Living Wills, Wills

Where is your will?

When making a Will it is important to know where the original document is kept.

If a Solicitor has made your Will you may have been given the option to leave the original Will with your solicitor for safekeeping in their deed store department. If this is the case then you will most probably have received a copy of your Will and will have peace of mind that your original is Will is safe.

If a Will has been made some years ago maybe through your Bank, the Bank may have stored your original Will. You may have been issued with a receipt with a storage number and address where you can request the original documents from if needed. Once again your Will will be safe and you should have a copy.

In either of these cases what happens if:

Your firm of solicitors has closed
Your solicitors have been taken over by another firm and moved their offices
Your bank has amalgamated with another bank (this has happened in recent years)
The local branch of your bank has closed
Ideally you, as the client of either the solicitors firm or the bank should have been notified in writing of the changes which have taken place and be advised as to where your original Will is being stored.

We do not live in an ideal world unfortunately and often notification will not always be provided.

Therefore it is beneficial to ensure that you keep regular contact (maybe every year or two) with the business who is holding your Will. This will provide confirmation that they are still in existence and your original Will is safe.

To make enquiries about the whereabouts of the documents held by a firm of solicitors who have closed or moved their offices, it is beneficial to contact the Law Society who may hold the records of where the documents are or who took over the firm of solicitors. If this is not possible enquiries can also be made with other firms of solicitors who have offices in the local area as these may be questions often asked of them in the past or they have knowledge of the local area.

The banks may be more straightforward as they should have retained records as to where the Wills originally stored with them are held and it may be that they have outsourced to another company or a firm of solicitors.

Knowing the location of your Original Wills is important because if a Grant of Probate is required after death the original Will is needed. If the Will cannot be located and only a copy is held, there are many additional procedures which have to be followed to submit an application for a Grant of Probate of a copy of a Will. This can often be costly.

Even if a Grant of Probate is not required in the deceased’s estate, it is beneficial to ensure that you know where the original Will is. At this time only the Executors can request the original Will with a death certificate. The Original Will may never be needed again but if there is ever a claim to pursue on behalf of the deceased’s estate eg – medical negligence or a challenge to the payment of care home fees a Grant of Probate may be requested to permit the claim to proceed to settlement.

Therefore if one spouse has died, and a Grant of Probate is not required, the surviving spouse is advised to keep the Original Will with their own Will as it may be needed for such a claim, or to show who benefited from the deceased’s estate (for inheritance tax purposes).

If a parent or elderly relative has been in a care home and has privately funded their own care for several years, it may be once enquiries have been made that they were eligible for funding from the NHS. (There are specialist firms who undertake such claims). The original Will will be needed to apply for a Grant of Probate, even if the Will was made many years ago, if it was the original last Will made by the deceased relative it will still be valid.

Once again the knowledge of the location of the Original Will is essential.

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Inheritance tax, Living Wills, Uncategorized, Wills

New Year…make a Will

Happy New Year!

Welcome to our first Blog of 2016. In the new year, many people like to make a fresh start or may even make a resolution. So now may be a good time to give some serious thought to making a Will?

A Will is the only way to ensure your loved ones inherit what you want them to have. A Will also prevents your estate being distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules. Depending on who survives you, the intestacy rules could result in an estranged relative inheriting your estate. A Will gives you peace of mind knowing that the intended recipient receives your estate.

Appointing Executors of your Will is also an important decision. Executors are the people who are responsible for dealing with your estate assets when you die. You can appoint anybody as an Executor. Most people tend to appoint family members, although some prefer to have a professional, like a Solicitor.

A Will also allows you to appoint Guardians if you have young children and stipulate that money should be held in trust for your children, if necessary.

A Will may also allow you to mitigate inheritance tax and therefore it is important that you discuss this issue with a professional. Putting it off can result in your estate being liable to a large amount of tax. Taking advice from a solicitor is a sensible step.

Above all, making a Will gives you peace of mind. Why wait? Give Morrish Solicitors a call today on 033 3344 9600 and ask to speak to James Shingleton or Charlotte Bandawe at our Pudsey office or Tom Morrish or Monika Volsing at our Yeadon office.

Best wishes for 2016!

Fraudulent Will Writer, Probate, Wills

14 months jail for Will-writing fraudster

The Law Society’s Law Gazette magazine this week reported a story of an unregulated Will-writer who was jailed for fraudulently charging more than 125 clients between £30 and £60 to ‘fix’ a non-existent problem with their Wills.

Walter Ventriglia, 47, of Berkshire, ran a company called ‘Legacy & Law’ as a will-writing firm. According to the report, he wrote to clients under the alias Tony Edwards to advise them that under changes to the law their Wills would become invalid unless they hired him to make the necessary amendments. Needless to say, no such changes to the laws had been made.

