Meeting The Lawyer

I know that there has been a lack of posts to this site – and that has been because the quest has been on for finding a solicitor.

I searched the internet, and emailed three firms. One didn’t respond, one responded with an email that showed they hadn’t read our email, and the third responded positively and quickly – and, importantly for us, could meet us outwith standard office hours of 9-5 weekdays only.

The internet search was pretty comprehensive to get it down to the three I tried to contact. I weighed up all the information pretty carefully; we need a lawyer that we feel comfortable with – someone we can actually talk to in a real and frank way, straight-up.

We think we found that in the end. We went with a female solicitor – about the same age as my wife, and from the same neck of the woods too.

Her website was really cool, and informative too. Not a big firm, not a fancy office. Perfect. Let’s face facts: I am logically and statistically the most likely to go first, so my wife has to have support at a pretty harsh time – she needs someone she can relate to properly. So I arranged for a meeting.

On top of all the plusses, this lawyer does home visits! How good can it get? She came over on Saturday at 11am, and we chatted round the kitchen table. She’ll email us draft wills and we’ll go forward from there.

It’s all really positive. The wills are only £60 each too.

She talked down being an executor or co-executor as we are not terribly complicated – but offered full support to my wife (or I suppose myself) as required – that might be even better.

In the meeting we talked about what would happen with our children should my wife and I come to a sticky end. My family is really not in the equation – too old for one thing, but my wife’s parents are 70, and her only sister lives hours away and hundreds of miles – which would uproot the children.

My wife’s father remarried a woman 23 years his junior, so I took the opportunity to have a chat with her (one on one) about this morbid topic – and, to my surprise,  she was “flattered” and “honoured” to be considered to bring up the children in the sad event of our joint demise.

It has to be said that if my wife and I died today, it would only be for 7 or so years, so it is not really a commitment per se. But it is really nice to know we’re covered. I even asked the unthinkable – would you still feel the same if something happened to your husband? After all, the oldest and infirmest person here is my father-in-law… and she still said she would be delighted to oblige us.

This is a great relief – this would provide stability and continuity to the children. Of course, it is an unlikely event – but that’s what contingencies are all about, and so we feel a lot happier that we have an idea of the what-ifs.

The Execution

It’s easy enough to die, the rest is where the trouble lies. The dead person is referred to as “The testator”, without a will, the personal representative is called “The Administrator” and with a will, the “Executor”.

The executor of anyone’s last will and testament is pretty scary – my Executor has to make sure that my last wishes are granted with regards to the disposition of all my assets, property and possessions (estate). They are accountable for any mistakes made.

“Being named as Executor in a Will can bring with it complicated, difficult and time-consuming duties which often take up to a year to complete.

It is crucial to get everything right because the Executor is legally responsible for administering the estate in accordance with both the terms of the Will, and the law. An Executor is responsible for everything they do or fail to do, in respect of the estate.

Acting as the Executor of a Will can be a very daunting prospect because the role carries with it a considerable amount legal, tax and administrative responsibilities. An Executor’s responsibilities last for the duration of the administration of the estate and can also carry on into any ongoing Trust.”
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The law requires that every Executor act in good faith to fulfil their duties with the utmost honest and diligence (fiduciary duty). The Executor is not entitled to any proceeds, but can charge a fee.

My Administrator or the Executor of my will is responsible for making sure that any debts and creditors that I might have at the time of death are paid off, including fees, charges, taxes and the cost of my funeral – and then that any remaining money or property is distributed according to any wishes I may have stipulated in my will/ trusts.

I don’t think dying intestate is the best option, so I need to draw up a will and think of someone to be my executor.

I have rooted about online, and it seems quite onerous to be an Executor. I wouldn’t fancy the job!

  • First of all, they will have to decide whether court is required to prove that the will is valid;
  • Then they have to apply to the court for the Grant of Representation – which is the confirmation of legal authority to administer the estate.This is called the Grant of Probate (but if there is no valid Will, this is called Letters of Administration).
  • Then they have to find all my assets somehow;
  • They usually have to set up a new special bank account in the name of the estate to make paying off debts to creditors easier;
  • The funds in the estate’s bank account can be used for making mortgage, insurance and other recurring payments that need to be paid during the administration of the will. They are in charge of all that;
  • Keep estate accounts;
  • They have to keep all my assets safe until the will is executed;
  • They have to identify and deal with any valid claims against the estate.
  • Then they will have to decide which of my assets should be sold to be divided up among the beneficiaries;
  • They have to complete and submit the Inheritance Tax (IHT) return and pay any Inheritance Tax owed;
  • Complete the relevant Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax returns and pay any outstanding tax owed;
  • They would have to find – and contact – all the people named in my will to tell them and then to make sure they get their inheritance;
  • They would have to find all my investments, bank accounts, credit cards, memberships, accounts, state benefits, etc – and cancel/ notify them all of my death – and settle everything;
  • Property that is given through a will should be given as it is recorded. However, if there is other property that is not named in the will, the executor needs to check with a lawyer about what the law states should happen.

