When a person dies, somebody has to deal with their estate, collecting in the money, property and possessions, paying any debts and then distributing the estate to those entitled to it.

The person who deals with the estate is called a personal representative. There is often more than one.

The term personal representative can either refer to an executor or an administrator.

  • If the deceased left a will appointing someone to the role, they are called an executor.
  • If there is no valid will, or if the will does not name an executor, then the personal representative is called an administrator.

The deceased person may have named a professional executor such, such as a solicitor. If not, the personal representatives can obtain advice from a solicitor on how to carry out their duties properly. Fees for this service are paid from the Deceased’s estate, rather than by the personal representatives themselves

How is the estate administered?

When it comes to the management of an estate, it is vitally important to make sure that everything is dealt with correctly, not least because the executors and administrators are held personally liable for errors.

The duties include:

  • Preparing inheritance tax returns
  • Obtaining the grant of representation (a grant of probate or letters of administration) from the Probate Registry
  • Preparing estate accounts
  • Distributing the estate in accordance with the will or the rules of intestacy
  • Setting up any trusts arising under the will or the intestacy rules
  • Post-death tax planning and the preparation of deeds of variation

In some cases, where the estate is very straightforward, or the executor has relevant experience and skills, it may be possible for the estate to be administered by the personal representative(s). But generally, estate administration is a task that’s undertaken by a solicitor.

Large or high-value estates with many and varied assets with family trusts and sizeable gifts can become extremely complicated.

A solicitor will complete the process on behalf of the personal representatives, dealing with all the necessary paperwork to obtain the grant and distribute the estate to the entitled beneficiaries, ensuring that everything is done correctly, and protecting the executor or administrator from liability.

For more information about what to do when someone dies, please get in touch.

Official guidance recommends that people review their will every five years and after any major life changes, but a quarter of wills have not been updated for at least five years. If you have already prepared a will – how long ago was this prepared? Do you remember what your exact wishes were? While many people think that drawing up a will is a one-time task, this isn’t how estate-planning tools should be used. Life is unpredictable, and our relationships and preferences can change over time. If your will was written some years ago, it is crucial to inspect your copy and ensure its contents still reflect your wishes. If your will is not accurate or up to date it can be a real bone of contention and cause undue stress and worry for loved ones when you die- perhaps leaving them with not enough to cope financially or worse, nothing at all.

Particular events that should prompt you to seek professional legal advice about your will include the following:

Buying a property

Buying a property or increasing your assets is usually a good time to review your will and make sure it still reflects your wishes and that it deals with the new assets you have acquired.

Co-habitation

If you’re an unmarried couple holding the property as tenants in common, remember you would need to include your partner in your will otherwise they will not be entitled to your share of the property or of anything from your estate, which can cause a number of problems especially if children are involved.

Marriage

Marriage invalidates any previous wills you may have had in place so it’s a good time to review your circumstances and put a new will in place.

Separation

If you are separated but still married, the law will treat you as legally married and with no will (or updated will) in place your spouse will still inherit under the rules set out for inheritance regardless of the separation.

Divorce

Unlike marriage, divorce does not automatically invalidate a will, therefore you will need to review the content of your will (such as removing your ex-spouse). Your ex-spouse will be treated in the reading of the will as if they had died before you and may not benefit or act in anyway stipulated but it is always best to update your will, in case a claim is made against your estate.

New Children or Grandchildren

In your Will you can, of course, leave assets to your children and should anything happen to you before they reach the age of 18 or at the age you specify these assets would automatically be held in trust, but just as important is you can appoint guardians for your children should the worse happen. Having new grandchildren is also a good time to review your will if you would like to leave something for them.

Looking for some guidance?

Here at Hall Reynolds LLP we will consider your individual circumstances and offer practical, straightforward legal advice, ensuring your wishes are reflected in your will. To find out more about updating or changing your will, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

As a Law Graduate, competition for Training Contracts is extremely intense, with many favouring applying for larger national and international firms as they seek the city lifestyle filled with coffees to go, hectic commutes and high rise heaven. Many are led by ambition and the belief that it will fulfil all of their career desires and as such, they follow these bright city lights.