Ventriglia also ran what he alleged was a Will-storage company, claiming the documents were stored in a secure facility in London where in fact he kept them at his home, in an airing cupboard.

Reading Crown Court sentensed Ventriglia on 19 August after he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading under Section 9 of the Fraud Act 2006.

For the full report by Jonathon Rayner, please see the Law Society’s report.

For further information on Wills, please see our website www.morrishsolicitors.com or you can contact our Elderly Client Services team on 0113 250 7792.

Wills

1000 Will-related files found dumped on pavement

From The Law Society Gazette

Thursday 04 August 2011 by Jonathan Rayner

More than 1,000 files containing wills and other confidential information were recently found dumped on the pavement outside a will-writing company in Doncaster, the Society of Will Writers (SWW) revealed this week.

The files were left by staff at another will-writing company, Gainsborough-based Minster Legal Services (MLS), which ceased trading in March on the death of its sole director, solicitor David Hodgson, in February.

The Doncaster company, Express Law, contacted SWW on finding the documents, which then collected them for safe keeping. SWW has so far succeeded in returning 300 of the documents to clients.

SWW director general Brian McMillan said the society has since discovered that MLS had a national network of consultants targeting local charity groups, particularly the elderly, and clients had paid thousands of pounds for wills and trusts that they have never received.

He said the case highlighted the need for will-writers and will-writing companies to be licensed.

‘Four or five years ago, we had to rescue other files that had been abandoned in a barn in Somerset. People pay good money in the belief they are going to receive a valid will. Operators like this taint us all,’ he said.

A Solicitors Regulation Authority spokesman said that MLS was not regulated by it, as it was not a solicitors’ firm. He added that the SRA had placed conditions on Hodgson’s practising certificate in September last year.

Last month, the Legal Services Board announced that it would launch a formal investigation into whether will-writing should be regulated, following a recommendation by the Legal Services Consumer Panel.

Further proof, if any were needed, of the need to regulate the writing of Wills.

 

Court of Protection, Disputed Will, heir, Inherit, Inheritance tax, Legacy, Power of Attorney, Probate, Wills

Chief Ombudsman says thousands ‘ripped off’ by unregulated will writers

From the BBC’s website 18 July 2011Last updated at 02:33

Thousands of people are being ripped off by companies providing unregulated services such as will writing, claims the first Legal Ombudsman.

In his first report, Chief Ombudsman for England and Wales Adam Sampson said the most complaints he saw concerned conveyancing, family law and wills.

He called for action to be taken to ensure consumers were not left vulnerable by unregulated services.

Only a tiny fraction of legal services must be provided by a qualified lawyer.

Many others including will writing, divorce, employment and immigration can be done by unqualified and unregulated individuals and organisations.

“One service which crops up a lot is will writing. It’s a service carried out often by will-writing firms who aren’t regulated,” said Mr Sampson.

“Because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong.

“We’ve seen similar confusion about claims management companies, with lots of consumers believing they’re getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by a non-authorised person. Again, we can’t help.”

‘Unregulated cowboys’The legal ombudsman was appointed in October 2010 and can only act on complaints from those using the services of qualified lawyers.

Consumer organisation Which? and the Law Society have backed the ombudsman and called for more protection for customers.

They said bundling legal services with financial services, including those offered via the internet, had posed serious dangers for consumer protection.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “As the legal-services market continues to grow in both size and complexity, it’s crucial that consumers who have paid for a legal service that’s not up to scratch know where to turn to get help.

“We want the government and regulators to wake up to the current lack of clarity and to provide a clear and straightforward route of redress for consumers.

“The arrival of a legal-services market in which consumers will, potentially, have complaints about hybrid services poses some serious questions about who they’ll be able to turn to for help.”

Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society for England and Wales, said: “The gap in regulation which allows unregulated cowboys to operate in areas like will writing does not just cause unfair competition to solicitors, who provide a regulated, professional service.

“It is also damaging to consumers because the unregulated providers are not insured, do not provide a compensation fund and are not covered by the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme for consumer redress.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said will writing was an important issue and that it welcomed the report.

She added the department will await the outcome of the Legal Service Board’s ongoing work.

Ends.

Want your Will handled by a professional, specialist solicitor? Please contact Tom Morrish or Charlotte Bandawe on 0113 250 7792 or Charles Clough, James Shingleton or Christina Fleming on 0113 224 8084.

Related stories:

The Law Gazette

The Legal Ombudsman’s Annual Report

heir, Inherit, Inheritance tax, Legacy, Probate, Wills

DIY Probate runs risk

News release from Solicitors For The Elderly

It is entirely possible to apply for probate and deal with an estate, without seeing a lawyer, but it’s not without risks warns legal group, Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).

