Our article as seen in several regional newspaper publications

Three simple steps homeowners can take now to protect their hard-earned assets

Most people know the importance of making a Will, but according to family law specialists April King Legal there are several other simple legal processes which could save people money, time and heartache.

It’s never too early to think ahead about what might happen in later life. That’s the belief of April King Legal, which started in Nottingham in 1991.

Indeed, Paul King, Director and Head of Client Services, says now is as good a time as any to get your affairs in order.

He explains: “Adults of any age should be thinking ahead, particularly where children are involved but when we are all busy it’s easy to put things off. At April King we offer an informal free first meeting to discuss clients’ needs. We try to make the whole process as easy and straightforward as possible, giving our clients the peace of mind of knowing that their affairs are in order. Most clients say to us, ‘We are glad it’s all sorted, we don’t want to be a burden to the family’.”

“At April King we have prepared a jargon-free guide to help people understand the benefits of putting plans in place which is available free of charge by calling our office or completing the form below.”

“We have developed a package of family law services with modern day family life in mind. Care Fee Asset Protection, Lasting Power of Attorney and Family Bloodline Trust Wills form the basis of our advice to clients.”

Paul is a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, the worldwide professional body for estate law professionals.

As a qualified and highly experienced estate lawyer, Paul oversees a team of staff in 29 April King Legal offices throughout the UK.

The firm has grown from strength to strength with more than 40,000 clients.

April King is a modern and approachable practice that, in addition to the qualified in-house legal team, also works in association with a panel of independent barristers, conveyancers and other legal specialists to supply a seamless service and help with individual legal queries.

But its main remit is private client work dealing with everyday family matters – and Paul is keen to raise more awareness about a number of key issues which could prove invaluable whatever people’s circumstances.

Here, Paul explains three simple, but vital, legal steps which he believes need wider attention:

1Care cost fees

“A lot of people are still unaware that if they need care in later life, their assets will be means-tested by the Local Authority to help pay for these services. This goes back to the Community Care Act 1990, which came into force in 1993.”

Paul King

“If someone requires social care in later life, the Local Authority will look to use the assets of a person until they get down to a lower limit of £14,250, when the Local Authority will take over the fees.”

“For instance, my own grandmother sadly passed away recently at the age of 92. My grandfather had died many years earlier and left everything to her.”

“When she needed care in the last six years of her life, because my grandfather had left everything to her, the house and all the estate was counted in the Local Authority’s means test.”

“Our clients tell us, ‘We’ve worked hard all our lives, why should the Local Authority get it all?'”

“Just as she died, she had gone down to that lower limit of £14,250 and that’s all her children inherited.”

“There are many myths about the steps people can take to protect their assets from being used like this.

The main one is that a parent should simply sign their house over to the children now, so it won’t be taken into consideration for means testing. That’s just not true.”

Our clients tell us...

“Local Authorities will actually look to see if you’ve ‘deliberately deprived’ yourself of an asset by giving property away, going back over any period in time.”

“Sometimes people think that if the gift is made seven years prior then the house is safe. This is not so as the seven-year rule only applies to Inheritance Tax and not local authority care.”

“The solution is for couples to simply not leave everything to each other in the first place. What my grandfather could have done is leave his half of the house in trust to his children, stating that they couldn’t have it while his wife, my grandmother, was still alive. We call these Property Trust Wills.”

“If my grandfather had left his half of the house in trust to the grandchildren than when my grandmother subsequently received care in her later life she would only have been means tested on her own half of the house, but my grandfather’s half would have been safe. Why should he have to contribute his half when he didn’t receive any care?”

“The important factor is that couples need to act in advance. Once one party dies or loses mental capacity, through a stroke for example, then they are no longer in a position to do this legitimate and straightforward type of planning. It is therefore important for couples to act now even if they may not foresee care fees being an issue.”

Paul goes on to explain a further important point. Most clients he sees are surprised to learn that remarriage usually cancels a Will and makes the spouse next in line to inherit, ahead of their own children! Protecting your half of the house in this way, he suggests, ensures that your children ultimately inherit when the survivor dies.

“Had my grandmother remarried after the death of my grandfather the whole estate could have passed sideways out of the family,” says Paul.

“It’s another important reason for home-owning couples to upgrade to a Property Trust Will.”

Grandmother


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2Bloodline trust wills

The majority of April King’s clients have already made standard ‘Mirror Wills’ with other firms before approaching the Firm.

A Mirror Will is when a couple leave everything to each other on the first death, then to the children when the second partner dies.

But modern family life means these type of Wills leave a lot to chance. Explains Paul: “If I have a Mirror Will leaving everything to my wife and she remarries or goes into care after my death then either the new husband or the Local Authority are likely to inherit most, if not all, of my estate ahead of my children.”

“Even if my children are named in my Mirror Will, it is by no means certain that they will inherit anything.”

