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Help Centre

Help and Support

We try to make what we do as simple as possible, but, we know it can still feel a bit overwhelming with legal terms, paperwork and processes that are not familiar to you. We have put together some common questions and answers which will hopefully help.

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Wills

10 Reasons To Make A Will
  1. A Will puts you in control. You choose who will benefit from your estate and how much they are entitled to. Dying without a valid Will means that your possessions will be distributed according to the law of intestacy, these are a complicated set of rules dating back to 1925. attorneys).
  2. In your Will you can appoint a guardian to look after your children if they are under 18. Without an effective guardian appointment, it would mean that your children could end up in the care of Social Services whilst the Court decides who should look after your children.
  3. You appoint people you trust and who you know will be capable of administering your estate to act as your executors.
  4. It is far quicker and cheaper to administer an estate where there is a Will than without one. Where there is no Will and as such no executor appointment then your next of kin will become administrators and will be responsible for your estate, these could well be people you would not have wanted.
  5. It is a common belief that husbands and wives (or civil partners) are automatically entitled to inherit everything, this is not the case. If you die without a Will then the rules of intestacy dictates how much your spouse is entitled to.
  6. If you do not make a Will and you are not married, then under the intestacy rules your partner is not entitled to anything from your estate. These rules do not take into account modern living arrangements or extended families.
  7. A properly drafted Will can help minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax paid as well as other future liabilities.
  8. You may want to prevent certain family members from benefitting from your estate and this can only be achieved by writing a Will.
  9. You may wish to leave gifts to friends, charities or other family members who might not otherwise be entitled under the rules of intestacy.
  10. By planning ahead and writing your Will, you will have the peace of mind knowing that when the time comes you’ll have done all you can to make life as easy as possible for those you have left behind.
How do I update my Will?

As your circumstances change it is important that you keep your Will, and the information in it, up to date.
If you previously made a Will with us, the process of updating it is very simple; changes can be made by email, letter or telephone, so you have the flexibility to change your wishes in the way most convenient to you, and as often as you need.

Why not have a free telephone Will review? One of our advisers will be able to tell you if you Will needs to be updated based on your current circumstance.

If you made a Will with another company, don’t worry, we can still help you update your Will.

Contact us now for more information.

How do I sign my Will?

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you. Our Customer Care Team are also on hand via live chat, telephone and email to guide you through what to do.

Please read and follow the simple checklist below when signing and witnessing your Will:

  • Do have TWO independent witnesses present at all times when signing your Will.
    Witnesses do not need to read the Will or know its contents, although they should be told what it is. They are simply witnessing your signature and acknowledging that you have signed the Will freely, and on that basis that the contents of the Will have been understood and approved by you.
    Witnesses must be over 18 years old (do not let a minor witness your Will).
  • Do firstly, sign your name at the bottom of each page except the final page (your witnesses aren’t required to do so).
  • Do where indicated write the date clearly in full, including the year. e.g. 12th day of January 2014, on the final page.
  • Do sign with your usual signature alongside where it says ‘Signature of Testator’ on the final page.
  • Do get your witnesses to sign and print their names, write their address and occupation on the final page.
  • Do make sure all signatures are witnessed by all those present.
  • Do make sure that if you correct your Will in any way, it must be initialled by you and by both your witnesses in the margin alongside.

All Wills have to be signed and witnessed correctly to make them effective. Failure to do so will make your Will invalid.

  • Do not ask a beneficiary, nor the spouse or registered civil partner of a beneficiary, to witness the Will, as any benefit or interest to which they are entitled within the Will, will be lost.
  • Do not use correction fluid or Tipp-Ex on your Will if you make a mistake.
  • Do not fasten anything to your Will e.g. staples, paperclips.
Storing A Will

If you store your Will with us it is currently locked away in our, state of the art, secure document storage facility, protected from fire, theft and damage.

When the time comes, your Will can be quickly retrieved and delivered directly, and securely, to the people you have expressly chosen, ensuring it is always in safe hands.

However, if you currently store your Will at home, or elsewhere, and would like to benefit from our facilities and store your Will, or other important legal documents; simply contact us now and we will explain your options and help you through the process.

The National Will Register

You know where your Will is, and that it is being kept somewhere safe, but does anyone else? By registering your Will, on the National Will Register, you can make sure that your Executors know where to find your Will when it is needed.

If a Will cannot be found after your death it can cause all sorts of complications. Something as simple as registering your Will can reduce the burden and make the process a little easier for your loved ones.

If you have made a Will with us, we automatically register your Will with the National Will Register, free of charge!

Whether you have made a Will with us or with another company, you can update The National Will Register yourself. It only takes a couple of minutes to fill out the questionnaire; giving you peace of mind that your loved ones will know where your current Will can be located! You can find the questionnaire here.

