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News (Wills & Probate)

Two thirds of parents don’t have a valid will (11/12/2018)

Research carried out by Royal London has revealed that 59% of parents don’t have a will and if they do, it’s out of date. This can be particularly problematic because without one, any children under the age of 18 will be brought up by who the law dictates should look after them, not who the parents might want to care for them.

Other worrying statistics showed that 54% of the adult population doesn’t have a will, with 24% of those people having no intention of making one, although 34% of them said that they would consider drafting a will if they became ill. Alarmingly, the study also cited that a staggering 5.4 million people don’t even know how to go about drafting their will.

“A will is an incredibly important document; you should never underestimate the power of it”, said Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell & Russell. “Without it, you can’t choose who you want to benefit from your estate, who you want to look after your kids if anything happens to you or, indeed, whether there’s anyone you don’t want to benefit from your passing.

“And it doesn’t stop there. If you don’t have a will in place, your next of kin will have to apply for probate, which just adds to the expense and heartache at a time when they really don’t need the additional stress.”

The Royal London report also pointed out that 31% of people who had made a will, had experienced a significant life event, such as marriage, divorce or having children, but over half of these people hadn’t updated their will to reflect the change in their circumstances. Many people are unaware that a change to their personal situation invalidates any previously drafted will, so it’s crucial to keep it up to date.

The research concluded that instructing a solicitor was the most popular way to draft a will (68%) and the process of writing it was far simpler than originally perceived. 85% said drafting their will was ‘quick’ while 90% viewed it as ‘easy’.

Probate fees to rise leaving families as much as £6,000 out of pocket (06/11/2018)

The cost of dying will rise from April next year.

In what is being described as a stealth death tax, the government is introducing new fees which will see families being hit with bills as much as £6,000 to secure probate on a loved one’s estate.

The cost of probate, which is gaining legal control over a deceased person’s assets, is to increase from a flat fee of £215 to as much as £6,000 for wealth estimated at over £2million.

Currently, bereaved families pay £215 to apply for probate to administer a loved one’s finances when they die. This fee is slightly less – £155 – if they use a solicitor. Typically, probate has to be granted before families can access any money from an estate.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the new sliding scale charges will start at £250 and be capped at no higher than 0.5% of the value of the estate. This will affect around 280,000 families a year, 56,000 of which will be faced with bills of between £2,500 and £6,000. One saving grace is that estates valued at less than £50,000 will be exempt from the charges. At the moment the threshold is £5,000.

Executors will have to pay the fee up front before reclaiming it from the estate once probate has been granted. It’s expected that some grieving families will have to resort to loans to cover the fees, but the Ministry of Justice has stated that it will be publishing guidance on ways to pay.

The increase has stuck a chord with legal groups, campaigners and charities. Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, branded the increase “astronomic”. This has been echoed by Steve Webb, a former pensions minister. Mr Webb, who is now policy chief at investment firm Royal London, accused the government of sneaking out the announcement.

Critics also allege the government will use the new fees to help prop up a £1.6 billion shortfall in the cost of the ailing courts service. The MOJ is expected to make an extra £185 million a year from the charges by 2022-23.

In contrast, the government argues that the fee is not a tax and will see 25,000 families benefit from the changes each year. Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer said: “Fees will be set at a level to ensure that they will only be paid by those who can afford them, with all income going directly to our courts and tribunals – ensuring justice is done, and protecting victims and vulnerable people.”

The government is also defending the move by declaring the increase is not as much as it had proposed last year when bills were projected to rise as high as £20,000 (see our news article dated 21/03/2017). Opponents are quick to point out, however, that the cost of the probate process will not require extra work or resources for the additional fees.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell & Russell Solicitors said: “When changes to the probate system were proposed in 2017, a cross-party parliamentary committee warned that they might not be lawful. The MOJ was clearly informed that the fee should cover the cost of the probate process and there’s no more work involved in administering an estate of £5,000 than there is to one of £500,000, so I’m at a loss as to how the government can justify this as anything other than a tax.”

Abuse of lasting power of attorney is on the rise, but don’t be put off making one (22/10/2018)

The number of people being investigated for abusing property and financial lasting power of attorneys has risen 46%. The Office of the Public Guardian is looking into 1,647 more cases than last year, prompting concern amongst the industry and public alike. 

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person – known as a donor – to select an individual, or individuals, to act on their behalf should they lose mental capacity due to an accident or illness, such as dementia. These elected people are known as attorneys.

There are two types of power of attorney; one covers property and finances and the other deals with health and welfare. In both cases a power of attorney must be completed while the donor is still of sound mind.

A property and affairs LPA allows your attorney to handle your finances, such as any property and savings you may have, paying for care fees or arranging the sale of your home if necessary. 

A health and welfare power of attorney addresses your personal well-being. It outlines what medical treatment you should receive or where you live, for example. You can even give your attorney the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf. 

Although the number of investigations into misconduct has risen, many in the sector believe the problem is not due to the principle of a power of attorney, but perhaps with whom donors choose to represent them. Usually, it’s adult children who are appointed attorney, but donors need to be brutally honest about who they pick – after all, it’s they who will face the consequences of their choice. 

Those with adult children who are not good at managing money or who could potentially steal from them need to face reality. Whether siblings get along with each other also needs to be considered as it could prove problematic when making decisions on behalf of the donor. 

To help combat this, donors who have more than one attorney can determine whether they must all agree on every decision or whether they can act independently of each other. Alternatively, solicitors can be appointed as attorney. Once activated, they charge for their service, but the advantage is that they’re neutral and are accountable for any wrongdoing.

Around 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia and this figure is set to rise following a sharp increase in the number of people being diagnosed, or at risk of being diagnosed, with the condition.

Despite this, people aren’t looking ahead. In fact, a recent report produced by Solicitors for the Elderly warned that the UK is heading towards a dementia crisis because people aren’t making arrangements in case they’re diagnosed with a degenerative mental illness. 

The report claims that 12.8 million people over the age of 65 have a high possibility of future incapacity, yet they haven’t planned ahead by setting up a lasting power of attorney.

Records show that there are only 928,000 health and welfare lasting powers of attorney currently registered in England and Wales. This is expected to increase to 2.2 million by 2025, but by then around 13.2 million people will be at risk of dementia.

While three quarters of the population fear dementia or the loss of capacity to make decisions, 97% – 49 million people – will be at risk with no relevant legal plans in place for their future care.

Although incidents of attorneys acting questionably do occur, families without a power of attorney can face real problems. As many as 65% of people believe that they if they lack mental capacity, their next of kin can specify medical and care decisions on their behalf. But without a power of attorney, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the person who has lost capacity can choose who makes decisions for them.

In the event of a lasting power of attorney not being in place, there is a £400 application fee for someone to volunteer to be a deputy for the donor, as well as ongoing supervision charges from the Court of Protection to safeguard the vulnerable person. There could also be care fees to pay while the deputyship is being processed. All of this takes far more time and money than setting up a lasting power of attorney in the first place.

At Russell & Russell, we have a team of qualified lasting power of attorney experts. We also offer a free, no obligation consultation where we can talk you through the process and answer any questions or problems you may have.

Russell & Russell Reaccredited to Top Wills Quality Scheme (01/10/2018)

Russell & Russell Solicitors has been reaccredited to the prestigious Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS).

WIQS, which is certified by the Law Society, sets the benchmark for best practice and transparency in setting up wills and estate planning. The scheme was established to help people make informed choices about selecting a legal services provider they can trust.

Speaking of the accreditation, Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell & Russell, said: “The client’s interests are at the heart of everything we do and the team here at Russell & Russell works very hard to provide an excellent standard of legal advice. The fact that we’ve been reaccredited to the Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme is testament to this.”

The practice was the first law firm in Bolton, and one of the first in the North West, to be accredited to WIQS in 2014. Qualification involved the department undergoing a rigorous application and assessment process in which it was required to demonstrate its adoption of best practice procedures in delivering wills and probate advice.

