Wills and probate market tops £2bn with work on the rise

According to recent reports, the value of the wills, trusts and probate market topped £2bn for the first-time in 2021. The report produced by IRN Research, UK Wills, Probate & Trusts Market Report 2022, recorded strong growth over the past year. They also said that contentious work will continue to rise, and they expect the market to reach £2.4bn by 2025. 

IRN said: “The demand for will-writing services plus will updates is likely to increase and the availability of new digital services may encourage more adults to make a will. 

“Probate and estate administration work is going to increase in the short term due to a growing number of deaths in the pandemic, and more adults who are likely to die intestate without a will.” 

The report also states that the number of firms offering contentious wills, trusts and probate has more than doubled since 2018. There are now 646 firms that offer the service. 

IRN also state “More firms are offering a holistic approach with a broader range of services to deal with all aspects of estate planning and preparing for changes in later life,” which shows the growing demand for related services. 

How this May Affect Contested Probate Cases 

IRN Research also conducted a survey in 2021 about Will-writing, and in this survey, they found over three-quarters of law firms surveyed saw increases in both workloads and revenues in the previous year, the highest percentage since the survey began in 2016. Eight out of 10 were also confident about the year ahead and are expecting increased workloads. 

At The Inheritance Experts, we can help with contesting probate and Wills, and claims under The Inheritance Act (1975). So if the market does rise at the rate that IRN Research state, then the solicitors we work with will be well-equipped to handle claims. 

The type of claims we handle at The Inheritance Experts include: 

  • Contesting a Will 
  • Contesting Probate 
  • Inheritance Act Claims 
  • Trust and Inheritance disputes 

If anyone believes a will is not legally valid, it’s their right to challenge it. Valid grounds for contesting a will include: 

  • If the testator was not in their right mind when they sign the last Will. 
  • They were unaware of what they were signing. 
  • The will was drawn up incorrectly or is completing without valid co-signing witnesses present. 
  • Forgery of the signature(s), which requires handwriting expert to prove. 
  • The beneficiaries have a right to the estate. Yet there is either no naming of them, or the caring for them is inadequate. 

How We Can Help with Wills and Probate

Here at the Inheritance Experts, we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance matters. This includes contentious probate and Wills. Contact us by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly experts. 

Inheritance Tax payments reach a record £5.9bn

Recent figures published by HMRC show that Inheritance Tax payments (IHT) in 2021 totalled £5.9bn. This is a record high for any calendar year. Receipts for April 2021 to December 2021 were £4.6bn. This is £0.6 billion higher than the same period in the previous year. 

The reason for this increase is expected to be due to higher volumes of wealth transfers that took place during the pandemic. HMRC, however, state they cannot verify this until the full administrative data becomes available. 

Other years where the receipts were high include 2017 and 2019. In these years, announcements, delays and cancellations of rises to probate fees in England and Wales affected this. This likely led executors to bring forward IHT payments to avoid prospective higher fees. 

The CEO of Ampla Finance, Richard Kennedy, says that  

“With IHT bills continuing to rise and, with IHT thresholds being frozen until 2026, individuals should be looking to review their wealth plans to ensure they are not left paying unnecessary high levels of tax in the years ahead. 

 The amount of IHT being paid continues to soar to record levels, even up a staggering 12% on the 2020 total. 

Individuals need to ensure they are making use of tall tax efficiencies to reduce their IHT bill as much as possible.

For those unable to afford paying large IHT payments, there are options out there to help pay the levies. Those worried about facing a steep payment in future would be wise to seek advice now to ensure they are not left in difficulty when the payment deadline gets nearer”. 

Inheritance Tax Rules 

In England and Wales, if an Estate is worth more than £325,000 when a person dies, then they typically have to pay Inheritance Tax. Currently, the Inheritance Tax rate is 40% on anything above the threshold. If a person leaves more than 10% of the estate’s value to charity, then the rate may reduce to 36%. 

The courts usually won’t issue the grant of representation until the executor has paid inheritance tax (IHT) to HMRC. This can potentially cause a delay in the administration of the estate. 

You usually have to pay 10% of the tax due on the value of property and shares plus all of the tax due in respect of the rest of the estate. The executor should make this tax payment within six months of death. The additional tax is payable in yearly instalments over a ten-year period, or as soon as they are sold. Interest will start to accrue on any outstanding inheritance tax after six months from the date of death. 

How We Can Help 

Here at The Inheritance Experts, we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance matters. This includes Inheritance Tax payments. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly experts. 

