Topic: Uncategorized

The probate process

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Getting started: what you need to know

Probate (or confirmation in Scotland) is the system you go through if youíre handling the estate of someone whoís died. It gives you the legal right to distribute the estate according to the deceasedís wishes. Inheritance Tax forms are part of the process even if the estate doesnít owe Inheritance Tax.

If the deceased left a will, it usually names one or more executors who can apply for the grant of probate. If the named executor doesnít want to act, someone else named in the will can apply (depending on a strict order of priority). This person is called the administrator and they apply for a grant of letters of administration with will.

If the deceased died without leaving a will, a blood relative can apply for a grant of letters of administration. This is based on a strict next-of-kin order of priority defined in the rules of intestacy. The person who applies is also called the administrator.

The catch-all term for a grant of probate, letters of administration with will or letters of administration is a grant of representation. The catch-all term for an executor or administrator is personal representative.

Different terms in Scotland and Northern Ireland
Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems, processes and terms. The terminology is generally the same in Northern Ireland. However, in Scotland the process is called confirmation and the personal representative applies for a grant of confirmation. Different forms are required in Scotland and Northern Ireland too.

Financial prudence

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Financial prudence

It’ll take longer to sort out your affairs if you don’t have a will

Itís easy to put off making a will. But if you die without one, your assets may be distributed according to the law rather than your wishes. This could mean that your spouse receives less, or that the money goes to family members who may not need it.

If you and your spouse or registered civil partner owns your home as joint tenants, then the surviving spouse or civil partner automatically inherits all of the property.

If you are tenants in common you each own a proportion (normally half) of the property and can pass that half on as you want.

Planning to give your home away to your children while youíre still alive

You also need to bear in mind, if you are planning to give your home away to your children while youíre still alive, that:

gifts to your children, unlike gifts to your spouse or registered civil partner, arenít exempt from Inheritance Tax unless you live for seven years after making them

if you keep living in your home without paying a full market rent (which your children pay tax on) itís not an outright gift but a gift with reservation, so itís still treated as part of your estate, and so liable for Inheritance Tax

following a change of rules on 6 April 2005, you may be liable to pay an Income Tax charge on the benefit you receive from having free or low cost use of property you formerly owned (or provided the funds to purchase)

once you have given your home away, your children own it and it becomes part of their assets. So if they are bankrupted or divorced, your home may have to be sold to pay creditors or to fund part of a divorce settlement

if your children sell your home, and it is not their main home, they will have to pay Capital Gains Tax on any increase in its value

If you donít have a will there are rules for deciding who inherits your assets, depending on your personal circumstances.

Combining predictability with clever planning

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Make sure everything you own goes where you want it to tax-efficiently

Planning your finances in advance should help you ensure that when you die everything you own goes where you want it to. Making a will is the first step in ensuring that your estate is shared out exactly as you want it to be.

If you don’t make a will, there are rules for sharing out your estate called the Law of Intestacy, which could mean your money going to family members who may not need it, or your unmarried partner or a partner with whom you are not in a registered civil partnership receiving nothing at all.

If you leave everything to your spouse or registered civil partner there’ll be no Inheritance Tax to pay because they are classed as an exempt beneficiary. Or you may decide to use your tax-free allowance to give some of your estate to someone else or to a family trust.

Good reasons to make a will
A will sets out who is to benefit from your property and possessions (your estate) after your death. There are many good reasons to make a will:

you can decide how your assets are shared ñ if you don’t have a will, the law says who gets what
if you’re an unmarried couple (whether or not it’s a same-sex relationship), you can make sure your partner is provided for
if you’re divorced, you can decide whether to leave anything to your former partner
you can make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than necessary

Before you write your will, it’s a good idea to think about what you want included in it. You should consider:

how much money and what property and possessions you have
who you want to benefit from your will
who should look after any children under 18 years of age
who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death, your executor

Passing on your estate
An executor is the person responsible for passing on your estate. You can appoint an executor by naming them in your will. The courts can also appoint other people to be responsible for doing this job.

Once you’ve made your will, it is important to keep it in a safe place and tell your executor, close friend or relative where it is.

It is advisable to review your will every five years and after any major change in your life, such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child, or moving house. Any change must be by codicil (an addition, amendment or supplement to a will) or by making a new will.