Judith continued: “Drafting a will or planning a Lasting Power of Attorney are two of the most important financial decisions someone is ever likely to make. It’s important for us to be able to demonstrate our standards of excellence in order for customers to have confidence in the quality of our service. WIQS helps us do this.”

WIQS was the first Law Society standard for delivering tailored wills and probate advice. It aims to benefit consumers by ensuring they understand the issues in preparing a will or seeking probate advice, and that they are aware of the options, costs and timescales involved in estate planning.

Abuse of lasting power of attorney rises but don’t let it deter you (10/09/2018)

Figures obtained by insurer, Royal London have shown an increase in the number of people being investigated over decisions made through lasting powers of attorneys.

According to Royal London, the Office of the Public Guardian is looking into 1,647 more cases than last year – a rise of nearly 46 %.

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person – known as a donor – to select an individual, or individuals, to act on their behalf should they lose mental capacity due to an accident or illness, such as dementia.

There are two types of power of attorney; one covers property and finances and the other deals with health and welfare. In both cases a power of attorney must be completed while the donor is still of sound mind.

Although the number of investigations into misconduct has risen, many in the sector believe the problem is not due to the principle of a power of attorney, but perhaps with whom donors choose to represent them. Usually, it’s adult children who are appointed attorney, but donors need to be brutally honest about who they pick – after all, it’s they who will face the consequences of their choice.

Those with adult children who are not good at managing money or who could potentially steal from them need to face reality. Whether siblings get along with each other also needs to be considered as it could prove problematic when making decisions on behalf of the donor.

To help combat this, however, donors who have more than one attorney can determine whether they must all agree on every decision or whether they can act independently of each other. Alternatively, solicitors can be appointed as attorney. Once activated, they charge for their service, but the advantage is that they’re neutral and are accountable for any wrongdoing.

Although incidents of attorneys acting questionably do occur, families without a power of attorney can face real problems. Without one, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the person who has lost capacity can choose who makes decisions for them. There is a £400 application fee for someone to volunteer to be a deputy for the donor, as well as ongoing supervision charges from the Court of Protection to safeguard the vulnerable person. There could also be care fees to pay while the deputyship is being processed. All of this takes far more time and money than setting up a lasting power of attorney in the first place.  

We have a team of lasting power of attorney experts at Russell & Russell. We also offer a free, no obligation consultation where we can talk you through the process and answer any questions or problems you may have.


UK Sleepwalking into a Dementia Crisis (10/07/2018)

A report produced by Solicitors for the Elderly is warning that the UK is heading towards a dementia crisis because people aren’t making arrangements in case they’re diagnosed with a degenerative mental illness.

The report, published in conjunction with the Centre for Future Studies (CFS), claims that 12.8 million people over the age of 65 have a high possibility of future incapacity, yet haven’t planned ahead by setting up a lasting power of attorney.

Records show that there are only 928,000 health and welfare lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) currently registered in England and Wales. This is expected to increase to 2.2 million by 2025, but by then around 13.2 million people will be at risk of dementia.

The news follows a sharp increase in the number of people being diagnosed, or at risk of being diagnosed, with the condition.

Although three quarters of the population fear dementia or the loss of capacity to make decisions, 97% – 49 million people – will be at risk with no relevant legal plans in place for their future care.

Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) is leading a coalition of prominent charities, including the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and Dying Matters, on warning of the impending crisis, but believe people are reluctant to discuss mental incapacity because of the stigma attached to conditions such as dementia.

As many as 65% of people believe that they if they lack mental capacity, their next of kin can specify medical and care decisions on their behalf. But without a registered health and welfare LPA in place, these decisions are out of a loved ones’ hands.

Wills Come Under the Spotlight as Banks Hit Customers With Rip Off Charges (26/06/2018)

Wills have hit the headlines again recently with reports of banks ripping off customers who used financial institutions to make their will.

Up to 1.5 million people are believed to have signed up to will writing services offered by banks in the late 1990s and early 2000. Now, families of those who took out the service are being slapped with hefty bills to administer the estate.

While people paid as little as £75 for the service, or in some cases it was free, the small print in the contract allowed banks to appoint themselves as the executor of the will. Being an executor is an official legal role with responsibility for everything from disposing of property to paying bills and taxes.

Charges being levied by the banks involved are up to 2.5% of the value of the estate for legal fees. Although the figure doesn’t appear to be much, an estate worth £500,000 can incur charges of up to £12,500 – around six times the typical cost of £2,200.

When people took out these wills they may not have understood or been fully aware of the costs and consequences of assigning the bank as executor. And, while the charges may have appeared to be reasonable, with house prices soring 23% in a decade, even the estates of those on modest incomes can attract hefty fees.

The will writing service provided by banks, which was offered as a benefit of taking out insurance or signing up to fee charging current accounts, are thought to have earned the banks around £9 billion. Although customers can ask the bank to step down as executor, it usually incurs a fee and the bank doesn’t need to comply.

If an estate is straightforward, a family member can be appointed as the executor which costs nothing. If the situation is more complicated, however, many people chose to appoint intermediaries, such as solicitors, who can navigate the complexities of the law, often for hugely reduced costs to those being charged by the banks.

Around two thirds of UK adults haven’t made their will. While writing a will is all too often seen as one of those jobs you’ll get round to ‘tomorrow’, the benefits of planning ahead can be invaluable. It’s usually a straightforward process, but if it’s not done properly there can be repercussions. From an emotional perspective, it will be a very difficult time for your loved ones so, for their sake, try to make it as easy as possible. Here’s a list of some of the things you need to consider when drafting your will:

  • It’s an unfortunate truth; money changes people. Making a will helps prevent family disputes over your estate
  • It’s irrelevant whether you’ve promised certain possessions, property or money to specific people, if you have no will, the law decides who benefits from your legacy, not you
  • Aside from your ‘paper accounts’, make sure you document any online financial accounts or policies or risk part of your estate being lost in the ether. DON’T document the passwords to your online accounts as this breaches security and don’t leave a list of accounts within the will itself as these can change and you will be forever paying to amend your will. Simply leave a note to your executor of where the information is stored so they can notify those organisations of your passing and make the necessary arrangements to transfer or wind up the accounts
  • Don’t forget to let people know about any social media accounts you have too. Provide instructions about what you want to happen to them
  • Using an online website to do it yourself can backfire as they don’t take into account the complexities of the law. This could result in your nearest and dearest paying to rectify things retrospectively
  • Will writers aren’t regulated. This means they can promote themselves as experts without actually having any qualifications or accreditations at all
  • Getting married automatically invalidates your existing will
  • If you’re estranged from your partner and have entered into a new relationship with someone else, it doesn’t matter if you live together; if you’re not married or in a civil partnership, you’re new partner isn’t legally entitled to anything if you die
  • If you’ve split from your ex acrimoniously and you die without having changed your will, your ex stands to inherit as, technically, you’re still married
  • Dying without a will can leave an estate liable for inheritance tax
  • Leaving money to charity in your will is just one of the ways to help reduce the amount of tax payable on your estate. This is something a solicitor can advise you on
  • It’s not as expensive as you might think, especially if you’re planning to draft a joint will (also known as a mirror will) as they’re often discounted
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure you sign it. Without your signature at the bottom, your will isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on

If you’re thinking about making, or changing, your will, Russell and Russell can help. We’re bound by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s code of conduct and are legally obliged to maintain high levels of service. We’re also accredited to the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS), which sets the benchmark for best practice and transparency in the provision of wills and estate planning services.

Also, all our solicitors are accredited to Solicitors for the Elderly, an independent organisation of legal advisers who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers. In addition to this we’re a Dementia Friendly business and firmly believe in explaining things in plain English so clients are not baffled by legal jargon.

We provide advice and guidance on wills, lasting powers of attorney, court of protection and more complex financial issues, such as inheritance tax and trust planning. We offer a free, no obligation consultation where we can talk through your circumstances and advise on what’s best for you. Visit our website or drop in for a chat at any of our branches.



