Category Archives: Inheritance Tax

Want to Avoid Care Home Fees? Beware of the Pitfalls

An estimated 1 million or more people have had to sell their home to pay the cost of care fees within the last 5 years; unsurprising given the average cost of a care home is over £700 per week. Many people who are worried about this are now taking drastic action to try and avoid paying care home fees. The results are not always effective, writes Helen Dandridge, solicitor at Ridley & Hall.

“Any schemes that guarantee to protect your home from being sold to fund future care home fees should be treated with extreme caution” says Helen; “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Helen has seen a recent case involving an elderly vulnerable lady which highlights the importance of obtaining independent legal advice from a trusted firm of solicitors before making life changing decisions.

This lady, who lived alone in the Huddersfield area, paid almost £3,000 for her property to be put into a trust. She did not need this service and undoubtedly did not understand what she was paying for. The idea behind the trust deed was to transfer the property out of her sole name, so that if she ever needed to go into a care home, her home would not have to be sold to fund care fees.

Ridley & Hall receive countless enquiries about creating trusts in relation to properties or transferring assets to a family member to protect against care home fees. Whether this option is appropriate to you depends upon your circumstances.

In this particular case, the elderly client went into a care home within weeks of signing the documentation. Her ability to understand complex legal transactions and to give clear instructions is debateable. Sadly, we will probably never know the true extent of what she was advised to do and more importantly, what she understood about the transaction she entered into.

The trust deed would never have achieved the desired outcome for this lady. It was not appropriate in her circumstances and she should never have been advised to sign the documentation. She was asked to pay the money up front and it is unlikely she will get it back.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case.

Many people wrongly assume that transferring their property to their loved ones will mean that the local authority will have to fund any care home fees if they need to move into a care home.

If you do not obtain specialist legal advice from a solicitor then you may have difficulties. Local firm Ridley & Hall are aware of companies who are cold calling elderly and vulnerable adults telling them they can protect their inheritance by putting their home into a trust.

If you need any advice regarding making or reviewing your will, inheritance tax planning or registering attorneys, please contact our Wills and Probate team on 01484 538421.

For further information, please see Age UK’s factsheet ‘Deprivation of Assets in the means test for care home provision‘.

Helen and some of her colleagues are running the Leeds 10km Abbey Dash in aid of Age UK on the 16th November 2014. If you would like to sponsor this worthwhile cause, please visit our JustGiving page.

Ridley & Hall Listed in Legal 500 for 4th Successive Year

Ridley & Hall is delighted to announce that we have been listed in the Legal 500 in three separate areas; contentious probate, family and private client work.

The Legal 500 is a trusted directory providing comprehensive information on the UK’s recommended leading law firms.

Our Contentious Probate team, headed by partner Sarah Young has been listed as a third tier specialist department and highlights Sarah’s work in missing people.

Sarah commented; “I am delighted that the hard work and dedication of my team, and the work of our family and private client teams has been recognised by the Legal 500.”

In addition to her specialist knowledge and experience of dealing with complex contentious probate claims, Sarah is one of leading experts in missing people and has acted for many relatives who are seeking orders in relation to missing relatives.

Our expert Family team have been listed in the Legal 500 for a fourth consecutive year, which team leader and qualified mediator Vicky Medd is extremely proud of.

“When legal aid was abolished for the majority of private family law cases, many thought this would mean the end of family departments,” commented Vicky, “however with our range of fixed fee packages which we can tailor to an individual’s needs and financial circumstances, we are able to continue to grow as a department.”

Finally, the Private Client department which specialises in a range of services including Wills, probate and Lasting Powers of Attorney has also been re-listed for a fourth time. The head of department, Jill Waddington and her team have extensive experience in complex probate and inheritance tax matters.

Managing Partner, Adam Fletcher, commented, “The recognition from Legal 500 reiterates our commitment to delivering a high standard of service to our clients. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the practice provides, not only the usual services you would expect from a high street firm, but we are also leading the way in niche areas such as kinship care, court of protection and missing people.”

The Trips and Traps of DIY Probate

With the UK economy still being far from flourishing, virtually everyone is looking to save money, with legal services being one area identified as being potentially expendable.

So when a relative dies, the increasing trend has been for the executors or administrators (known generally as personal representatives) to deal with the estate administration themselves. It is entirely possible to obtain probate and deal with the estate without ever having to see a solicitor, with personal applications to the probate registry costing approximately £100 – a noticeable saving on solicitors’ fees. This option also offers families the opportunity to deal with things between themselves, without the associated formality of going to a lawyer to discuss personal matters. The district probate registries are approachable and helpful, and can take some of the intensity out of an already distressing process. You can even now swear your documents at a local solicitor’s rather than having to attend at the registry itself.