Scottish law on inheritance differs from
English law.

Inheriting a property

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Could you be liable to pay Inheritance Tax?

If you owned property jointly as joint tenants with the deceased and you werenít their spouse or registered civil partner, youíll have to pay any Inheritance Tax due on the property when you inherit it.

If you owned property jointly as tenants in common with the deceased and werenít their spouse or registered civil partner, but inherited their share under the will, the deceasedís executor or personal representative must pay any Inheritance Tax or debts before distributing the estate among the beneficiaries.

Theyíll usually try to do this by using funds from other parts of the estate. However, if thereís a shortfall, you as the remaining owner are responsible for that shortfall and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and other creditors have the right to approach you.

If there isnít enough money in the rest of the estate to pay the outstanding tax or other debts, you may need to sell the property.

Valuing a deceased person’s estate

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Responsibility for paying Inheritance Tax

To arrive at the amount payable when valuing a deceased personís estate, you need to include assets (property, possessions and money) they owned at their death and certain assets they gave away during the seven years before they died. The valuation must accurately reflect what those assets would reasonably receive in the open market at the date of death.

Inheritance Tax is payable by different people in different circumstances. Typically, the executor or personal representative pays it using funds from the deceasedís estate. The trustees are usually responsible for paying Inheritance Tax on assets in, or transferred into, a trust. Sometimes people who have received gifts, or who inherit from the deceased, have to pay Inheritance Tax – but this is not common.

Valuing the deceased personís estate is one of the first things you need to do as the personal representative. You wonít normally be able to take over management of their estate (called applying for probate or sometimes, applying for a grant of representation/confirmation) until all or some of any Inheritance Tax that is due has been paid.

The valuation process
This initially involves taking the value of all the assets owned by the deceased person, together with the value of:

their share of any assets that they own jointly with someone else
any assets that are held in a trust, from which they had the right to benefit
any assets which they had given away, but in which they kept an interest ñ for instance, if they gave a house to their children but still lived in it rent-free
certain assets that they gave away within the last seven years

Next, from the total value above, deduct everything that the deceased person owed, for example:

any outstanding mortgages or other loans
unpaid bills
funeral expenses

(If the debts exceed the value of the assets owned by the person who has died, the difference cannot be set against the value of trust property included in the estate.)

The value of all the assets, less the deductible debts, gives you the estate value. The threshold above which the value of estates is taxed at 40 per cent is currently £325,000 (frozen until April 2014).

When the executor pays Inheritance Tax
Usually, the executor, personal representative or administrator (for estates where thereís no will) pays Inheritance Tax on any assets in the deceasedís estate that are not held in trust.

The money generally comes from the deceased personís estate. However, because the tax must be paid within six months of the death and before the grant of probate can be issued (or grant of confirmation in Scotland), sometimes the executor has to borrow the money or pay it from their own funds. This can happen if it hasnít been possible to get the money from the estate in time because itís tied up in assets that have to be sold.

In these cases, the executor or the people who have advanced the money can be reimbursed from the estate before itís distributed among the beneficiaries.

When a trustee pays Inheritance Tax
Inheritance Tax on transfers into trust is only necessary if the total transfer amount is above the Inheritance Tax threshold. Itís usually payable by the person making the transfer(s) – known as the settlor – not the trustees.

The trustees must pay any Inheritance Tax due on land or assets already held in trust. The occasions for this include:

a transfer out of trust (known as the exit charge)
every ten years after the original transfer into trust (known as the ten-year anniversary charge)
when the beneficiary of the trust (known as the life tenant) dies – interest in possession trusts only

When a beneficiary or a donee has to pay Inheritance Tax
If the executor or the trustees canít pay the Inheritance Tax, the beneficiaries or donees (recipients of gifts made during a personís lifetime) may have to pay it. A beneficiary or donee only has to pay Inheritance Tax in this case if:

they receive a share of an estate after a death
they receive a gift from someone who dies within seven years of making the gift
they benefit from assets in a trust at the time of death or receive income from those assets
they are the joint owner – other than a spouse or a registered civil partner – of a property

Doubling the Inheritance Tax threshold

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Transferring assets can seriously improve your wealth

Current rules mean that the survivor of a marriage or registered civil partnership can benefit from up to double the Inheritance Tax threshold – £650,000 in the current tax year, in addition to the entitlement to the full spouse relief.