Kenny Goss Launches Legal Challenge on George Michael’s Will (18/06/2018)

The battle over George Michael’s estate is continuing with Kenny Goss, the late singer’s ex partner, making a claim on his fortune.

Mr Goss, who was with George for 15 years, is believed to be mounting a legal challenge to his Will on the basis that he supported the Careless Whisper singer through his most unsettled years.

The news follows recent reports about George’s partner, Fadi Fawaz refusing to move out of one of George’s London homes, preventing the singer’s family from concluding the probate process.

Although George is believed to have left his money and properties to his sisters, his Will can’t be carried out until probate has been granted and that can’t be settled until all assets within his estate have been accounted for. While Fadi remains in the Regent’s Park property, probate can’t be finalised. 

Until then, the only people who have access to the contents of the Will are George’s solicitor, the executor of the Will (this could be the solicitor or a person elected by George) and named beneficiaries.

The question some people are asking is: do Wills stand for anything if they can be contested? While it’s a complex area of the law, the simple answer is yes. 

Anyone can contest a Will, however, it can be an expensive process. It’s not available through legal aid so has to be privately financed. Equally, you can’t just contest a Will because you feel like it, you have to have documented evidence that ligitimises your claim.

A source has stated that Kenny doesn’t feel George’s Will reflects the contribution he made to their relationship. So, as the Will is still under wraps, it’s likely that Kenny could know he’s a beneficiary. To what extent that is is confidential until the Will is read. 

The key here is that Kenny will have to prove that George meant for him to have a greater share of his fortune.

George Michael’s Lover Preventing Singers Will Being Carried Out (29/05/2018)

The grieving relatives and partner of George Michael are locked in a battle over his fortune.

George’s sisters, Melanie and Yioda as well as his cousin Alex Georgiou, who was George’s PA and driver, are trying to block the late singer’s boyfriend, Fadi Fawaz from making a claim on his estate.

Following George’s untimely death in 2016, Fadi has been living free of charge in one of George’s houses just off Regent's Park. Sources say George’s family has been courteous and generous to him, but as Fadi’s social media posts have become more disparaging of them, they’re keen to get him out.

Although George’s family are said to be averse to creating a media storm over the feud, the situation may soon come to a head as while Fadi remains in the property, the legal process surrounding probate is being prevented.

One of the reasons behind this could be that until all of George’s assets – his money, savings, properties etc. – have been valued, probate can’t be declared. This is the process of legally accepting a will as the last testament of a deceased person. So, while Fadi is holed up in Regent’s Park, and in dispute with his family, George's will can’t be finalised and his wishes carried out.

What rights Fadi has is debatable. Legally, unless George left him something in his will, he has no claim to the property he’s currently living in or anything else belonging to George. Living together doesn’t give him the right to inherit or to property either.

George never spoke publicly about who he wanted to inherit his fortune, so until his will is made public, it appears no one can move on – financially or emotionally.

Giving Away or Selling Your Home to Avoid Care Fees Isn’t Always in Your Best Interests (17/04/2018)

The issue of care home fees has become a thorny subject in recent years. While some accept it as a part and parcel of getting older, others view it as a drain on years of hard earned saving.

But, whatever your view, the reality is that if you posses a significant asset, such as a home, it gives you a distinct advantage when it comes to care. Having a property you can draw funds from allows you the benefit of choosing how comfortable you want to be if residential care ends up being your destiny.

There are lots of people out there who profess that they can help you avoid paying care home fees, but much of that simply isn’t true. It’s a hugely complex area and people can easily fall foul of the law if they don’t take advice from a qualified and regulated professional.

If you’re having difficulty looking after yourself, the local council will assess whether you need social care. This can be anything from having more support at home, right through to moving into a residential care home.

Currently, if you have assets worth more than £23,250 you are liable for all your costs. If you have less than £23,250 in capital, the council will pay for all or part of your care. How much you pay is calculated on a sliding scale via a means test, which takes into account your savings and any income you may be in receipt of. Of course, there could be other factors involved, for example, if you’re already in living in residential social care or a nursing home, whether there’s a dependent relative living with you or if you have dementia and are living at home, but the broad thrust of it is that if you need to be moved in to full time residential care, the council can also include your property in the value of your assets.

Deliberately reducing your assets to avoid paying for care fees is known as ‘deprivation of assets’. Your assets can include money, property or any income you receive. It has been known for people to give their money or home away so that they’re not included in the means test, but if your local authority comes to the conclusion that you’ve done this on purpose, it will view it as a deprivation of assets. As such, even if you no longer have the asset, the council can still include the value of it when calculating your contribution towards the cost of your care fees.

The local authority will base its decision on whether you’ve engaged in a deliberate deprivation of assets by taking into consideration two key factors. Firstly, it will decide if you knew you may need care or support and, secondly, that you’ve intentionally got rid of your assets to avoid paying for care.

And it’s not just about whether you’ve sold your home or transferred the title deeds of your property to someone else that the council will look in to. It will investigate whether you’ve given away large sums of money or you’ve started spending much more than you would do normally. It also looks in to whether you’ve gambled your money away or if you’ve spent your money on buying jewellery or cars which are exempt from the means test.

This may appear harsh; after all who wants to give up the home and possessions they’ve worked so hard to acquire, but it’s all part of paying for care in the 21st Century. This is why timing is critical.

Local authorities will make exceptions if you gave up your home or assets at a time when you genuinely thought you wouldn’t need care or support. In these instances, the council will review your situation and ascertain what reasons you had for doing it. If it deems that, at the time of giving away your assets, you were fit and healthy and didn’t for one minute think you would end up needing care, the council may view that deprivation of assets don’t apply.

While you may believe this is desperately unfair, if you think about it, you’re not really losing your asset, you’re just transferring the value of it in to something else that can help you buy a better life for yourself. Isn’t that exactly why you save in the first place?

Russell and Russell can provide advice and guidance on residential care home fees. The firm offers a free, no obligation consultation so you can decide what’s right for you.

Don’t Forget Online Assets in Your Will (05/02/2018)

Research carried out by Lloyds Bank has revealed that almost two thirds of adults in Britain haven’t made their next of kin aware of all their online financial accounts.

The study also found that almost nine in 10 of those surveyed hadn’t thought about what would happen to their social media pages in the event of their death.

With 78% of todays under 45s and 89% of under 35s without a will, this, it believes, has resulted in a nation at risk of being unprepared.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, thinks that as a digital society becomes the norm, care should be taken to record what you have or risk your estate being lost in the ether: “More and more of us are embracing technology, so it’s important to think about the how this affects your estate. It’s no longer just a case of leaving the physical documentation behind you, as we move closer to a paperless society people need to ensure they include what digital assets they have when making their wills.”

Judith advises that when you plan your will, in addition to any traditional paper based accounts, you should make sure you leave a note to your executor of where to find details of your online accounts, including Facebook and Twitter etc., and provide instructions about what you want to happen to them. Without guidance, your executor will have an uphill struggle tracing bank accounts, insurance policies, pensions and other financial and personal information.

“This will already be a difficult time for your loved ones, so try to make it as easy as possible for them”, continues Judith. “What you shouldn’t do, however, is document the passwords to your online accounts as this breaches security. Equally, don’t leave a list of accounts within the will itself as these can change and you will be forever paying to amend your will; simply leave a note to your executor of where the information is stored so they can notify those organisations of your passing and make the necessary arrangements to transfer or wind up the accounts.”

A final word of warning: it doesn’t stop there. If you make your will and your circumstances change - you get married, or divorced, for example – it’s vital that you reflect the change in your will by updating it, otherwise your original arrangements remain legally binding. 

Why Making Your Will is So Important (05/12/2017)

Research shows that six in 10 adults don’t have a will. Many people believe that it doesn’t really matter because when they die, their family and friends will decide who benefits from their estate. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Dying without a will means you ‘die intestate’ so it makes no difference what promises you’ve made or who you want to receive your assets, it’s the law which decides who benefits, not you.