Will writers concerned about people contesting pandemic wills

A recent survey conducted by The Capacity Vault shows that almost half of the Society of Will Writers and Institute of Professional Will Writers are concerned about Wills written during the pandemic being challenged in court. People may be contesting pandemic Wills on many grounds.

45% of those surveyed felt that clients of traditional will writers lacked protection from challenge on capacity grounds. This increased to 86% for clients of online will services. Similar worries were raised about protection from undue influence and fraud.

Oliver Asha, solicitor and founder of Capacity Vault, said “Will writing professionals have adapted to provide their services remotely. This brings greater risk of challenge to wills. Fortunately new technologies can protect clients’ wishes. AI and blockchain technologies can reduce the need for time-consuming legal and medical professional’s reports.”

Pandemic Will Practices

The COVID pandemic has almost tripled the number of will writers offering remote services in England and Wales, according to the Trends in Will Writing survey conducted by Capacity Vault Ltd. 

Run in December 2020, the study asked members of the Society of Will Writers and Institute of Professional Will Writers about their experiences of writing wills during the pandemic.

The results showed that 95% of will writers surveyed have taken instructions remotely since the start of the COVID pandemic, up from 32% before March 2020.

The most common ways of taking instructions remotely included video calls (79%), over the phone (66%) and by email (25%). Almost one in ten will writers (8%) had taken instructions via text message or WhatsApp chat.

The Capacity Vault survey results largely agree with the findings of the SRA and Oxford University Technology and Innovation in Legal Services report published last year, which revealed that the area of wills, probate and trusts ranked highly in early tech adopter surveys, scoring as the second largest group of respondents currently using, or planning to use legal technology.

Inheritance Disputes in the UK and Contesting Pandemic Wills

We have previously reported on the record numbers of inheritance disputes in the UK, and also remote Will practices during the pandemic. Whilst it hasn’t been proven that the rise in inheritance disputes is due to people contesting pandemic Wills, there may be a link between the two.

If anyone believes the will is not legally valid, it’s their right to challenge it. Valid grounds for contesting the will, include:

  • If the testator was not in their right mind when they sign the last Will.
  • They were unaware of what they were signing.
  • The will was drawn up incorrectly or is completing without valid co-signing witnesses present.
  • Forgery of the signature(s), which requires handwriting expert to prove.
  • The beneficiaries have a right to the estate. Yet there is either no naming of them, or the caring for them is inadequate.

How We Can Help

Here at The Inheritance Experts we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance claims. This includes contesting pandemic Wills. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly experts.

Inheritance Tax Changes in 2022

There are many aspects of inheritance claims that change year on year. Inheritance Tax changes are a big part of this. 2022 is no different.

Inheritance Tax Changes in 2022

In accordance with the new changes, if a person has died on or after 1 January this year, only the value of their estate needs to be reported when applying for a probate.

If the person died on or before 31 December 2021, no IHT205 form needs to be completed if it is an excepted estate or they do not need a probate.

Overall, there are three types of excepted estates.

  • Low value estates
  • Exempt estates
  • Foreign domiciliary.

People do not have to pay tax on an estate as long as it is passed to the spouse or civil partner of the person who died, a charity or if its value is below the inheritance tax threshold of £325,000.

If the person who died was widowed, the tax threshold can be higher. This is because married couples can combine their individual tax-free thresholds.

There’s also a residence nil rate band if the person who has died leaves their home to their children or grandchildren.

If the deceased was living abroad, inheritance tax might not be due in England and Wales. This is known as a foreign domiciliary, whereby the person who lived outside of the country on a permanent basis died abroad and held few assets in the UK.

Valuing An Estate

People only need to report the value of the estate if they are applying for probate. A probate is the legal process of dealing with a deceased person’s estate. This generally requires the clearing of their debts and distributing assets in accordance with their will. Part of the probate process is getting a grant of representation which confirms legal authority to administer the estate.

Valuing an estate can take several months or even longer if it involves trusts, is a large estate or there’s tax to pay.

Estimating the estate’s entire value is imperative in order to determine if there’s inheritance tax to pay, but not all estates need probate.

Before applying for a probate, people need to calculate the estate’s value. You must also identify assets related to bank accounts, savings and pensions, as well as household goods and personal items.

You must also identify debts such as utility bills, mortgages and money owed on credit cards.

How We Can Help

Here at The Inheritance Experts we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance matters. This includes inheritance tax changes. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly experts.

Survey finds only 14% of solicitors used remote will witnessing in lockdown

According to a survey conducted by the Law Society, only 14% of solicitors used remote Will witnessing in lockdown. This survey was conducted as the Law Society prepare to decide whether to extend the remote witnessing of Wills beyond January 2022, which we reported on during the pandemic.