However, these same career aspirations can be achieved in a smaller firm and this article will endeavour to highlight why smaller firms should not be overlooked when Graduates are considering Training Contracts and why many more should consider the option of a smaller working environment.

It seems to be common opinion that in a larger firm there will be greater opportunities to experience a wider variety of legal avenues. Yet, this is not entirely true as the variety which you can hope to experience is actually greater in a smaller law firm. Many Solicitors in smaller law firms will have expertise in numerous areas of Law as opposed to specialising in one area as would be expected in a larger law firm. Therefore, this allows those Solicitors to engage in a greater variety of Law which encourages a greater breadth of knowledge.

Furthermore, trainees within a smaller law firm could expect to gain more ‘hands-on’ experience. Within a smaller law firm, there are often more opportunities to practice the work carried out. Due to fewer staff, the work carried out by Trainees is often more valued and beneficial to the firm. As such vital skills and expertise can be learnt along the way and often at a faster pace due to the opportunities which are given.

The work-life balance is a topic discussed at length by aspiring and ambitious trainee Solicitors and often in larger firms this balance is rarely struck. Whereas, in a smaller law firm the balance is much more achievable as the work schedule is often more flexible. This is largely due to the greater sense of camaraderie and teamwork within a smaller law firm in times of emergency and on a daily basis which lessens the need for individuals to sacrifice their time out of the office.

Therefore, the time is coming whereby smaller law firms should be more widely considered. In this age of high competition and growing aspirations, smaller law firms can offer the same vital training and career prospects as that of a larger firm. With the same opportunities for progression, the chance of a greater variety of legal experience and a more flexible work schedule it is time that more smaller law firms are considered by trainee Solicitors.

written by Mel Yates – Birmingham University final year Law student

A legal Guardian is a person who looks after a child or the children should anything happen to both of their parents. Guardians are responsible for the children until they are 18 years old. They also make all parental decisions and can also be responsible for managing a child’s property and inheritance.

Why do I need to think about legal Guardians?

Appointing legal Guardians enables you to choose and control who will look after your children in the event of your death. If you do not name a legal Guardian in your Will, you are allowing the Courts to decide who looks after your children and where they live, regardless of what you might have verbally agreed with a family member or a friend.

Who can be a legal Guardian?

The Guardian can be a member of your family but does not have to be. Guardians must be over 18 and be mentally capable. You should take into account parenting abilities as well as practical considerations when making your choice. It is also important to understand that naming a Guardian in your Will is not binding. If someone objects to your decision and takes the case to Court then the Court would decide what is best for your child. It is, therefore, a good idea to discuss your decision with everybody it may affect, both directly and indirectly.

How many people do I choose to be the Guardians?

Many clients prefer to appoint a couple as Guardians but you can choose up to 4 people.

However, you should be aware that is in the human nature to have differing opinions about how to raise children and if the Guardians are unable to agree this could lead to conflict and ultimately further stress for the children.  For example, appointing both sets of grandparents so that you don’t appear to be favouring one side of the family could lead to unnecessary complications. If you are considering appointing 4 Guardians we would suggest discussing this with them and working out a compromise.

What if the Guardians die?

In your Will, you will have the opportunity to appoint substitute Guardians. If your primary Guardians die your substitute Guardians will carry on in the role.

What if I change my mind?

If the circumstances change and your original choice is no longer suitable a new Will may be the simplest way to resolve the situation.

How can I appoint legal Guardians?

You can appoint Guardians in your Will. Alternatively, they can be established in a separate document.

Appointing a Guardian is not an easy task and should be carefully thought out so don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!

We delighted to announce that Hall Reynolds LLP have been shortlisted for Best Regional Firm and Small Conveyancing Team in the LFS Conference and Awards. The event is taking place at the Vox Conference Centre in Birmingham on the 19th September.

The LFS Conference and Awards is a prestigious event on the conveyancing calendar which attracts leading professionals and suppliers from the whole of the UK. Congratulations to our team for putting us on the shortlist – we wish you the best of luck on the awards night!