All too often people put off making a will because they believe they don’t have enough money or that death is a long way off. But if you died tomorrow, who would have your home, your car, your jewellery, even your pet, for example? The point is, you don’t need vast sums of money or a portfolio of properties; as long as you’re over 18, you’re never too young, too poor or too busy to make your will.

The Law Commission is currently reviewing the will making process to ascertain if it can be made friendlier and more relevant for a modern 21st century society, but that shouldn’t put you off making your will now. We’ve listed some reasons why it’s so important:

  • It doesn’t matter who you’ve promised what, if you have no will it’s the law which decides who benefits from your legacy
  • We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; money changes people. It’s an ugly truth, but making a will helps prevent family disputes and fall outs after you’ve gone
  • Dying without a will can leave your estate liable for inheritance tax
  • Beware the DIY will. They don’t take into account the complexities of the law and could come back to bite somewhere that hurts. Like your loved ones bank balance because they’ll have to pay to rectify any mistakes
  • Refresh it. Every few years take a look at your will to make sure it’s still current. Have you married or remarried? Had children or got divorced? If so, you’ll need to update it
  • If you’ve remarried and you have children from a previous relationship, unless you stipulate it in your will, your estate will go to your spouse, which could mean that your children are bypassed when you die
  • If you’ve split from your partner and have entered into a new relationship with someone else, it doesn’t matter if you live together; if you’re not married, or in a civil partnership, you’re new partner isn’t legally entitled to anything
  • Worse still, if you’ve split from your ex acrimoniously, but haven’t divorced yet, it’s irrelevant if you can’t stand the sight of each other, they’re still in line to inherit everything if you haven’t changed your will because technically you’re still married. Think on
  • It’s not as expensive as you might think, especially if you’re planning to draft a joint will (also known as a mirror will) as they’re often discounted
  • Make sure you use a legal professional, they’re regulated and insured
  • If you like, a solicitor can store the original version of your will and you can keep a copy of it. Just make sure you tell your family where it is
  • After all that, please, please, please make sure you sign it. Without your signature on the dotted line, your will isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on

Russell and Russell Joins Charity Will Writing Campaign (30/10/2017)

Russell and Russell has joined forces with annual charity will writing campaign, Will Aid to raise vital funds for nine of the UK’s best loved charities. The initiative, which will run throughout November, has been so successful, the firm has already reached its required quota for the scheme.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “We’re very excited to been able to contribute to Will Aid campaign again this year. It gives us an excellent opportunity to reach people in our community who don’t have a will and help them to protect their loved ones for the future. It also means we can raise funds for nine incredible charities which make a huge difference to millions of vulnerable people both here in the UK and around the world.”

Campaign director Peter de Vena Franks added: “One in three people die in the UK without making a will, often leaving confusion and chaos at an already difficult time. Will Aid encourages people to prepare this vital document and at the same time making a real difference by raising money for the partner charities. We are thrilled that Russell and Russell is supporting Will Aid.”

The Will Aid scheme takes place across the UK from 1st – 30th November and supports the life-changing work of ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, Sightsavers, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (N. Ireland). It has raised more than £19 million for these charities since it launched in 1988.

Law firms across the country are asked to sign up and pledge a portion of their time to write basic wills, waiving their normal fee, and instead asking clients to make a voluntary donation to Will Aid. Donations support the vital work of the nine partner charities.

The recommended donation for a basic Will Aid will is £95 for a single will and £150 for a pair of mirror wills. For more information about how to sign up or how to make an appointment to write a will visit www.willaid.org.uk/solicitors

Russell and Russell Qualifies in Wills and Inheritance Again (11/10/2017)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has once again been accredited to the prestigious Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS).

WIQS was set up by The Law Society to provide transparency for clients when selecting a lawyer to help with their wills and estate planning. It benchmarks a law firm’s areas of expertise and ensures processes are in place to enable clients to understand what is involved in preparing a will or seeking probate advice, the costs and the timescales expected.

“It’s hugely important to be able to demonstrate you have the skills and knowledge to deal with someone’s will or Lasting Power of Attorney, for example”, said Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “Estate planning is probably one of the most important financial decisions you’ll make, which is why it requires the expertise of a qualified solicitor to get the best possible outcome and our reaccreditation to WIQS is testament to our standards of service.”

The practice was one of the first law firms in the North West to be accredited to WIQS in 2014. Qualification involved the department undergoing a rigorous application and assessment process in which it was required to demonstrate its adoption of best practice procedures in delivering wills and probate advice. Russell and Russell’s probate department is also a member of Dementia Friends,an Alzheimer's Society initiative which helps people and organisations learn more about what it is like to live with dementia, and all its solicitors are members of Solicitors for the Elderly. 

Changes to Powers of Attorney May Leave Older and Vulnerable at Risk (26/09/2017)

Judith Bromley, Russell and Russell’s head of wills and probate, has joined fellow members of Solicitors for the Elderly in warning against proposals to turn the LPA registration process fully digital.

An LPA is a legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about their finances and property on their behalf. Under the current process, a ‘wet signature’ – the physical signing of the document – is required by individuals who wish to register an LPA. But in a paper released last week, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called for a fully digital system, whereby documents could be registered completely online.

Judith said: “We’re extremely concerned by the FCA’s push for fully digital powers of attorney. Although we welcome initiatives that make LPAs more accessible, the security of older and vulnerable people is paramount. Under the current system, the FCA’s vision of a secure, end-to-end digital LPA registration process is simply not possible.

“Removing the requirement of a wet signature has the potential to put thousands of people at risk of fraud and financial abuse. An LPA requires the understanding and consent of the donor, but without the witnessing of a physical signature, what is to stop a family member or friend registering a document on someone else’s behalf, perhaps even without their knowledge?

“LPAs are extremely powerful and complex documents, and the prospect of being able to take control of someone else’s bank account and even their property with the few clicks of a button is, frankly, reckless.”

Solicitors for the Elderly is an independent, national organisation of over 1,500 lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people and their families. Last year, the organisation released a report raising concerns around the current online system for LPAs, which it claims already leaves older and vulnerable people open to abuse.

LPAs are processed by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), a public body under the Ministry of Justice. The OPG has previously considered changing the LPA application process as part of a gradual move to take all its processes online.

To find out more about SFE, and to speak to a lawyer near you, go to: http://www.sfe.legal

Dementia: Make Your Arrangements with a Lasting Power of Attorney (12/09/2017)

Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK and as the population ages, the number of people affected is set to rise to over a million by 2025. As such, adult social care – and the cost of it – will become an increasingly thorny issue.

According to academic research for the Alzheimer’s Society, in 2014, the majority of people (around 69%) in residential care across the UK had dementia. Another report from the UK Homecare Association in 2013, stated that, including those not formally diagnosed, around 60% of people receiving care at home had dementia.

While the healthcare needs of dementia patients can be treated by the NHS, much of the care that is needed is with day-to-day living; eating, washing, dressing and household chores, for example. These tasks are not covered under the NHS, so those affected need to decide whether they go into residential social care, a nursing home or continue to live at home with the support of their families and carers.

At the moment, if a person has less than £23,250 in capital, councils pay for all or part of their social care based on a sliding scale, following a financial assessment. If a person is in residential social care, or a nursing home, the value of their home is included within their capitol, but if they have a dependent, liable relative living with them, it isn’t. If the local authority is able to offer a deferred payment option, paying for their care can be put off until after their death so that the costs are taken from their estate, or the sale of their home, but there are complex criteria for eligibility to this.

A person with dementia living at home, who has less than £23,250 in capital will be means tested. This is a difficult calculation which takes into account a person’s assets, including their home in some circumstances, to identify what contribution they can make towards their care. If they need more than four home visits a day, it’s usually deemed that care would be more cost effective and they would be better suited in residential social care or a nursing home.

Being diagnosed with dementia ultimately means there will be issues with maintaining your independence and well-being. A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives a person you nominate the authority to make decisions on your behalf.