How do I retrieve a Will?

Your Will

To start retrieving your documents now, simply fill out the online Document Retrieval form. One of our Customer Care Managers will be in touch shortly after receiving the completed form to go through the next step.

Prior to sending the original documents to you; for your protection and to ensure a Will isn’t released to the wrong person, we will need to see a signature for each person wishing to retrieve their Will.

Someone Else’s Will

If you need the Will of a loved one who has died or become incapacitated you can use the Online Document Retrieval form. One of our Customer Care Managers will be in touch shortly after receiving the completed form to go through the next step.

Alternatively, you can speak to our Bereavement Team who will be happy to help you retrieve the Will. Not only that, but they are on hand to support you with any other queries, or questions you may have relating to Administering the Estate of a loved one.

How do I revoke a Will?

Revoking a Will means that you do not want your current Will to stand, so in effect you are ‘cancelling’ it. There may be several reasons for this – you have updated your wishes, you have married or you simply do not want your current Will to take effect. You can also revoke your Will by destroying the original.

How do I contest a Will?

The law makes provision for disappointed beneficiaries to challenge a Will in two scenarios. The circumstances most commonly arise:

  • If you were given assurances by the testator during their lifetime about inheriting land or property, only to have those promises not honoured in the Will. In this case you could use a legal challenge called Proprietary Estoppel.
  • If you wish to argue that not enough was set aside for you in the Will given your financial dependency and nature of your relationship with the deceased, you would use the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; sometimes simply referred to as the Inheritance Act.

If you believe you have strong grounds for challenging or contesting a Will, contact us for further information.

Protective Will Trusts

What is a Will Trust?

A Will Trust means that you leave your cash, property and processions (your assets) to people you trust (your trustees), who look after them for the people you choose to inherit (your beneficiaries). This means that your beneficiaries can benefit from your estate without actually owning the assets themselves.

Family structures can be complex and stressful, so it’s important to have the type of Will in place that best reflects your circumstances and wishes. Including a Trust within your Will gives you the reassurance, and peace of mind, that you can protect and control what happens to your property and possessions after you die.

We have simple solutions to a wide range of different situations to meet the needs of families who want to protect their own interests, or those of their children or vulnerable family members.

What are Trustees and Beneficiaries?

Trustees

Trustees are the legal owners of the trust property and as such are legally bound to deal with it in accordance with the terms set out in the Will Trust. They also administer or manage the trust and may make decisions about the trust property. Usually trustees are the same people as the executor(s) and they can include your spouse/partner or beneficiaries. There should always be a minimum of two trustees.

Beneficiaries

A beneficiary is anyone who stands to benefit from the property held in trust. There can be one or more beneficiaries and each may benefit from the trust in different ways. For example one beneficiary may be entitled to trust income only, whilst another beneficiary may be entitled to the trust capital.

Why have a Will Trust?

The following illustrates some of the most common family situations where Trusts are often used:
To look after your spouse/partner after you have died, whilst at the same time making sure your children’s inheritance is protected

  • To allow your spouse/partner to continuing living in a property after you have died
  • To provide for vulnerable family members, for example somebody who is disabled and may not be able to look after their own affairs
  • To protect the inheritance of beneficiaries who are bankrupt or likely to divorce
  • To protect your property and possessions (as far as possible) from the impact of care home fees
    To minimise the burden of Inheritance Tax (IHT)
Types of Will Trusts

Here are the more common types of Will Trusts;

Protective Property Trusts

Can offer protection of the family home from a number of events including remarriage, divorce, bankruptcy or long-term care home fees, whilst also providing a home for your loved ones following your death.

Disabled Discretionary Trusts

Putting financial arrangements in place for somebody who is unable to manage their own affairs, without affecting the means-tested state benefits to which they might be entitled.

Discretionary Trusts

The beneficiaries and their entitlements to the trust fund are not fixed allowing complete flexibility and asset protection. For a few people there may also be tax advantages.

Nil Rate Band Discretionary Trusts

Used in certain circumstances to help mitigate the impact of Inheritance Tax.

Residence Trusts

Where clients wish purely and simply to safeguard someone’s residence at their property then a residence trust might be appropriate. This could apply for instance where a client who intends leaving her estate to her children, has her elderly mother living at home with her and she wants to ensure in the event of her death first, that her mother is not made homeless upon sale of the property by the children. The beneficiary under these trusts has a simple right of occupation only and nothing
more.

Protecting my property with a Trust?

Many people are concerned about protecting their property to ensure that it will ultimately pass to their children (or other chosen beneficiaries) and will not be eroded after their death. A Protective Property Trust can offer protection for the family home from a number of events including remarriage, divorce, bankruptcy or long-term care home fees. It is also a good way of ensuring that your home will eventually pass to your children (or others) whilst at the same time making sure that your surviving spouse/partner
has continued security to live there for the remainder of his/her life.