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a way of giving someone the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. They are a powerful and important part of future planning.
There are two types of LPA:

  • Property and Financial Affairs LPA Concerning decisions about property and finance
  • Health and Welfare LPA Concerning decisions about healthcare and welfare

Property and Financial Affairs LPA

It’s a wise precaution to appoint an attorney to deal with your affairs in the event that you become mentally incapacitated. This type of LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used, so the document has no au-throaty until that time.

There is no requirement for the onset of mental incapacity for you (the Donor) to register the LPA – it can be registered for a variety of reasons that simply make it more practical for you to have an Attorney acting on your behalf.

It covers a wide range of decisions relating to property and finance including:

  • Buying or selling property, and other investment decisions
  • Paying the mortgage and other bills
  • Giving people access to the financial information of the Donor (the per-son who created the LPA);
  • Arranging repairs to a property and other practical decisions

You can restrict or specify the types of decisions you wish your Attorney to make on your behalf.
Once registered, the Property and Financial Affairs LPA can be used infinitum, and it becomes a very powerful document.

Health and Welfare LPA

This type of LPA covers decisions about health care as well as personal welfare. It differs from the Property and Financial Affairs LPA in that it can be used only if someone has become mentally infirm. If the Donor is mentally capable but physically infirm an Attorney cannot make a decision about their health and welfare – the Donor can make it themselves.
Again it must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.
Decisions an Attorney can generally make on a Donors behalf:-

  • Whether the Donor should consent to a certain type of medical or life sustaining treatment;
  • Where the Donor should live, what they should eat, decisions about their lifestyle

You can restrict or specify the types of decisions your Attorney can make or you can allow them to make all decisions on your behalf
Should you ever be unable to make personal welfare decisions for yourself your Attorneys have a duty to consult you at all times in any decisions made on your behalf.

When can the LPA be used?

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 has ensured that there are further levels of protection in place for the Donor of an LPA.
Your Attorneys will only be able to act for you once the LPA has been signed and then certified by an independent person to confirm that you understand the document and have not been pressurised into signing it. As mentioned above it must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.
Also, the application process for registration of the LPA to the OPG requires a certain procedure including notice being given to a third party of the intention to register the document. This is to protect you if you did not want the document to be registered until a future date and your Attorneys rather than you make an application for registration.

Practicalities

It goes without saying that a Donor should only appoint Attorneys that they trust to make the same decisions that they would if they were able to.
It is advised that more than one Attorney be appointed, and that all Attorneys are authorised to act individually as necessary.
What happens if you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney in place?
If you do not have a Property and Financial Affairs LPA or an Enduring Power of Attorney in place and you become mentally incapable of making your own decisions it is likely that an application would need to be made to the Court of Protection for an Order appointing somebody else (a Deputy) to act on your behalf

By appointing your own Attorneys, you will avoid the increased costs involved in appointing a Deputy, and of decisions being made about your Deputy without your input or approval.

Making a Will doesn’t have to be complicated, and once it’s in place it can be simply
updated to reflect your changing circumstances.

The main reasons for making a will are:

Reassurance:
A will ensures that, in the event of your death, your assets will be inherited by the people you choose. Without a Will, the intestacy rules govern who inherits what.
Dying intestate (without a Will) can cause a great deal of worry and upset for your family and dependants and your estate may not pass to those you wish to benefit.

Avoiding problems: If you die intestate (without a valid will) you are inevitably causing difficulties for those you leave behind. Your next of kin would have to distribute your assets according to the Laws of Intestacy – not necessarily what you would want, and certainly not taking into account any bequests you might wish to make outside the immediate family.

Leaving a will should remove any doubt about your wishes, and prevent uncertainty, disputes, and upset.

Protecting your assets for future generations:
A will can ensure that assets are kept within the family and are passed on down the generations. As the dynamics of modern families become more complicated, a well-structured will becomes increasingly important.

Saving on Inheritance Tax (IHT):
With a carefully planned will, you can reduce or eliminate the Inheritance Tax bill on your estate after your death.

Funeral arrangements:
You can include in your will wishes such as whether you want to be buried or cremated; where you would like your funeral to take place; details about the ceremony; where you would like to be interred, and any other details that are important to you.