Inheritance Tax is only paid if the taxable value of your estate when you die is over £325,000. The first £325,000 of a person’s estate is known as the Inheritance Tax threshold or nil rate band because the rate of Inheritance Tax charged on this amount is currently set at zero per cent, so it is free of tax.

Transferring exempt assets
Where assets are transferred between spouses or registered civil partners, they are exempt from Inheritance Tax. This can mean that if, on the death of the first spouse or registered civil partner, they leave all their assets to the survivor, the benefit of the nil rate band to pass on assets to other members of the family, normally the children, tax-free is not used.

Where one party to a marriage or registered civil partnership dies and does not use their nil rate band to make tax-free bequests to other members of the family, the unused amount can be transferred and used by the survivor’s estate on their death. This only applies where the survivor died on or after
9 October 2007.

In effect, spouses and registered civil partners now have a nil rate band that is worth up to double the amount of the nil rate band that applies on the survivor’s death.

Since October 2007, you can transfer any of the unused Inheritance Tax threshold from a late spouse or registered civil partner to the second spouse or civil partner when they die. This can currently increase the Inheritance Tax threshold of the second partner from £325,000 to as much as £650,000, depending on the circumstances.

Spouse or registered civil partner exemption
Everyone’s estate is exempt from Inheritance Tax up to the current £325,000 threshold (frozen until April 2014).

Married couples and registered civil partners are also allowed to pass assets from one spouse or registered civil partner to the other during their lifetime or when they die without having to pay Inheritance Tax, no matter how much they pass on, as long as the person receiving the assets has their permanent home in the UK. This is known as spouse or registered civil partner exemption.

If someone leaves everything they own to their surviving spouse or registered civil partner in this way, it’s not only exempt from Inheritance Tax but it also means they haven’t used any of their own Inheritance Tax threshold or nil rate band. It is therefore available to increase the Inheritance Tax nil rate band of the second spouse or registered civil partner when they die, even if the second spouse has re-married. Their estate can be worth up to £650,000 in the current tax year before they owe Inheritance Tax.

To transfer the unused threshold, the executors or personal representatives of the second spouse or civil partner to die need to send certain forms and supporting documents to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). HMRC calls this transferring the nil rate band from one partner to another.

Transferring the threshold
The threshold can only be transferred on the second death, which must have occurred on or after 9 October 2007 when the rules changed. It doesn’t matter when the first spouse or registered civil partner died, although if it was before 1975 the full nil rate band may not be available to transfer, as the amount of spouse exemption was limited then. There are some situations when the threshold can’t be transferred but these are quite rare.

When the second spouse or registered civil partner dies, the executors or personal representatives of the estate should take the following steps.

Calculating the threshold you can transfer
The size of the first estate doesn’t matter. If it was all left to the surviving spouse or registered civil partner, 100 per cent of the nil rate band was unused and you can transfer the full percentage when the second spouse or registered civil partner dies even if they die at the same time.

It isn’t the unused amount of the first spouse or registered civil partner’s nil rate band that determines what you can transfer to the second spouse or registered civil partner. It’s the unused percentage of the nil rate band that you transfer.

If the deceased made gifts to people in their lifetime that were not exempt, the value of these gifts must first be deducted from the threshold before you can calculate the percentage available to transfer. You may also need to establish whether any of the assets that the first spouse left could have qualified for Business or Property Relief.

Supporting a claim
You will need all of the following documents from the first death to support a claim:

a copy of the first will, if there was one
a copy of the grant of probate (or confirmation in Scotland), or the death certificate if no grant was taken out
a copy of any deed of variation if one was used to vary (or change) the will

If you need help finding these documents from the first death, get in touch with the relevant court service or general register office for the country you live in. The court service may be able to provide copies of wills or grants; the general register offices may be able to provide copies of death certificates

The relevant forms
You’ll need to complete form IHT402 to claim the unused threshold and return this together with form IHT400 and the forms you need for probate (or confirmation in Scotland).

You must make the claim within 24 months from the end of the month in which the second spouse or registered civil partner dies.