However this route is not for the faint-hearted as it does carry some risks, as legal group Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) have recently highlighted.

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.

A specialist probate research company, Title Research, has also identified that DIY probates are increasing the risk of tax fraud and the incorrect distribution of assets. Having reviewed government statistics, they say that the share of probates undertaken by solicitors fell by 7% over the five year period between 2004 and 2009 from 72% to 65%. As the economy has floundered and the use of the internet has increased, the current figure is likely to be less again. In turn, an almost inevitable effect of fewer people using solicitors or other professional advisers is going to be the incorrect or even fraudulent distributions of estates and inheritance tax (IHT) evasion. The idea that relatives can save on solicitors’ fees might be an attractive one, but probate and IHT are incredibly complex areas and the chances of making a costly mistake are high.

It was also suggested that the rise in DIY probate could, in part, explain why there are an increasing number of legal disputes over inheritance that reach the courts and perhaps why HM Revenue & Customs are now so concerned over IHT evasion. There has been an 85% leap in the number of high court cases launched by claimants dissatisfied with their inheritance. Such disputes can dissipate the assets of an estate very quickly, so DIY probate can be a false economy.

A lot of these issues can be resolved over time, but it is obviously better that they be avoided altogether. As a personal representative carries a certain amount of personal liability in their role, they can be opened up to substantial legal claims. There are lots of ways to slip up, if corners are cut, or the personal representatives are unaware of the laws and their obligations, especially when the deceased did not leave a Will. The caveat should therefore always be that if in any doubt, seek professional advice, otherwise the £100 personal application may turn into a legal claim of thousands.

Here at Ridley & Hall, we have a qualified and experienced Wills & Probate team who can assist you deal with the administration of an estate as much as you need us to. We are always here to help you at a difficult and distressing time and can usually offer you a qu

Tidying Up Your Affairs

Most of our resolutions may be pretty much forgotten about, but it is still the beginning of a New Year and a good time to take stock of our personal affairs. Use the motivation of the fresh start to look at the arrangements you have in place, as it will be Easter, Summer Holidays, then Christmas again before you know it!

Far too often however, people do not consider the future, thinking only about today, this week or the next couple of months at most. This can mean people fail to take the appropriate steps to ensure that their various assets and affairs can be dealt with in the event that they cannot do this for themselves – either during their lifetime or on their death.

It is therefore important for each of us to think about how our families and friends would cope in sorting things out if we were not able to do so. During later life, where physical or mental incapability may prevent us from dealing with our day-to-day things, such as paying bills, transferring money or sorting out our benefits, we need to think about who could do that for us. With direct debits being a popular form of payment and The Pension Service now crediting bank accounts directly, it is all too easy to assume that these things would take care of themselves. This is not necessarily the case, but if you think about these issues in plenty of time, you have the option of making a lasting power of attorney (LPA) which is a document that appoints a person or persons of your choice (your attorney) allowing them to deal with your property and financial affairs or your health and welfare and make decisions on your behalf. These documents can be as flexible or as rigid as you dictate, but can be very useful if you become incapable of dealing with matters yourself. Also, because you have put these arrangements in place whilst you still have the necessary mental capacity, it is much more straightforward and cost-effective than if your loved ones needed to make an application to the Court of Protection for deputyship had you not done made an LPA and then lost capacity.

Similarly, the same applies for making arrangements to deal with your affairs on your death. By making a Will and appointing executors, and specifying how you wish your estate to be distributed, this again makes things a lot more straight-forward. If you were to die without making a Will, this means that the intestacy rules set down who is entitled to receive your estate and in what proportions and also who can administer your affairs. If you have made a valid Will, it removes this uncertainty. Sometimes people mistakenly believe that all their estate will be dealt with by their spouse, or their next of kin, but this is not necessarily the case. It is therefore far more sensible to leave a Will which outlines your precise instructions and leaves nothing to chance. You can also use a Will to mitigate inheritance tax or protect your estate from future care home fees, for example.

So when you soon have that thought that it’s time to start your “Spring Cleaning” over the coming weeks, don’t just think about having a spotless house, but think about the mess you could avoid for your loved ones by leaving your affairs nice and tidy too.

Should you wish to discuss either of these matters in greater detail, please contact a member of the Private Client department who will be happy to talk things through with you.


For more information about Wills, powers of attorney or Court of Protection, please contact the Private Client team on 01484 538421.