Category Archives: Hilary Sisson

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.

End of Life Planning

Recent research shows that many of us fail to plan properly for death.  This causes problems and stress for those we leave behind, at a time when they will already be feeling bereaved and sad.

Imagine that you have just died.  Would your close family know if you had made a Will?  Would they know where to find it?  Would they know what your funeral wishes were?

It can be difficult to discuss end of life planning with those you love.  According to a recent study by the Dying Matters Coalition, 83% of people surveyed admitted feeling uncomfortable discussing dying.

Jill Waddington, head of Wills & Probate at Ridley & Hall, says: “Nobody likes thinking about death.  But neither do we want to make things difficult for our families.  So it’s important, for their sake, to plan ahead.”

Here are five practical steps you can take now to make things easier for your loved ones:

  • Make a Will and keep it up to date
  • Appoint someone to make decisions about your money and future health care in case the time comes when you can no longer make these decisions yourself – Ridley & Hall can set up the appropriate documents (lasting powers of attorney) for you
  • Consider signing up as an organ donor
  • Plan your funeral – you can set out your funeral wishes and leave them with your Will or, better still, plan it all in advance with your local funeral director
  • Make sure your loved ones know your arrangements

Ridley & Hall have an expert Wills & Probate team who can offer specialist legal advice in all end of life planning matters.

Free Wills Month – Well Worth It For Charity

The Wills and Probate department at Ridley & Hall is pleased to announce the outcome of another successful Free Wills Month, having raised approximately £73,200 of future income for the Free Wills Month charities in the October 2013 campaign. The scheme works by simple Wills being prepared free of charge to the clients in the hope that the clients will include either a cash gift or leave a share of their estate to one (or more, if desired) of the participating charities. The results were processed and recently published by the participating charities: RNLI, Guide Dogs, WWF, National Trust, BHF, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Arthritis Research UK, Blue Cross and Stroke Association, with fantastic results.

This was the department’s fifth consecutive year of participating in the Free Wills Month campaign and it has again proved to be more than worthwhile. The scheme proved so popular this time that the organisers had to end the programme a week early due to numbers of clients reaching saturation point for the solicitors taking part nationwide. Ridley & Hall’s PWills and Probate department, led by Jill Waddington, and assisted by Hilary Sisson and Helen Webster, were again pleased with the number of clients wanting to take part, and were humbled by the generosity shown.

The department has also just participated in the Calderdale and Kirklees Age UK Will Making Month. This is organised slightly differently, in that the Will is prepared free of charge by Jill, Helen or Hilary, and the client then makes a voluntary donation to Age UK in return. This took place throughout March 2014 and Ridley & Hall received over £500 in donations which was safely delivered to the Age UK team at their Huddersfield office.

These two distinct promotions have received overwhelming responses and Ridley & Hall hope to participate for many more to come (the paperwork has already arrived for October 2014!) In the meantime, Jill and her team would like to extend their thanks, and the appreciation of the charities, to the clients old and new who have made donations and legacies for these worthy causes during these drives.

For further advice on making a Will, please contact the Wills and Probate team on 01484 538421, or by e-mail.

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.

Huddersfield Law Firm Receives National Accreditation for Third Consecutive Year

Ridley & Hall is proud to be recognised as national experts by a legal publication for the third consecutive year.

The Legal 500, published for over twenty years provides the most comprehensive worldwide coverage currently available on legal services providers, in over 100 countries.

It is used as a yardstick to measure firms by commercial and private clients as well as professional advisers. The Legal 500 is widely regarded as offering the definitive judgement of law firm capabilities. The publication is updated every year and relies on reports not just from solicitors firms themselves but also interviews with clients.

Ridley & Hall has been particularly recommended for its expertise in family law and trusts and probate in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. The Family team headed up by partner Meena Kumari deals with divorce and financial issues as well as domestic violence and parents seeking contact with children and recently launched the FamlyFirst service earlier this year. The firm also has a specialist child care team which includes award-winning Partners Nigel Priestley and Michael George.

Jill Waddington who heads up the Wills, trusts and probate department said “We are really please to be acknowledged once again as one of the top Wills and probate legal service providers in the region. We attribute this to our experienced and friendly team as well as our involvement with a service for those nearing or at retirement age called Elderflower because we feel strongly that older clients need specialist advice. Membership of the Legal 500 provides further assurance of our expertise to offer this service.”