There are two types of LPAs. A property and affairs LPA allows your attorney to handle your finances, such as any property and savings you may have, paying for care fees or arranging the sale of your home if necessary. A welfare LPA addresses your personal well-being. It outlines what medical treatment you should receive or where you live, for example. You can even give your attorney the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.

If you’re interested in drafting your LPA, Russell and Russell offers a free no obligation consultation to guide you through the regulations and to discuss what’s right for your circumstances.

Russell and Russell Defends Lasting Powers of Attorney (22/08/2017)

Russell and Russell’s head of probate, Judith Bromley has defended lasting powers of attorney (LPA) after Denzil Lush, the former senior Judge of the Court of Protection, warned they may leave elderly people open to abuse.

An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In the foreword to a new book on the subject, Mr Lush raised concerns about the "lack of transparency" in how appointed attorneys manage older people’s finances. The former judge went on to criticise the Ministry of Justice as being "disingenuous" in its promotion of the legal document.

However, Judith - a member of national organisation Solicitors for the Elderly - said LPAs are effective safeguards when created responsibly:

"Senior Judge Lush’s comments have given rise to fears that LPAs are a direct avenue for financial abuse. However, his comments must be put into context, as his 20-year career at the Court of Protection will have presented him with the very worst cases of financial abuse.

"An LPA can be a positive and effective legal tool, which ensures your wishes are respected should you ever lose capacity. Senior Judge Lush’s comments should highlight the clear need for professional advice when considering powerful legal documents of this nature."

Top tips on drafting a lasting power of attorney

Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) is an independent, national organisation of over 1,500 lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers, and?chartered?legal executives, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

SFE has been campaigning to ensure essential checks and controls are conducted when making an LPA. Here are SFE’s top tips to ensure your lasting power of attorney is effective, legally robust and safe:

Plan early – While you have capacity, it’s vital that you get your affairs in order and choose the best people to manage your affairs, in case of an accident or illness. You can’t appoint an attorney once you lose capacity.

Choose carefully – Think carefully who you want to appoint as your attorney and have an open conversation with them so they understand your wishes and what their responsibilities will include. Consider appointing more than one person as your attorney so they can share the responsibility.

Consider appointing a professional – A family member might not always be the best person to act as your attorney. Instead, you can appoint a professional such as a solicitor. They can act as a neutral third party and make unbiased decisions that are in your best interests. Bear in mind this usually involves a cost.

Think about different circumstances – Consider how you would like your attorney to manage your property and financial affairs in different situations. For example, are you happy for your property to be sold to pay for your care costs?

Address the difficult questions – Your attorney might have to make difficult decisions about your health and welfare. If you have specific wishes around your care plans, medical treatment, or end of life wishes, make sure you discuss this with them and make your choices clear in your document.

Seek professional advice – Shop-bought and online LPA kits may be suitable for those with very straightforward financial situations or with considerable legal experience, but for most people, seeking professional legal advice is the best way of ensuring that an LPA is effective, legally robust and safe.

Keep your plans current – Make sure you keep your LPA updated if your circumstances change. Your choices around the people you want to be responsible for your finances and wellbeing may change, such as following a marriage or divorce, when children reach adulthood, or if parents pass away.

More Wills and Probate Accreditations for Russell and Russell (01/08/2017)

Harry Mistry, a solicitor in our probate department, has been awarded his Older Client Law in Practice (OCLP) certificate - a top quality mark for working with elderly clients.

The accreditation demonstrates that Harry has the experience and expertise to understand the capacity limitations that may affect the way advice is given to older and vulnerable clients, so that he can deal with their legal requirements.

This is not the only kite mark that Harry, who is fluent Gujarati, is qualified in. In 2015, he completed his Older Client Care in Practice (OCCP) certificate which recognises the skills required for good older client service and communications. Both accreditations are run by Solicitors for the Elderly, an independent organisation of legal advisers who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “Harry has worked extremely hard to attain his accreditation and it’s a fantastic achievement for him. As a firm, we’re committed to helping everyone who comes through our doors and Harry’s qualification will take us that step further in ensuring our elderly and vulnerable clients receive the best possible service.”

All the probate solicitors at Russell and Russell are members of Solicitors for the Elderly and the department is a member of Dementia Friends,an Alzheimer's Society initiative which helps people and organisations learn more about what it is like to live with dementia. The business was also the first legal firm in the Bolton area to be accredited with the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) which sets the benchmark for best practice and transparency in the provision of wills and estate planning services.

Wills Should be Brought into the Modern World (13/07/2017)

The Law Commission believes the current rules surrounding wills are unclear and could be putting people off making a will.

As such, it has launched a consultation, running until the 10 November, on whether texts, emails and other electronic communications should be recognised as a valid will in exceptional circumstances.

As it stands, the law only validates wills which have been made by people aged 18 and over, of sound mind, and signed in front of two witnesses, also aged over 18. The witnesses must also sign the will.

Where the will maker has made clear their intentions in another form - a text message or email, for example - the Commission wants to change the formality so that the family can apply to Court to have them recognised as a will. If a judge approves, those communications could then be accepted as a formal will.

Currently, when a person with no will dies, the law dictates how an estate (money, property, possessions etc.) are allocated. This may not be what they would have wanted. Partners who aren’t married or in a civil partnership are unable to inherit anything unless there is a will stating they should benefit. If there no surviving relatives, the estate passes to the Crown.

Although the Law Commission acknowledges the proposals could provide a "treasure trove for dissatisfied relatives" leading to family conflict, and a "variety of avenues by which probate could become both expensive and contentious", given 40% of people currently die without making a will, they should be recognised.

However, Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “As a will is a very powerful document, and directs who can inherit monies and assets, any changes to rules that have been in force for many years will need to be carefully thought through, so that vulnerable members of society are protected. It will be very challenging to ensure that a text message can ever confirm such clarity and certainty, which is what a will needs to provide. There is also the obvious concern that electronic measures are not open to misuse.

“Surely a better way would be for the Law Commission, supported by the Law Society, to expend its effort on campaigns to communicate the message that obtaining a will is paramount if you own assets of any value. Perhaps it should also focus on the bespoke service that lawyers provide and the various will campaigns that are offered up and down the country throughout the year when a will can be professionally drawn up for a relatively small donation.”

Things to think about when making your will (23/05/2017)

A number of high profile cases have put the need to make a will firmly back in the spotlight recently. Yet, despite the growing number of inheritance disputes, many of us still don’t bother until we absolutely have to.

While writing a will is all too often seen as one of those jobs you’ll get round to ‘tomorrow’, the benefits of planning ahead can be invaluable. It’s usually a straightforward process, but if it’s not done properly it can have repercussions. Here’s some things to think about:

  • It’s an unfortunate truth; money changes people. Making a will helps prevent family disputes over your estate
  • It’s irrelevant whether you’ve promised certain possessions, property or money to specific people, if you have no will the law decides who benefits from your legacy, not you
  • Using an online website to do it yourself can backfire as they don’t take into account the complexities of the law, so your loved ones could end up having to pay to rectify things retrospectively
  • Will writers aren’t regulated. This means they can promote themselves as experts without actually having any qualifications or accreditations at all
  • Getting married automatically invalidates your existing will
  • If you’re estranged from your partner and have entered into a new relationship with someone else, it doesn’t matter if you live together; if you’re not married or in a civil partnership, you’re new partner isn’t legally entitled to anything if you die
  • If you’ve split from your ex acrimoniously and you die without having changed your will, your ex stands to inherit everything as, technically, you’re still married
  • Dying without a will can leave an estate liable for inheritance tax
  • Leaving money to charity in your will is just one of the ways to help reduce the amount of tax payable on your estate
  • It’s not as expensive as you might think, especially if you’re planning to draft a joint will (also known as a mirror will) as they’re often discounted
  • Make sure you sign it. Without your signature at the bottom, your will isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on

If you’re thinking about making, or changing, your will, Russell and Russell can help. We’re bound by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s code of conduct and are legally obliged to maintain high levels of service. As well as being regulated, we’re required to have insurance to protect the public. We can also provide guidance on more complex financial issues, such as inheritance tax and trust planning. We offer a free consultation where we can talk through your circumstances and advise on what’s best for you.