Under the 1837 Wills Act, two witnesses’ signatures are required in the physical presence of the testator. In July 2020, the UK government brought in measures to allow the remote witnessing of wills by video to meet demand and simplify will-making during the coronavirus pandemic. The changes were retrospective from January 2020 and will remain in place for two years.

The Ministry of Justice will shortly review whether it will extend remote witnessing of wills beyond January 2022.

remote will witnessing in lockdown

The Law Society Remote Will Witnessing in Lockdown Survey

The Law Society surveyed solicitors for their views and experiences of using remote witnessing of wills during lockdowns. Of the 95% of respondents that drafted wills during lockdowns, only 14% used remote witnessing.

The survey indicated that the vast majority (78%) had either a positive or neutral experience. 58% said they would use remote witnessing if it continued to be an option after the pandemic. 35% said they would not, and 7% said they didn’t know.

Around three-quarters (73%) of all respondents said they would not use remote witnessing after the pandemic. They cited a heightened risk of undue influence, future claims and said it was more difficult to assess their client’s capacity to make decisions when the process was conducted remotely.

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “While the availability of remote witnessing has not dramatically changed the legal profession’s approach to will-writing, it has been a useful option in some circumstances.

“Solicitors have continued to exercise the highest standards of professional judgment in deciding what is in the best interests of their clients.

“Therefore, the Law Society continues to take the view that in the longer term the most effective reform of the law would be to give judges powers to recognise the deceased’s intentions even where they have a will which may not have been witnessed in line with the Wills Act so their estate is inherited as they intended.

“We look forward to the forthcoming Law Commission report on wills reform, which is due within the next two years and which we hope will expand on this and other issues to improve will making in England and Wales.”

How This May Affect Will Writing

These findings may affect the number of people making a Will, especially if the pandemic continues. We reported on the fact that more people were making Wills during the pandemic. The remote witnessing of Wills may have been a contributing factor to this. So, if this changes, then the number may decrease again.

How We Can Help

Here at The Inheritance Experts, we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance cases. This includes matters relating to Wills. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly experts.

First Judgement of s.11, Inheritance Act 1975 could have significant consequences on Inheritance Act Claims

The first judgment on a reasonable provision claim under s.11 of the Inheritance Act 1975 has been given. This could have major consequences for Inheritance Act claims.

In the case the testator was a male divorcee who had divorced his third wife in 2017. At the time of the divorce, he had agreed in the settlement to leave his property to his son with his third wife. The girlfriend of the testator agreed and signed a settlement. The Family Court approved it.

The testator became terminally ill in 2019 and married his fourth wife so that she could benefit from his pension. Upon marriage, however, his previous will was revoked. This then disinherited his son and meant that his fourth wife was the only beneficiary of his estate.

The testator’s son brought a claim for enforcement of the 2017 divorce agreement which the testator’s fourth wife and widow counterclaimed under s.11 of the Inheritance Act. She requested that the property be used to make reasonable financial provision for her.

The court ruled that the son’s claim should be upheld and that the widow’s claim should be rejected.

Imogen Halstead of No.5 Barristers’ Chambers commented to step.org that the ruling has “significant ramifications for both insolvency law and family law”. 

“It could add more uncertainty on the value of reaching a settlement in divorce on terms that property is to be left by will. Had the widow been successful in her case, it would have left the ex-wife and son without the main benefit of the divorce order and without the ability to re-negotiate following the death of her husband.”

“This section has never previously received judicial treatment and consequently is a route to relief that practitioners drafting settlements in divorce and other disputes frequently forget.”

inheritance act

Inheritance Act Claims

The Inheritance Act ensures when a person passes away, every beneficiary earns a provision. Claims often arise if a claimant doesn’t receive reasonable financial provision in the Will. The Inheritance Act addresses reasonable financial provision for non-spouses and civil partners to bring a claim. For spouses and civil partners, moreover, the matter goes beyond maintenance.

“Financial provision that would be reasonable in all circumstances of the case for the applicant to receive for their maintenance. This financial provision includes the financial needs of the person in both the present and the foreseeable future.”

Inheritance Act claims also relate to those who lived in either England or Wales. The Inheritance Act does not cover those who lived in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, or any of the Channel Islands. However, the person who wishes to claim can live anywhere.

Under the Inheritance Act, certain people can make a claim. These people are:

  • A spouse/civil partner of the deceased
  • A former spouse/civil partner
  • Children of the deceased, including step-children or adopted children
  • Financial dependants
  • In certain cases, cohabitees

How We Can Help

Here at The Inheritance Experts we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance claims. This includes Inheritance Act claims. So contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly experts.