Many professionally drafted wills contain trusts to save tax, to avoid those who inherit paying care fees and to reduce the likelihood of potential disputes. SFE members have noticed an increase in ‘DIYers’ returning to them to seek advice when they have made a mistake or find the paperwork too tricky. Mrs A’s will had included a tax saving trust, but when her husband administered the estate, he paid the whole estate to himself. The solicitor was thankfully able to sort out the matter and avoid future complications occurring when Mr A eventually dies. In Mr G’s case, he sold some shares that had made a gain during the administration of his late sister’s estate and had to pay tax. If he had transferred the shares to himself first, before selling them, he could have avoided the tax.

Yorkshire Regional Co-Ordinator for SFE, Tom Morrish – a Partner at Morrish Solicitors – today said ‘People aren’t always aware of the complexities and assume probate work is straightforward. It is true that it can be, but it is just as true that sometimes it isn’t.  In all but the most straightforward cases, it is important to seek timely specialist legal advice that can actually save you money and worry.’

Many SFE members’ practices will offer to work in partnership with the deceased’s family to help and support them with the legal and technical work. As elder law specialists, members can even add value to their work, for example by identifying cases where money is owed to the estate for care funding, which should have been met by the NHS and assist in making a claim.

Ends.

Care Home, Living Wills, Wills

Southern Cross anxiety over Care Home company’s future

From the BBC’s News website. Reproduced with kind permission of the BBC.

1 June 2011 – Thousands of elderly residents face an anxious wait after the UK’s biggest care home company said it would reduce its rent bill amid financial troubles.

The announcement means Southern Cross will pay nearly a third less to its landlords over the next four months.

There are concerns that if this move does not work, its 31,000 residents could be left “high and dry”.

But Health Select Committee chair Stephen Dorrell MP said the government should not consider a bail-out.

“It doesn’t seem to me that it’s the taxpayers’ job to fund the losses that have been suffered by the people who have invested in Southern Cross, that was their risk and it’s their loss,” Mr Dorrell told the BBC.

“What we need to do is to ensure that the care provided to people resident in Southern Cross homes is sustained, and those people’s needs are met.”

Darlington-based Southern Cross recently reported half-year losses of £311m.

The company, which operates 750 homes, warned then that it was in “critical financial condition”.

‘High and dry’

There has been mounting concern over the situation among the elderly residents and their carers and relatives.

Judy Downey, from the Relatives and Residents Association charity, said the developments were worrying.

“It’s a mixture of anguish and concern and panic,” she said.

“The whole business of closure of care homes is something the Relatives and Residents Association has been really concerned about for some time.

I anticipate, over the next week or two, landlords will start to take back their homes” -Paul Saper Financial consultant

“Homes close on a regular basis for one reason or another, and we’re very concerned that they have the same status in law as a corner shop that gives up, and people are left high and dry.”

Roy Lilley, a health policy analyst and former NHS Trust chairman, said Southern Cross was in a difficult position.

“The problem is in a normal business, if you run into trading difficulties, you can circle the wagons, you can close some branches that are not profitable, you can get rid of staff and just generally cut the overheads,” he said.

“But here you can’t do that, you’ve got 30,000 of the country’s most vulnerable people who depend on this company for a service.

“You can’t shove them around, you can’t decant them because clearly some of them are very frail and very vulnerable.”

However, there has been some good news for Southern Cross from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, which said local councils would try to help the company bounce back.

The association’s president Peter Hay said: “As councils buying care from Southern Cross, we are willing to work with all parties to support the recovery of the business.

“The care sector has many viable businesses delivering high quality care and we can achieve that for Southern Cross residents if all parties co-operate and continue to put the interests of residents and their families first.”

‘Critical mass’

Southern Cross said on Tuesday that it would defer 30% of its rent for four months while it tried to resolve its financial difficulties.

It also reiterated its belief that a longer-term solution to its troubles would be “forthcoming”.

The firm said it was confident “a critical mass of landlords” would support the move. However, there has been no official agreement.

The rent deferral runs from 1 June to 30 September. Southern Cross said it would issue an update in July.

Company chairman Christopher Fisher said: “We believe that all of the key stakeholders in Southern Cross want this restructuring to succeed.

“We are in dialogue with the Department of Health, our lenders and our landlords and they continue to support the process.

“The objective will be to emerge with a stable and sustainable business model for the continuing care of our residents.”

But financial consultant Paul Saper, who has analysed the private care sector, told the BBC: “They can make a decision themselves not to pay the rent, but their landlords don’t have to turn round and say: ‘We accept that’.

“That’s not going to happen, because these landlords also have responsibility to their shareholders.

“I anticipate, over the next week or two, landlords will start to take back their homes. And why should they not do so?”

From the BBC’s news website.