Russell and Russell raise cash Will Aid (09/05/2017)

Russell and Russell is celebrating after raising money for charity by taking part in the annual Will Aid drive.

The firm raised £665 by writing wills for clients across Greater Manchester in return for a donation to charity. This is the seventh year the firm has taken part in the scheme, raising over £3,000 to date.

Probate solicitor, Rachel Kelly said: “The firm has embraced the Will Aid initiative with huge enthusiasm. We’re able to provide a service to the local community and clients are more than happy to donate to a good cause. Making a will means loved ones you leave behind know that you’ve given your affairs some thought.”

Will Aid has raised more than £17 million for charity since it launched more than 25 years ago.

Campaign director, Peter de Vena Franks added: “One in three people die in the UK without making a will, potentially leaving their family and friends nothing but confusion and costly legal battles. Will Aid is a wonderful opportunity to not just make a will, but do it with the help of a professional. The added bonus is that you are helping nine charities in the UK at the same time.”

The scheme takes place across the country throughout November and supports nine of the UK’s best-loved charities; ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, Sightsavers, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (N. Ireland).

The recommended donation for a basic Will Aid will is £95 for a single will and £150 for a pair of mirror wills.

For more information about making an appointment to write a will, visit http://www.willaid.org.uk/

Government faces revolt over probate fee hike (18/04/2017)

Plans to introduce a new fee structure for probate applications have suffered a setback after a parliamentary panel of experts claimed they are unlawful.

Applications for granting probate are currently held at £215 on estates valued over £5,000, but lord chancellor, Liz Truss recently announced a new model that could see executors, and ultimately beneficiaries, being charged up to £20,000 from the beginning of May. For more details about this, see our news article from 21st March 2017.

The findings of the report adds further pressure on Liz Truss to review the charges following overwhelming opposition from respondents of the initial consultation carried out by the Ministry of Justice. An online petition against the charges has already reached 300,000 signatures. The report also calls for the fees to “have the attention of both houses”, raising the possibility of them being delayed if not scrapped altogether.

The MoJ believes the new fee structure will raise £300m towards the cost of running the courts and tribunals service. The parliamentary joint committee on statutory instruments, however, questioned whether “the lord chancellor may use the power to prescribe non-contentious probate fees for the purpose of funding services (the courts) which executors do not seek to use”.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell and a member of Solicitors for the Elderly, said: “We’re delighted to see the Select Committee has confirmed what was clear from the offset – the Government’s probate fee hikes are nothing more than a backdoor tax and the MOJ has acted beyond its powers in enforcing these changes.

“Our hope now is that the Government re-evaluates these fees, and at the very least, finds a fairer way of structuring them”.

Government Hikes Probate Fees Despite Opposition (21/03/2017)

The government has pressed ahead with plans to increase probate fees by up to £20,000 despite overwhelming opposition.

Probate fees are paid up front by executors in order to allow beneficiaries access to money and assets left to them. Currently, the charge of £215 is payable on all estates worth over £5,000. From May, however, charges on applications for grants of probate will be linked to the size of the estate.

Although, under the new rules, estates valued below £50,000 will be exempt, those worth between £50,000 and £300,000 will incur a charge of £300, whilst assets valued at £300,000 to £500,000 will be billed £1,000 – a 365% increase on the current fee.

Probate charges increase further to £4,000 on assets of £500,000 to £1million, rising again to £8,000 for estates worth between £1million and £1.6million. Those valued up to £2 million will be subject to a fee of £12,000. Finally, the highest charging band is a £20,000 probate bill on estates valued above £2 million, accounting for an eye watering a 9,202% increase on the current probate fees. .

The news comes despite less than 2% of respondents, most of which were legal experts and firms of solicitors, agreeing with the new charges in a consultation carried by the Ministry of Justice.
Lawyers argue that the changes amount to a new form of taxation as the current £215 fee fully meets the cost of the probate service. Critics are also worried that the new rules could cause problems for executors as the fee required to obtain a grant of probate has to be paid in advance. Without it, executors are unable to administer a deceased person’s estate.

The legal profession is also worried that those who are asset rich, but cash poor will find it difficult to raise the money required for the new fees. In particular, it has expressed concern about the financial pressure put on older people who will have to find the money for probate fees to access their spouse’s estate.

While the government has acknowledged the concern, it claims that the rise is necessary to subsidise the rest of the court system in order to continue to provide access to justice in the long term.

Speaking of the changes, Claire Davis, director of Solicitors for the Elderly, said: “SFE is extremely disappointed to see that the consensus to reject the proposed probate fees has been ignored.

“For the 62% of estates that use a solicitor, probate registry performs a purely administrative role, and the value of the estate has no bearing on the work undertaken.

“To burden larger estates with a significantly larger fee is an unfair form of taxation. For people in this situation, their property is often their primary asset, and they have little cash to pay for higher probate fees, on top of other necessities such as IHT or the use of a solicitor.

“The increase in probate fees will place a burden on families at a sensitive and distressing time and is likely to put people who are vulnerable and/or elderly at risk. Our fear is that such clients might be persuaded to take steps to avoid probate fees, even if the effect is to leave them with insufficient assets to provide for themselves for the rest of their life.”

Supreme Court Rules Against Daughter Cut Out of Will (15/03/2017)

Three charities have won a landmark case against a woman cut out of her mother's will at the Supreme Court.

Heather Ilott, an only child, was excluded from her mother’s will after eloping in 1978 at the age of 17 with her now husband. Mother and daughter never reconciled and when 70-year-old Melita Jackson died in 2004, she left most of her £486,000 estate to The Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), despite having any real connection with them.

Mrs Ilott, a mother of five, had been living on state benefits with no pension when she challenged the will under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act in 2005. In 2007 a district judge awarded her £50,000 after ruling she had been "unreasonably" excluded. Mrs Ilott applied for a larger share of the money and the figure was increased by the Court of Appeal in 2015, granting her £164,000.

The charities counter appealed the ruling, stating that people are entitled to leave their estate to beneficiaries of their choosing. The Supreme Court agreed, reducing Mrs Ilott’s inheritance back to the original £50,000.

The charities argued that the appeal had been brought as a matter of principle that people should be free to choose who will benefit from their estate. Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, agrees, saying that: “The judgement was a sensible decision made for testamentary freedom”. The situation, however, has raised questions from some of the judges about how the current law surrounding the Inheritance Act should be administered in the future.

Valentine sweethearts urged to update their will this February 14 (07/02/2017)

Blissfully loved-up couples planning to tie the knot this year should change their will to reflect their new circumstances.

Many people aren’t aware that getting married automatically invalidates their will. Put simply, if you don’t update it, you may as well not have one at all as you’ll die intestate.

Shockingly, two thirds of the UK’s adult population don’t have a will in place. Everyone should make drafting their will a priority or risk leaving a painful legacy for loved ones.

Although Valentine’s Day may be the most romantic day of the year, couples should come down from the clouds for a minute and focus on the practical matters.

No one likes to think too much about their own demise, but ensuring your final wishes are made clear and are legally recognised is the most romantic gesture you can offer a loved one.

Russell and Russell is a member of the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS), which provides a best practice quality mark for wills and estate administration advice that consumers can trust. 

Dementia is on the increase - it's more important than ever to make your Lasting Power of Attorney (31/01/2017)

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics have revealed that dementia, including Alzheimer's, has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

More than 61,000 people were victims of dementia in 2015, equating to 11.6% of all deaths registered. Women who died of the condition accounted for twice as many as men - 41,283 as opposed to 20,403.

According to Alzeihmer’s Society, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. Around 225,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year; roughly one person every three minutes.