Will Online Wills Affect Probate?

There has been research recently that explores the suitability of online Wills. “Online Wills: Are they worth the paper they’re not written on” was authored by Simon Cox, co founder of Funeral Solution Expert, and explores the suitability of Wills which have been written using online services.

The research explores three main types of online will writing service:

  • Once and done: better identified as an online DIY will with little to no manual intervention.
  • Guided Journey: An online prequalification with questions or affirmative statements to determine if a “simple will” is suitable or not.
  • Two Step: A pre-qualification process like ‘once and done’ approach, with the second step either behind a pay wall or with a follow up call to clarify points often validating whether a simple or more complex solution is needed.

The research highlights that pre-qualification for many online providers failed to fully consider all the factors which might make an individual’s needs “complex.” The subsequent Will does not fully account for complex needs such as marital status, children, assets, business and property ownership, overseas property investments and disinheritance.

It is estimated that that online wills account for around 5% of Wills written, around 60,000 Wills per year, although it could be as high as 150,000 over the last 18 months as a result of the pandemic.

Concerningly a sizeable proportion (23%) of consumers do not bother to read or even understand the terms of the will they are entering into and signing. 

The research concludes that there will be a rise in contentious probate a result of Wills which may not provide enough protection for the testator or testatrix.

Contesting A Will

Those who can legally challenge a will include the following.

  • Direct family members, including children or grandchildren.
  • Spouses.
  • Beneficiaries (given that the previous Will includes their name).
  • A person who relies on the testator financially.
  • A creditor to whom the testator owes money.

If anyone believes the will is not legally valid, it’s their right to challenge it. However, only those listed can challenge how the estate is split up. The ‘estate’ is not simply any property the leaver owns. It also includes other aspects. For instance, their possessions, the contents of their bank accounts, building society and/or savings accounts, any investments (ISAs, premium bonds, etc), finally, any land they possess at the time of death.

This is the same if you contest online Wills or traditional Wills.

How We Can Help with Online Wills

Here at The Inheritance Experts we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance claims. This includes claims involving online wills. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly knowledgeable experts.

Pensions and Inheritance: How Your Pension Can Cut Your Inheritance Tax Bill

Recently, there has been a sharp increase in inheritance tax bills. In the UK, people paid £500m more in the first quarter of the 2021-22 tax year than the same period the previous year; in total they paid £2.1bn. However, there is a link between pensions and inheritance tax.

Pensions almost always fall outside your estate for inheritance tax purposes; they are not included in the calculation of whether your estate is worth more than £325,000.

The pension system also makes it simple to pass on unused pension savings to your heirs, particularly with defined-contribution or money-purchase plans. If you die before the age of 75, your heirs are entitled to all the money with no tax to pay; if you die after age 75, your heirs still get the cash, but will need to pay income tax on it at whatever rate they normally pay.

The rules for people in defined-benefit pension schemes, where you get a guaranteed income in retirement, are more restrictive. If you haven’t retired and die before age 75, your beneficiary will usually receive a tax-free lump sum. Ensure you tell your pension scheme who your beneficiary should be. If you have begun taking a pension, or you’re older than 75 when you die, your chosen heirs may receive a portion of your pension, typically with income tax to pay.

pensions and inheritance

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax (IHT) is payable at 40 percent on the value of an estate above a certain threshold of a person who has passed away. To avoid taxation as much as is legally possible, many people choose to take preventative action before they pass away. However, research from Barclays Wealth has shown many people are failing to understand how IHT works.

In England and Wales, if an Estate is worth more than £325,000 when a person dies, then they typically have to pay Inheritance Tax. Currently, the Inheritance Tax rate is 40% on anything above the threshold. If a person leaves more than 10% of the estate’s value to charity, then the rate may reduce to 36%.

If inheritance tax is payable

The grant of representation will not usually be issued until the inheritance tax (IHT) has been paid to HMRC. This can potentially cause a delay in the administration of the estate.

You usually have to pay 10% of the tax due on the value of property and shares plus all of the tax due in respect of the rest of the estate. This tax payment should be made within six months of death. The additional tax is payable in yearly instalments over a ten-year period, or as soon as they are sold. Interest will start to accrue on any outstanding inheritance tax after six months from the date of death.

How We Can Help with Pensions and Inheritance Tax

Here at The Inheritance Experts we work with solicitors who have years of experience in inheritance claims. This includes pensions and inheritance tax. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly knowledgeable agents.