Why you may want to protect your home

Most couples wish to leave their home to the survivor on the first death, with the intention that it will then pass to their children on the second death. However if after the first death the survivor owns the property outright this could potentially create problems in a number of different ways – all of which could result in the children ending up with nothing at all. For example, where a couple have children from previous relationships it is natural for them to want to protect their own children’s inheritance in case the survivor subsequently changes their own Will for whatever reason.

Furthermore following the first death the surviving spouse could remarry, divorce, face bankruptcy or need long-term care – all of which could jeopardise the children’s inheritance. The use of the trust structure can help to solve some of these concerns.

How the Protective Property Trust works

Both Wills provide that on the first death, instead of the family home passing outright to the survivor in the usual way, the deceased’s share of property will pass to trustees to hold on behalf of the remainder beneficiaries (e.g. the children) but subject to the proviso that the survivor can continue living there.
In this way the share of the property of the first to die does not become part of the survivor’s estate and so will be protected for the remainder beneficiaries. Do note that not the whole property can be protected – only the share of the first to die that is held in trust.

The terms upon which the survivor is allowed to remain at the property and for how long are set out in the Will. There are two approaches: one is to create a ‘life interest’ in the property, whilst the other is to grant a ‘right of occupation’.

Life Interest

With couples, particularly those in longstanding relationships, it is usual to grant a life interest as this does more than just give rights to occupy and it provides flexibility to meet changing circumstances. In legal terms the survivor has what is known as ‘an Interest in Possession’ for the rest of his life. This entitles him to live in the property so long as he wishes; or if he wants to move, then to sell and buy
another property in its place (the replacement property being subject to the trust in the same way); or if he no longer wishes to live in the property at all then for it to be sold and to receive the income produced from the investment of the sale proceeds.

In this way the trust capital (being the deceased’s share in the property itself or its sale proceeds) is preserved for the remainder beneficiaries who inherit upon the survivor’s death. The survivor does not usually have any right to receive trust capital – although if required, the trustees can be given additional powers to pay capital to the survivor at their discretion, for example in case of need.

Rights of Occupation

Where the survivor has rights of occupation only, then this means what it says. The Will specifies when those rights will cease – for example it could be upon the survivor’s remarriage, or a set number of years or simply when the survivor himself chooses to move away. If required this right can be extended to allow for a replacement property to be purchased if the survivor wished to move elsewhere.

Ancillary Provisions

Whichever approach is used it is usual for the survivor, during his residence at the property, to be liable for the outgoings. If trustees are to be held liable for any expenses then they will need to be provided in the Will with a separate trust fund in order to do so.

Placing a property in trust does not include the furnishings or other household contents, which are usually left to the survivor as an outright gift.

Property Ownership

A property trust is only effective where a couple own their property jointly as Tenants in Common. As such they each own a separate ‘share’ of the property which they are free to leave in their Will in trust. But where, as is often the case, a couple own their home as joint tenants then before drafting the Will it will be necessary to convert their ownership so that they own as tenants in common. This can be done quite easily through filing a Notice of Severance at the Land Registry.

Care Home Fees

It is illegal to deprive yourself of capital assets in order deliberately to avoid paying care home fees and there is a great deal of anti-avoidance legislation in place aimed at preventing people from removing assets from their estate.

However it is not illegal to provide in your Will for your share of property to be held in trust for your children. Provided that you are not aware of having to go into care in the near future then there is nothing to prevent you from planning your estate to ensure that your property ultimately passes via a Will trust in accordance with your wishes.

It is important however to understand that there can be no guarantee that a property trust will provide a fool-proof way of avoiding the value of your property being taken into account in means- testing by a local authority. Legislation and regulations are subject to change at any time and it is unclear how far the authorities will go in future to pursue contributions they feel are due to them in respect of care home
fees.

Inheritance Tax (IHT)

Equally, it is important to understand that Protective Property Trusts are not designed to save IHT but to serve a practical purpose of protecting property. Using a trust in this way will NOT save tax as the survivor with an interest in possession will be treated for tax purposes as owning the trust property. So a tax liability could arise on the survivor’s death, payable by the trustees.

For a couple who are married or in a civil partnership though, there will be no tax liability on the first death when the property trust is set up, because of the IHT spouse exemption.

Are there any disadvantages of having a Will Trust?

When planning a Will, it is important to understand fully the implications of leaving property in trust and be aware of the inherent disadvantages and risks involved.

Loss of Control

You should realise that placing your property in trust will inevitably mean loss of control of the assets. So a couple should understand that the surviving partner will have to rely on the trustees (though as mentioned above the survivor can be one of those trustees). For those who wish to retain complete control over their property a trust will not be appropriate. You should therefore think carefully about this.