Although age is the most obvious contributing factor, around one in 20 people (over 40,000) living with dementia are under the age of 65. One in six over the age of 80 have the condition and 70% of those in care homes suffer from dementia or severe memory problems.

While most people think of dementia as a disease it’s actually an over-arching term used to describe the signs that appear when brain cells stop working properly. It’s a progressive condition which means that over time the structure and chemistry of the brain becomes increasingly damaged, leaving a person with a declining ability to remember or understand and communicate

Being diagnosed with dementia ultimately means there will be issues with maintaining your independence and as your metal ability starts to fail, it’s important to know that there’s someone who will look after your interests when the time comes that you can’t do it yourself.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone nominated by you (your attorney) the authority to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of LPAs. The first allows your attorney to handle your financial affairs, such as any property and savings you may have. The second addresses your personal welfare, such as the medical treatment you should receive or where you live. Don’t worry about giving up control of your finances or treatment suddenly, you can choose when your Lasting Power of Attorney becomes effective.

An LPA also prevents family or friends having to apply for similar powers in the future, which can be an expensive and time-consuming business. The key to remember is that you can only set up an LPA while you’re well because the law won’t recognise it as a legally binding document once you’ve lost capacity. 

Limited Offer: Your Will, Lasting Power of Attorney and Severance for £550 (05/01/2017)

To help you start 2017 as you mean to go on we’re offering an exclusive package to clients wanting to get their house in order.

Throughout January and February we’re offering clients the opportunity to write their will, draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney and prepare a severance for £550 + vat. This would normally cost £760 + Vat, so it’s a very healthy saving of £210.

Many people don’t like to think about making a will because it reminds them of their own mortality, but it’s important to make arrangements so that you know your estate will go to the people you want to have it, rather than who the law states should get it.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act for you and make decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity to do it yourself. With dementia now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, many people are setting up LPAs to avoid the prospect of strangers making decisions about their way of life if their mental capacity starts to fail.

A severance enables you to leave your share of a property to someone other than the person you own the property with. This is often popular with people who are joint tenants who are unmarried or in a second marriage.

If you want to talk to someone about taking up this package, we offer a free, no obligation consultation to help you understand the legal requirements of administering your estate. You can make an appointment to see us any one of our branches or, if it’s easier, we’ll come you at a time that’s convenient for you.To help you start 2017 as you mean to go on we’re offering an exclusive package to clients wanting to get their house in order.

Throughout January and February we’re offering clients the opportunity to write their will, draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney and prepare a severance for £550 + vat. This would normally cost £760 + Vat, so it’s a very healthy saving of £210.

Many people don’t like to think about making a will because it reminds them of their own mortality, but it’s important to make arrangements so that you know your estate will go to the people you want to have it, rather than who the law states should get it.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act for you and make decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity to do it yourself. With dementia now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, many people are setting up LPAs to avoid the prospect of strangers making decisions about their way of life if their mental capacity starts to fail.

A severance enables you to leave your share of a property to someone other than the person you own the property with. This is often popular with people who are joint tenants who are unmarried or in a second marriage.

If you want to talk to someone about taking up this package, we offer a free, no obligation consultation to help you understand the legal requirements of administering your estate. You can make an appointment to see us any one of our branches or, if it’s easier, we’ll come you at a time that’s convenient for you. 

Russell and Russell offers urgent warning about Government’s ‘risky’ online legal tool (15/11/2016)

Russell and Russell has joined a number of organisations representing older and vulnerable people to raise serious concerns around the Government’s online tool for creating Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs).

An LPA is a powerful legal document that allows a person to appoint trusted individuals to make important decisions about care and finances on their behalf, in the event of a loss of mental capacity through an accident or illness such as dementia.

In May 2014, the Government’s Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) launched its online LPA tool, which it claims allows people to create the documents without the need for professional advice from a solicitor.

But a new report, published by a coalition of organisations led by SFE, warns that anyone creating an LPA without taking specialist legal advice faces a significantly higher risk of being left with an ineffective legal document, incurring additional application fees, and even becoming a victim of fraud or coercion.

The report also raises concerns around the potential of a completely digital system proposed by the OPG, whereby ‘wet signatures’ – the physical signing of the document – would no longer be required.

Judith Bromley who heads up Russell and Russell’s wills and probate department, and is a full accredited member of SFE, said: “The prospect of being able to submit an LPA application entirely digitally is extremely concerning, and raises some serious questions around the potential for fraud and financial abuse.”

During a study conducted for the report, participants were invited to create LPAs using the OPG’s online tool and other ‘DIY’ methods. The study revealed that:

  • Some of the forms did not accurately express the way in which participants would want their affairs and welfare to be handled in the future
  • Documents made using DIY methods were more likely to contain elementary mistakes, rendering them ineffective and requiring additional application fees
  • Following consultation with a solicitor, most participants made significant changes to the permissions of their documents regarding how and by whom their affairs were managed

June McSparron, a 75-year-old who participated in the study, said: “You’re exposing yourself to a lot of risk by filling this form in on your own. There are so many bits that you can get wrong, and you can easily be pressured into making choices that you’re not entirely comfortable with.”

The number of LPAs being registered has increased steadily since the launch of the online tool, with over half a million registered in 2015/16 alone.The OPG is actively trying to convince more people to apply for LPAs online, having set a target for the service to comprise 30% of all applications from April 2016 to March 2017.In its latest Annual Report, the OPG even admits it is willing to take ‘risks’ in striking a balance between ‘empowering and safeguarding’.

With the OPG already receiving over 1,000 calls to its contact centre every day, the organisations behind the campaign say the Government body is potentially exposing people to unacceptable levels of risk and in doing so may be compromising its ability to safeguard those who are most vulnerable.

Judith continued: “An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have, because it allows you to pass potentially life-changing decisions about your affairs on to a third party.

“It’s absolutely right that people should be planning ahead for the future with LPAs, but granting someone this sort of authority over your affairs is an extremely big responsibility for all parties involved. This is a specialist area of the law, and we recommend that anyone considering an LPA goes to a legal expert to ensure they get the right advice, consider all the options, and safeguard themselves for the future.”

To download the report ‘The Real Cost of DIY LPAs’ go to: http://www.sfe.legal

Don’t Just Make a Will, Sign it (01/11/2016)

We all know that making a will is important. The cost of dying without one - or dying intestate as it’s formally known – can run into thousands of pounds. Yet many of us still don’t bother until we absolutely have to.

A study carried by unbiased.co.uk found that 23% of people are waiting until later in life to make a will. Nearly a fifth didn’t think they needed one because they believe they’ve nothing to leave, but with the average homeowner having a property worth around £200,000, there’s a lot at stake.

What’s even more surprising is that there are people who make a will and, for whatever reason, don’t sign it.

It’s a sad fact, money changes people. This was illustrated in a recent newspaper report which documented the plight of a woman who had been left in a difficult position by her late partner’s children.

Having been together for more than 25 years, she was left suffering anxiety and unable to grieve her partner after he died unexpectedly. He had written a will which expressed that she was left their home, but had failed to sign it which meant that, as the properties they owned were in his name and they were unmarried, the four children from his previous marriage inherited his estate.

They believed that his assets should be divided equally between them, the lady in the report and her 22 year old daughter from her and her partner’s relationship. That, however, would have meant that she wouldn’t have had enough money to buy her own home.

She was persuaded to seek legal advice after a family member suggested that she wasn’t being treated fairly. Eventually, after months of mediation and court proceedings, it was agreed that the children would buy a property that the lady in question would live in, returning it to the children when she died.

Despite the agreement, she claimed that the children dragged their feet and after losing two houses and having to go back to court for the money, the house she ended up in needed a considerable amount of work, which she had to pay for. Neither her or her daughter will get the money back as the house will go to the other children. To cloud the matter further, the children also put a caveat into the agreement that she would be unable to stay in the house if she ever married.