Record Number of Inheritance Disputes in UK

According to recent reports by private wealth law firm Boodle Hatfield, there was a record number of inheritance disputes in the UK high court last year. According to the firm, there were 192 cases brought by people who claimed they were entitled to a share or larger portion of a deceased’s estate in 2020, up from the 188 in the previous year and a 50% increase from 2018.

The law firm said that covid was a “potentially significant factor” because many people suffered financial loss during lockdown; while several estates saw their value increase thanks to the Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday.

Boodle Hatfield believes that this may be just the beginning, because social distancing measures during lockdown likely disrupted succession planning for many, which could lead to a higher number of disputes in the future.

For instance, Wills that were signed and witnessed over video may be easier to challenge in court.

inheritance disputes

Common Inheritance Disputes

The most common inheritance dispute we deal with at The Inheritance Experts is when a person wants to contest the Will of a relative. Many of these claims fall under The Inheritance Act.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 states that it is

“An act to make fresh provision for empowering the court to make orders for the making out of the estate of a deceased person of provision for the spouse, former spouse, child, child of the family or dependant of that person; and for matters connected therewith.”

Put simply, this act ensures that when a person passes away, every beneficiary receives part of their estate. A beneficiary is anyone who receives anything in a Will.

The Inheritance Act details who specifically can and cannot contest a will. Moreover, those who can legally challenge a will include the following.

  • Direct family members, including children or grandchildren.
  • Spouses.***
  • Beneficiaries (given that the previous Will includes their name).
  • A person who relies on the testator financially.
  • A creditor to whom the testator owes money.
  • The testator promises a particular item/asset to someone, but that promise is not part of the will.

If anyone believes the will is not legally valid, it’s their right to challenge it. Valid grounds for contesting the will, include:

  • If the testator was not in their right mind when they sign the last Will.
  • They were unaware of what they were signing.
  • The will was drawn up incorrectly or is completing without valid co-signing witnesses present.
  • Forgery of the signature(s), which requires handwriting expert to prove.
  • The beneficiaries have a right to the estate. Yet there is either no naming of them, or the caring for them is inadequate.

How We Can Help

Here at The Inheritance Experts we work with solicitors who have years of experience dealing with inheritance claims. This includes inheritance disputes. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly knowledgeable agents.

Can you Include Cryptocurrency in Inheritance?

Cryptocurrency has blown up in the last few years. It is now becoming more popular in everyday use. So many people have raised the question can you include cryptocurrency in inheritance?

What is Cryptocurrency?

According to Forbes, cryptocurrency is a digital means of exchange which uses cryptography as a means of security. Most cryptocurrencies operate without the backing of an authority, such as a central bank or government. This fundamentally differentiates them from traditional currencies, such as the pound sterling or the dollar.

Rather than existing as a physical stack of notes or coins, the way to store and use cryptocurrencies is on the internet. 

Mainstream investors are also taking more than a passing interest in cryptocurrencies. Investment firm Ruffer recently spent about £550 million (equating to 2.5% of the £20 billion it has under management) on buying Bitcoin.

Concern over the safety of cryptocurrencies as an investment class has prompted the UK’s financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, to describing them as “very high risk, speculative investments”.

Can you include cryptocurrency in inheritance?

Can you Include Cryptocurrency in Inheritance?

Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are considered by HMRC to be property for inheritance tax (IHT) purposes which means they form part of your partner’s taxable estate on death. If the value of the Estate is higher than £325,000, then the beneficiaries must pay Inheritance Tax.

So cryptocurrencies can be included in inheritance, but they face the same inheritance tax rules as the rest of the Estate.

There are two ways to include cryptocurrencies in inheritance- a Will and a trust. Putting cryptocurrency in a Will or trust makes it less likely that the cryptocurrency will go undiscovered after your death—because the existence of your cryptocurrency will be documented in the Will or trust. This is important because, unlike other property, cryptocurrency is not an easily discoverable asset. It has little to no paper trail, so it’s difficult for your loved ones to discover it after you die. If they don’t already know you have cryptocurrency and how to access it, it may be lost to them forever.

When you die, the law requires your property to go through probate. If you leave your cryptocurrency through your will (or make no plan at all), your cryptocurrency will go through probate. Your beneficiaries will not have access to your cryptocurrency until the probate process is complete.

Any property included in your trust won’t go through the probate process when you die. Instead, your successor will immediately have the right to access and distribute your cryptocurrency following the terms of your trust.

How We Can Help

Here at The Inheritance Experts we work with solicitors who have years of experience in all manner of inheritance claims. This includes alternative kinds of inheritance. Contact us today by filling in our contact form. Or call us on 01614138763 to speak to one of our friendly knowledgeable advisors.

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