation in this area and 2018 gave us a perfect example of why it is so important for people to use properly regulated solicitors for legal advice.
Steve Long of Universal Wealth was jailed after clients lost money and property following bad advice to place their assets into the control of Universal to avoid Care Fees.
It is suspected that up to £25M of client money has disappeared from 27 clients that are bringing claims, but many of their clients are probably unaware that they have transferred their property into Steve Long’s name and will only find out when there is a need to sell the house.
We have successfully helped several clients remove Steve Long as the legal owner of their property, but this is a complex area and requires specialist expertise.
It serves as another reminder to us all that we need to ensure our clients are taking advice from the right people and to lobby once again for regulation in this area.
It is simply not enough to ask on a Fact Find ‘Do you have a Will’? The question you need to ask is ‘When did you last have your Will reviewed by a professional solicitor?’ Given the ever changing legal landscape, clients should be encouraged to speak to us to have their Estate plans reviewed so that we can ensure that their wealth is protected.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs)
Last year saw many clients in a very unusual position – being able to claim a refund retrospectively as the registration fees for LPAs had gone down. It is not often that a government body would allow a retrospective application such as this.
If you or your clients registered LPAs in the past, then they should look to reclaim any refund now, whilst the opportunity exists. Should you or your clients not have LPAs, then they should be speaking to us to make sure that they are covered.
We’ve seen a change in the market with sales and purchases slowing, but an increase in people looking to re-mortgage or consider Equity Release.
On the re-mortgage front, we hear time and time again about the terrible service clients experience with ‘free legals’, the delays and missed deadlines causing extra penalties and payments for the clients.
We are continually striving to provide a level of service to our clients that is above and beyond the typical experience and to separate ourselves from ‘bucket shop’ firms. We believe that our clients are not only entitled to understand the process, but should be kept fully up to date and be able to speak to the person handling their matter when they call.
Equity Release is becoming a more viable option for many, but by its very nature, is a more complex agreement with conditions that the clients need specialist advice on. We offer that advice and have dealt with numerous Equity Release mortgages with knowledge of all major lenders in this area.
Over the coming months we will be contacting many of you to see if we can assist you and your clients in this area and put forward an offering to your clients that will ensure that they get best advice at affordable prices.
We look forward to developing relationships with more of you this year so that we can provide the high level of service that both you and your clients expect.
With so many changes within the legal sector, it is more important for clients to get good advice and service.We are happy to help deal with any queries that you or your clients may have. Call the Office on 0333 241 7675 and ask to speak to Charlotte Corbyn (Probate, Wills and Trusts) or Lucy Peat (Conveyancing).