“Once again, this is because a remarriage would cancel the Will my wife had previously made with me and make the new husband next-of-kin. This often comes as a big shock to my clients who had perhaps thought that all was in order and that the family bloodline would one day inherit.”

“The same is true for thinking that their children and/or grandchildren will one day benefit under a Mirror Will. If any of your children should die leaving everything to their husband or wife and that son-in-law or daughter-in-law should then remarry, then your grandchildren would be the ones to lose our under the line of inheritance.”

“Worse still, someone else’s grandchildren would be in line to receive the benefit of all your years of hard work.”

“I’ve experienced this in my own family and I’m sure most people have had similar experiences or heard of someone who has. Bloodline Trust Wills give greater protection to your children.”

Paul continues: “These things can be avoided by having a Bloodline Trust Will.”

“These type of Wills not only give your children complete control and access to the inheritance they receive from you, they also grant added protection from the twists and turns of modern family life.”

“The wording in these wills states that any money left over on their demise must pass to any children born of them – your grandchildren.”

Mirror Wills


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Barbara White

3Lasting Power of Attorney

Paul explains how people often get confused thinking that, because they have made a Will, their executors can also deal with assets if there is illness, stroke or some other form of incapacity while they are still alive.

“Everyone should actually have two documents – a Will that deals with their estate on death, and a Lasting Power of Attorney that deals with their estate during their lifetime,” he says.

“The Lasting Power of Attorney is a relatively new introduction and is divided into two parts – one deals with finance, the other deals with health and welfare.”

“In many ways it’s similar to a passport; a document that’s registered now and one which can be physically handed to the attorneys should the need arise.”

Paul King with a client

“It allows the attorneys, perhaps the children, to deal with the banks and pension companies etc should their parent become incapacitated, but also to deal with matters such as where the parent should be living and how they should receive care.”

“Your attorneys, again perhaps your children, must legally act in your best interests at all times.”

“You can choose a number of attorneys to act, either jointly or independently, and April King advises on the various options available.”

“Couples are often surprised to discover that even joint bank accounts can be frozen until the Bank sees sight of a Lasting Power of Attorney document.”

“Having a Lasting Power of Attorney removes the burden on children should ill health happen further down the line.”

“It helps a family deal with bank accounts and so on during a parent’s lifetime and ceases on death.”

“Crucially, you have to complete a Lasting Power of Attorney while they are still in good mental health. If someone becomes ill through say, a stroke or dementia, this option is lost and the family would have to apply for a Deputyship Order from the Court of Protection – a drawn out and expensive process.”

“It is therefore a good idea for clients to plan ahead and remove and future burden from the family.”

“Once again, all adults should be thinking of this, particularly when there are children or a business involved.”

“It’s not just something to think about when you get older, that’s the challenge for us.”

“People think, ‘I’m not ill, why do I need to make a Power of Attorney?'”

“But they’re missing the point. This is a document that has to be done in advance.” Paul adds: “The next part is to appoint the attorneys, your children. Don’t forget, your children can be executors of your Will and attorneys as well.”

“The Lasting Power of Attorney remains in place until you die unless you want to cancel it. Once it’s registered, you don’t have to worry if you then develop some debilitating illness. A burden has been removed from the family at an already difficult time.”

DID YOU KNOW?

If you have a child who has separated but yet to divorce then their ex is still next in line to inherit from them over and above your grandchildren from that marriage.

Should your son or daughter inherit from you before their divorce is finalised then they could end up having to share that inheritance with their estranged spouse.

April King have prepared a free information pack that shows you ways to help prevent this happening and keep inheritance in the family bloodline.


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Jenny answers your frequently asked questions

JennyQ. We’ve made Wills with another firm – can we still come to you?

A. Yes, around 90% of our clients come to us having previously made Wills with another firm.

Q. How do I gift items such as jewellery?

A. You can do one of two things. Either gift them in the Will or we can give you a codicil gift list for you to complete. These ‘gift lists’ do not need to be completed at the time of making the Will so you can take your time over this. Further, you can update or change these codicils at any time and as often as you like at no cost.

Q. If we protect our respective half share of the home from a survivor’s care cost fees, can they move to another property or downsize?

A. Yes, these provisions are written in the Will.

Q. Do you do home visits?

A. Yes, we are happy to visit you at home at no extra cost although it is better if you can come and see us as we have the relevant computer links to the Land Registry etc.

Q. We have not heard of Bloodline Wills before, is this new?

A. They are a type of Discretionary Trust which has been adapted to fit the needs of modern family structures. There are only a few firms who specialise in this type of planning and April King is one of them.

Q. Who is April?

A. April originally stood for the Association of Practicing Independent Lawyers. In 1996 April Law merged with King & Co to form April King. Paul King is the Director and Head of Client Services.

Q. Where are your offices?

A. We have 29 offices across the East and West Midlands, and we also offer home visits at no extra charge.

The April King team have prepared a free information pack which you can obtain without any obligation by filling in the form below, or by calling our West Bridgford office on 0115 8700053.


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