This is a LOT of work – and it’s responsible and serious, even with a guy like me with simple affairs. I don’t know if it is the best idea to burden my widow with all that as well as funeral arrangements, grief and dealing with family during bereavement.

“Anyone aged 18 or above can be an executor of your will. There’s no rule against people named in your will as beneficiaries being your executors. In fact this is very common.

“Many people choose their spouse or civil partner or their children to be an executor. But that doesn’t mean they have to write them out of the will.

“Up to four executors can act at a time, but they all have to act jointly so it might not be practical to appoint that many people.

“It’s a good idea, though, to choose two executors in case one of them dies before you do. For example, you might choose one family member and one professional, like a solicitor or accountant.

“Professional executors tend to charge, but it can be helpful to have someone involved with specialist knowledge. You can appoint substitute executors to cover the situation if your first choice dies before you…

“Choosing a solicitor as one of your executors makes a lot of sense, especially if sorting out your things is likely to be complicated – they’re experienced at the job and know their way around legal, tax and property issues.

“If the financial side of your will is especially complicated, it could be a good idea to choose a bank or accountant as one of your executors.

“Of course, these professional specialists will charge you for their work. This happens in one of two ways:

  • By sending a bill for their time when your things have all been sorted out
  • By taking a share of the total value of your estate – this will be written into your will

“Make sure you understand how your solicitor, bank or accountant will charge for being an executor and how much each option will cost before you commit yourself.

“As a last resort, there’s a government official called the Public Trustee who will be your executor if there’s really nobody else who can do it.

“The most common situation where the Public Trustee will step in is if your will leaves everything to one person and that person can’t act as executor himself or herself – for example, a child or an adult whose disability means they are incapable of managing financial affairs.”
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So far, it seems, I need to put on my thinking cap about who to appoint as Executors and Trustees. Just now I am leaning away from burdening my family. It may be additional cost, but perhaps a lawyer would be a good idea.

It seems to make sense at this time to have a lawyer on board to put together a will and perhaps also look at sharing the executor role and possibly act as a trustee too.

 

Doing Nothing

What if I simply decided to do nothing at all?

After all, why get all hot and bothered when my wife will get everything anyway? I am likely to die first, so the problem of the children’s inheritance is really down to her – not me; she’ll be fine inheriting all my stuff automatically.

This is called intestacy.

My estate is divided in accordance with what are commonly known as ‘the rules of intestacy’, which are derived from different statutes. It breaks down to (a) who is the administrator of the estate ( ie “personal representative” – which is in my case probably my next-of-kin – ie widow), and (b) who gets everything (next of kin – ie widow again).

The only complications of modern lives – such as people with previous marriages (or relationships that bore children), civil partnerships, transgenders, adopted children, jointly owned properties, trust funds, debts, hire-purchase agreements or financial arrangements of that ilk – simply do not apply to me and my situation just now.

My life is pretty simple – wife and children, no HP, nothing being paid up or paid back. As simple as it gets.

The worst that can happen to me is that my wife dies first, but in terms of intestacy, it’s still basic and straightforward.

Nevertheless, I have some concerns. A Personal Representative / Administrator (ie my widow) is personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty, even if the mistake was made in good faith; such as

  • Failure to pay my debts and liabilities;
  • Failure to pay all Inheritance Tax, Income Tax & Capital Gains Tax due.
  • Failure to distribute funds to an individual who is successful in their claim against the estate;
  • Failure to identify, and correctly distribute funds to the beneficiaries; including those initially not known about.

This can go on longer than I would have thought; my creditors can potentially make a claim against my widow/ Administrator for up to 12 years after my death! And disappointed family members or dependants have up to 6 months to make a claim after the Grant of Representation has been issued.

There are always further unknowns – so it is a real concern.

Doing nothing means leaving all the bother and fuss to my widow – right at the time she doesn’t need such aggravation.

Is she really the best one to be Administrator? I am not so sure this would be a great idea.

Fact is, if I decided against dying intestate, and went for arranging a will – is she the best person to be the executor? If I get a life insurance policy written into trust, should I get another trustee or two to help out?

And another thing – as husband and wife, we are a couple – and so we do things together – so what would happen to the children if something happened to us both?

How would funerals be managed and paid for?

All things considered here, it is really not the best idea to do nothing. Intestate is not a good state.