Managing Partner Adam Fletcher commented “I would like to thank our clients who were willing to recommend us; it is their recognition that really means a lot. For a small firm in West Yorkshire this is quite an achievement!”

For more information, please phone us on 01484 538421 or contact us by e-mail.

Choose your executors wisely

It is important to choose your executors wisely. It is an executor’s responsibility to deal with the administration of your estate after your death and it is usually recommended you appoint at least two executors in case one of them is unable to act due to their age, health or geographical location.

Anybody aged 18 or above can be an executor of your Will. A good idea is to choose a friend or family member and a professional, such as a solicitor. One of the advantages of choosing a professional executor is that you can get someone with specialist knowledge involved. It can also prevent an array of problems occurring where an executor acts outside their power. The following case highlights just one such issue.

A gentleman placed his entire estate in trust for his only child who was to inherit the money when she turned 21. He appointed his sister as his sole executrix. After his sudden death, his executrix spent over £30,000 of the inheritance for her own use within months of his death.

This was reported to the Police and led to an 8 month sentence for the executrix who did not realise she was personally liable in respect of the ways monies are applied.

The executrix incorrectly believed that she was entitled to spend some of the money in her capacity as the executrix. However there were no provisions made for her under her brother’s Will and she did not seek any legal advice in respect of her role.

This story shows the importance of choosing somebody that you trust and who understands they have to administer the estate strictly in accordance with the Will. If a solicitor had been appointed he or she would have ensured all monies pass to the rightful beneficiary.

If you do decide to elect friends or family members to be your executors, you must ensure they understand their role and the fact that they are accountable to the Court if they act with impropriety.  This may not be intentional as they will also be dealing with the loss of a loved one. As well as dealing with the grief of your death, they will also have to deal with the burden of extensive financial documentation and tax accounts.

It is extremely important to choose lay executors who can work together and get along with each other. Some people appoint individuals from different backgrounds who may never have met (e.g brother-in-law and aunt). They may never have met prior to your death and may have differing viewpoints in respect of the best way to deal with the administration of your estate.

In worst case scenarios co-executors have been known to fall out over who should be doing what, leading to needless arguments, resentment and acrimony. This has ended in unnecessary legal fees as separate solicitors are instructed in the last instance to untangle months of problems that have been building up.
Ideally your executors should know each other, be aware of their role and be able to work together during an intensely difficult time.

Choosing a solicitor as one of your executors is a good idea. They are trustworthy and experienced and they know their way around legal, tax and property issues.

For further information contact Nosheen Bukhari , she is a solicitor who specialises in Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorneys and Probate matters. She speaks fluent Punjabi and Urdu and is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly on 01484 538 421.

Executor of an Estate? Three Things you Need to Know

It is an unfortunate fact that very cold snaps in winter increase death rates.  The recent cold spell will mean that many people will have taken on the responsibility of dealing with a loved one or friend’s estate and may be thinking of saving money by taking out a Grant of Probate and administering the estate without instructing a solicitor.

If you are in this position you should think twice;

1. You are personally liable to beneficiaries and creditors if you fail to carry out your duties.  It is important that you understand the statutory powers of an executor.  For example, if a beneficiary is under the age of 18 your duties and responsibilities towards that beneficiary have are different to those for adults.
2. If the relationships between you and beneficiaries are not good, the administration of the estate may be extremely difficult.
3. Then there is the tax man.  Do you understand the inheritance tax position?  This isn’t just a question of how much the estate is worth on death but also gifts of property and money made before death.  There is the income tax to sort out both before death and during the period you are dealing with the estate.  There may be capital gains tax to deal with as well.

Some estates are relatively small and uncomplicated.  Many are not.  It is usually cheaper in the long run to instruct an expert in the beginning than to start the process yourself, get into difficulties and then pay an expert to sort things out.

Instructing Ridley & Hall need not be expensive. You will be offered a range of options regarding costs which will be explained clearly.  We have a friendly, approachable team.  Please contact Jill Waddington (solicitor accredited by Solicitors for the Elderly) or our experienced paralegal Hilary Sisson for more information on 01484 538421.