Inheritance tax nil rate band and rates

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

We can help you evaluate the size of your estate

We can help you evaluate the size of your estate – which could include assets such as property, pensions, shares and personal property – and identify the opportunities that will help you avoid or reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax your family will have to pay on your estate and enable you to preserve wealth for your dependents if the worst comes to the worst.

We can advise on making appropriate provisions for vulnerable beneficiaries, protecting their resources whilst continuing to benefit from them. You may also want to consider appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney who can manage your affairs in the event you become unable to do so.

Our aim is to maximise the inheritance your beneficiaries will receive, avoiding or minimising the amount of Inheritance Tax your family will have to pay on your estate, ensuring plans are in place to protect your property so that you are not forced to sell your home to pay for your care home costs should the need arise.

We are on hand to provide straightforward, up-to-date advice. We will assess your situation and provide advice on a number of tax migration solutions, creating bespoke estate protection planning strategies that are tailored to suit you and your circumstances.

Protecting your wealth

Posted on July 1, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Passing on assets without having to pay Inheritance Tax

A good estate planning and protection strategy can provide you and your family peace of mind that provisions are set in place for the disposal of your estate upon your death, securing your assets for the benefit of your heirs. Many people are surprised at how large their estate would be if they take into account the value of their home, life insurance policies not written in an appropriate trust and in some cases death in service benefits.

Inheritance Tax is the tax that is paid on your estate, chargeable at a current rate of 40 per cent. Broadly speaking, this is a tax on everything you own at the time of your death, less what you owe. It’s also sometimes payable on assets you may have given away during your lifetime. Assets include property, possessions, money and investments. One thing is certain: careful planning is required to protect your wealth from a potential Inheritance Tax liability.

Not everyone pays Inheritance Tax on their death. It only applies if the taxable value of your estate (including your share of any jointly owned assets and assets held in some types of trusts) when you die is above the current £325,000 (frozen until April 2014) threshold or nil rate band. It is only payable on the excess above this amount.

Inheritance Tax exemptions and reliefs
Sometimes, even if your estate is over the threshold, you can pass on assets without having to pay Inheritance Tax. Examples include:

Spouse or registered civil partner exemption: Your estate usually doesn’t owe Inheritance Tax on anything you leave to a spouse or registered civil partner who has their permanent home in the UK – nor on gifts you make to them in your lifetime – even if the amount is over the threshold.

Charity exemption: Any gifts you make to a qualifying charity – during your lifetime or in your will – will be exempt from Inheritance Tax.

Potentially exempt transfers: If you survive for seven years after making a gift to someone, the gift is generally exempt from Inheritance Tax, no matter what the value.

Annual exemption: You can give up to £3,000 away each year, either as a single gift or as several gifts adding up to that amount – you can also use your unused allowance from the previous year but you use the current year’s allowance first.

Small gift exemption: You can make small gifts of up to £250 to as many individuals as you like tax-free.

Wedding and registered civil partnership gifts: Gifts to someone getting married or registering a civil partnership are exempt up to a certain amount.

Business, Woodland, Heritage and Farm Relief: If the deceased owned a business, farm, woodland or National Heritage property, some relief from Inheritance Tax may be available.

Transfers of assets into most trusts and companies will become subject to an immediate Inheritance Tax charge if they exceed the Inheritance Tax threshold (taking into account the previous seven years’ chargeable gifts and transfers).

In addition, transfers of money or property into most trusts are also subject to an immediate Inheritance Tax charge on values that exceed the Inheritance Tax threshold. Tax is also payable ten-yearly on the value of trust assets above the threshold; however, certain trusts are exempt from these rules.

Gifts and transfers made in the previous seven years
In order to work out whether the current Inheritance Tax threshold of £325,000 has been exceeded on a transfer, you need to take into account all chargeable (non-exempt, including potentially exempt) gifts and transfers made in the previous seven years. If a transfer takes you over the nil rate band, Inheritance Tax is payable at 20 per cent on the excess.

‘Nothing is certain but death and taxes’ – and they are intrinsically linked

Posted on April 30, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Will your legacy involve just leaving a large Inheritance Tax bill for your loved ones?

In order to protect your family and business, it is essential to have provisions in place after you’re gone. The easiest way to prevent unnecessary tax payments such as Inheritance Tax is to organise your tax affairs by obtaining professional advice and having a valid will in place to ensure that your legacy does not involve just leaving a large Inheritance Tax bill for your loved ones.