Administrative Requirements

Trust law and the taxation of trusts are complicated. Trustees are required by law to administer trusts in accordance with strict rules and they are personally responsible amongst other things for keeping full records and accounts, completing tax returns and paying any tax due and also taking independent financial advice.

These are onerous responsibilities and so specialist advice is usually required not only in setting up the trust but also for its on-going administration. Very often trustees appoint a professional adviser (such as a solicitor or an accountant) which inevitably incurs expense. For this reason trusts are only worthwhile where the estate is substantial.

Advice

Depending on your circumstance a Trust may not be appropriate and is important that you seek expert advice. We are on hand to answer any questions you may have about Trusts, whether they are suitable and how we can support you and your loved ones in the future.

Bereavement

What to do when someone has just died?

We have a wealth of information on our website; for an overview of the bereavement process, and a few free tools, view the 10 Steps of Dealing with a Bereavement here.

If you would like professional help but not sure how much you need, try our Help You Decide page to start with. Alternatively, if you want more in-depth advice and guidance, have a look at the other services available to you here.

If you prefer, you can also go through your options with an Bereavement Adviser by contacting us by email, telephone or Chat with us Live.

What is Probate?

When a person dies, someone has to deal with the affairs of that person. This could be someone who is either named in the Will (as an Executor) or is the next of kin, if there is no valid Will.

They are legally responsible for collecting in all the money, paying any debts and correctly distributing the estate to those people entitled; the beneficiaries. This whole process is called Estate Administration and part of the process may involve having to apply for ‘Probate’.

Probate is the process of obtaining a legal document from the Probate Registry to prove you have authority to deal with the estate.

A Grant of Representation (also known as Grant of Probate or Grant of Confirmation) is the official court-sealed document issued by the Probate Registry that includes a copy of the deceased’s Will. It is called a Grant of Letters of Administration if there is no Will, but the document serves the same purpose.

Do I need Probate?

It depends on the situation of the deceased whether or not Probate is needed or not.

For example, you usually need Probate if the person who has died had property such as a flat or a house. You may not need Probate if:

  • The person who died owned only cash (bank notes and coins) and personal possessions such as a car, furniture, and jewellery.All property is owned jointly; in most cases this property automatically becomes wholly owned by the other owner
  • The deceased person had a joint bank account
  • The property and possessions of the deceased, when valued, is quite small
  • The person who has died is insolvent or it is discovered there is not enough money to pay all the debts, taxes and expenses
  • The deceased person did not have any high value bank accounts, certain life insurance policies, premium bonds, pension benefits and did not have any property only in their name

For more information about whether Probate is needed or not, please speak to one of our specialist Bereavement Advisers, who will be able to go through this in more detail.

What do Executors or Administrators do?

It can be a intimidating prospect for any Executor or Administrator, whether you have had previous experience of dealing with an estate or if it’s your first time. We are on hand to support you or your loved ones.

  • Along with loved ones, they may have to deal with the practical tasks when someone dies, like securing property or looking after pets
  • If there is a Will, they locate the latest copy
  • They make sure that the wishes of the person who has died are carried out correctly
  • They look after any assets (property and possessions), for example make sure a property is insured if left empty
  • They are duty bound by the Court and the beneficiaries, and must act with their best interests in mind
  • They are personally liable for making sure the estate is processed correctly and separately from their own affairs
  • They need to keep clear records of accounts, money paid in, and paid out of the estate
  • They need to liaise with many different organisations to wind up the estate
Do I have to act as an Executor, when I have been appointed in someone’s Will?

There is no initial legal obligation upon you to act as Executor. However, you need to make the decision to take on the role in the early stages avoid intermeddling (carrying out tasks that only an Executor should do).

If you have not intermeddled you have the option to appoint someone else to act on your behalf as the named Executor. This may be a specialist Bereavement company, like ourselves or a solicitor. They will ask you to sign a renunciation form at the outset.

If you have already started carrying out the tasks of an Executor, you can still obtain help. We have a number of services which will support you throughout the Administration process. You can find out more about what we do, here.

I need more help?

If you want to find out more about the whole bereavement process, our free to use 10 Steps Of Dealing With A Bereavement is a great tool to help families, Executors and Administrators. It gives you an overview of the process, from the immediate steps to take, to distributing the property or possessions of the deceased.

Try it now by clicking here.

Lasting Power of Attorney

Signing A Lasting Power of Attorney

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Storage / Family & Friends Vault

Storage / Family & Friends Vault

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Personal Estate Plan

Personal Estate Plan

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Expert self-help videos

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They are syndicated with the NHS to ensure the medical accuracy of each health video, whilst all others have been pre-vetted by a professional in the respective field.

Ergsy is on a journey to inform, and introduce users with questions relating to specific sectors, to professionals with expertise in those areas.

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