Saving your beneficiaries thousands of pounds
Effective Inheritance Tax planning could save your beneficiaries thousands of pounds, maybe even hundreds of thousands depending on the size of your estate. At its simplest, Inheritance Tax is the tax payable on your estate when you die if the value of your estate exceeds a certain amount. It’s also sometimes payable on assets you may have given away during your lifetime, including property, possessions, money and investments.

Inheritance Tax is currently paid on amounts above £325,000 (£650,000 for married couples and registered civil partnerships) for the current 2013/14 tax year, at a rate of 40 per cent. If the value of your estate, including your home and certain gifts made in the previous seven years, exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold, tax will be due on the balance at 40 per cent.

Leaving a substantial tax liability
Without proper planning, many people could end up leaving a substantial tax liability on their death, considerably reducing the value of the estate passing to their chosen beneficiaries.

Your estate includes everything owned in your name, the share of anything owned jointly, gifts from which you keep back some benefit (such as a home given to a son or daughter but in which you still live) and assets held in some trusts from which you have the right to receive an income.

Against this total value is set everything that you owed, such as any outstanding mortgages or loans, unpaid bills and costs incurred during your lifetime for which bills have not been received, as well as funeral expenses.

Any amount of money given away outright to an individual is not counted for tax if the person making the gift survives for seven years. These gifts are called ‘potentially exempt transfers’ and are useful for tax planning.

Potentially exempt transfers
Money put into a ‘bare’ trust (a trust where the beneficiary is entitled to the trust fund at age 18) counts as a potentially exempt transfer, so it is possible to put money into a trust to prevent grandchildren, for example, from having access to it until they are 18.

However, gifts to most other types of trust will be treated as chargeable lifetime transfers. Chargeable lifetime transfers up to the threshold are not subject to tax but amounts over this are taxed at 20 per cent, with up to a further 20 per cent payable if the person making the gift dies within seven years.

Some cash gifts are exempt from tax regardless of the seven-year rule. Regular gifts from after-tax income, such as a monthly payment to a family member, are also exempt as long as you still have sufficient income to maintain your standard of living.

Combined tax threshold
Any gifts between husbands and wives, or registered civil partners, are exempt from Inheritance Tax whether they were made while both partners were still alive or left to the survivor on the death of the first. Tax will be due eventually when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies if the value of their estate is more than the combined tax threshold, currently £650,000.

If gifts are made that affect the liability to Inheritance Tax and the giver dies less than seven years later, a special relief known as ‘taper relief’ may be available. The relief reduces the amount of tax payable on a gift.

Leaving a tax liability
Inheritance Tax can be a complicated area with a variety of solutions available and, without proper tax planning, many people could end up leaving a tax liability on their death, considerably reducing the value of the estate passing to chosen beneficiaries. So without Inheritance Tax planning, your family could be faced with a large tax liability when you die. To ensure that your family and business benefits rather than the government, it pays to plan ahead. As with most financial planning, early consideration is essential.

Thresholds, percentage rates and tax legislation may change in subsequent Finance Acts. Levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are subject to change and their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor. The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invested.

Which investments are right for you?

Posted on April 30, 2013 by - Uncategorized

Assessing how best to achieve your goals

Building an investment portfolio can be a daunting challenge. However, if you are seeking to save over the long-term, perhaps for retirement or school fees, it may be worth taking the time to assess how best to achieve your goals.

Income or capital growth or a mixture of both
You need to consider which investments are right for you. It is easy to be tempted by the potential for short-term profits, particularly with interest rates so low, but you must also consider your ability to cope with losses, as any investment comes with risks. Knowing what you are prepared to lose helps establish your overall risk profile. Other considerations might include your level of financial understanding and whether you require an income or capital growth or a mixture of both.

Constructing your portfolio carefully
Once you have established these objectives, it is important to construct your portfolio carefully and continue to review it on a regular basis. What one person might consider cautious, another might consider risky, so it is important to understand your needs and seek professional financial advice.

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to the future. The value of investments and the income from them can fall as well as rise as a result of market and currency fluctuations and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Tax assumptions are subject to statutory change and the value of tax relief (if any) will depend upon your individual circumstances.