Prior to this she had always had a good relationship with his children – she had known them since they were little - but two years of uncertainty and wrangling over who would inherit what from his estate had soured the relationship. Perhaps more importantly, it has had a devastating effect on the relationship between her daughter and her half siblings.

Had her partner signed his will, the situation would have been prevented.

Making Your Will Saves in the Long Run (08/08/2016)

Around 70% of people in the UK fail to make a will. Reasons for this a varied, but generally it falls into two categories; the cost and finding the time to do it.

Failing to make your will can have serious consequences. This is especially true if you’re a parent or you have specific wishes about where you want your assets to go.

The official term for dying without a will is ‘dying intestate’. In this situation, it makes no difference if you’ve promised certain possessions, property or money to specific people, the law decides who benefits from your estate, so loved ones who aren’t blood relatives could inherit nothing.

For example, if you’re unmarried and die intestate, by law your partner would receive nothing. If you’re estranged from your spouse and living with someone else and you die, your ex inherits while your current partner doesn’t. Having children can complicate the situation further and if you have children from a previous marriage, they could be passed over altogether.

Equally, you may not want particular blood relatives to gain from your estate, but without a valid will it’s a very real possibility. Perhaps worst of all, however, is if you have no relatives when you die, your estate could automatically pass to the government regardless of how close you are to non blood relatives.

Drafting a simple will is usually a fairly straightforward process, but even these can fall foul of the law if they’re not drawn up by properly. Unlike solicitors, will writers aren’t regulated so they can promote themselves as experts without having any qualifications or accreditations at all. Whilst it’s not always the case, it could potentially leave your loved ones dealing with a legal minefield after you’ve gone if things have been overlooked or the terms of your will aren’t set out according to the law. Some people decide to draft their will via online websites, but these don’t take into account the complexities of the law so your family could also end up having to pay to rectify things retrospectively.

If you have children under 18, a will helps you to plan for their future by allowing you to nominate their guardians in the event of your death. Similarly, you can state who your executors will be so they can make sure your wishes are carried out. You may also want to leave items or amounts of money to certain people who aren’t a blood relative. Without a will to specify this, your possessions will automatically pass to family members.

While making your will is a great step forward, do make sure you keep it up to date. You may remarry or change your mind about who you want to inherit your estate, but if your will doesn’t reflect the changes in your life, your original will remains legally binding. While this may appear obvious, it’s a sad fact that affects many people’s loved ones. And once you’ve gone, it can be a long and costly process to contest your will.

If you’re thinking about making or changing your will, Russell and Russell can help with all aspects of wills and probate. We offer a free consultation where we can talk through your circumstances and advise on what’s best for you.

Louise goes a STEP further with Russell and Russell (14/06/2016)

A solicitor from Russell and Russell has been awarded a prestigious industry accreditation for best practice and professional integrity.

Louise Rance, a partner in the firm’s wills and probate department, has gained her Advanced Certificate in Will Preparation through STEP.

STEP, Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, is the worldwide professional association for those advising families across generations. Louise is able to advise on a range of complex issues relating to will drafting and probate, helping families plan their futures with confidence in the skill and advice being provided.

Her achievement comes ahead of Russell and Russell launching a weekly legal clinic at its Farnworth office. From July, members of the public can drop in on a Wednesday between 1 – 4pm to discuss any probate or family law questions they may have.

“Gaining accreditation to STEP isn’t easy”, said Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “There’s a lot of work involved which requires considerable effort, both in and out of working hours, so the fact that Louise has chosen to study for this is testament to the dedication she has to her role as a probate solicitor. Her new qualification means that she is well equipped to deal with much more complicated areas of probate law and it will complement her remit of overseeing the firm’s probate department in our Farnworth and Middleton offices.”

Dementia Can Affect Everyone so Make Your Lasting Power of Attorney (03/05/2016)

Every year, 225,000 people are diagnosed with dementia – about one person every three minutes. While age is the most significant contributing factor to the condition, it’s not just the ‘old’ that develop it; one out of 20 people living with dementia are under the age of 65.

Dementia is an all-encompassing term used to describe a collective group of symptoms that occur when brain cells stop working properly. While most people associate it with memory loss, the condition affects people in a wide variety of ways. This includes changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation, delusions and hallucinations, difficulty communicating, problems judging speeds and distances, even craving for particular foods.

In the UK, more women live with dementia than men. Of the 850,000 people living with the condition, 500,000 of them are women. This could be because more women are living well into their 80s – nearly three in four people aged over 90 are women. According to Alzheimer’s research, women over 60 are twice as likely to develop dementia as they are of getting breast cancer and after the age of 65, the risk of dementia doubles every five years.

Being diagnosed with a degenerative mental illness such as dementia ultimately means there’s likely to be problems with maintaining your independence. Support will be critical for your well-being, but once your mental ability starts to fail, your way of life could end up being decided by strangers. This is why it’s so important to make arrangements for your care in case a time comes when you can’t do it yourself.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act for you and make decisions on your behalf. This person – or more than one person if you prefer – is referred to as your attorney. Anyone can be your attorney, as long as they’re over 18.

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney. The first focuses on your personal welfare, while the other deals with your financial affairs.

A health and welfare LPA allows your attorney to make decisions about your well-being. This covers a wide variety of issues, for example your day-to-day care including medication, your diet and how you live. You can even give your attorney the power to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.

A property and affairs LPA addresses the material things in your life, such as paying your bills, collecting your income and benefits, conducting your financial affairs or even selling your house. One thing to be aware of with a property and affairs LPA is that your attorney isn’t allowed to have been declared bankrupt.

Dementia is indiscriminate. It can affect anyone at any time in later life, so it’s reassuring to know that if you’re unable to make a decision yourself, an LPA will ensure there’s someone that you trust who can.

The key to a Lasting Power of Attorney, however, is that you can only set one up when you’re well. Once you’ve lost capacity, it’s too late because the law deems that you’re not deciding for yourself that you want to make a LPA and that you don’t understand what it means, so timing is of the essence.

If you’re interested in drafting your LPA, Russell and Russell offers a free no obligation consultation to guide you through the regulations and to discuss what’s right for your circumstances.

Make Your Will or Risk Losing More Than You Think (11/04/2016)

People don’t like to think about making a will, but you never know what’s around the corner; you may live to be 100, but sometimes people’s lives are cut tragically short.

Dying without a will means your estate will take longer to finalise, which is not what your loved ones need to be dealing with at such a stressful and emotional time. Providing you’re over 18, you can draw up your will anytime and it ensures your final wishes are made clear and are legally recognised.

Be aware of advisers that are unregulated, uninsured and untrained though. There’s no law surrounding will drafting so anyone can hold themselves out as an expert and if you choose to use an unregulated will writer, you risk leaving your loved ones in a legal minefield.

Doing it yourself online can be equally as problematic. Your will needs to be expressed in a way that’s legally watertight and internet wills don’t take into account the complexities of the law. People drafting a will in this way often learn, to their family’s cost, things are never as straight forward as they appear.

If you already have a will and you’re planning on tying the knot, you should change it to reflect your new circumstances. Getting married automatically invalidates your existing will and if it’s not updated and you die, you’ll die intestate, leaving a painful, and potentially costly, legacy for your other half.

The same goes for anyone separating. While divorce rates are generally falling, the number of over 50s splitting up is actually rising. There’s a variety of reasons behind the trend of so-called ‘silver splitters’ but what’s important to remember here is to make sure your will is up to date.

If you’re estranged from your husband or wife and have entered into a new relationship with someone else, it doesn’t matter if you live together; if you’re not married or in a civil partnership, you’re new partner isn’t legally entitled to anything if you die. If you already have a will which you haven’t changed and you die, your ex will be the main beneficiary as, technically, you’re still married.

If you want to talk to someone about drafting your will, we offer a free, no obligation consultation to help you understand the legal requirements of administering your estate. You can make an appointment by calling our main Manchester office on 01204 399 299 or our Chester office on 01244 405 700.

Court of Protection Opens its Doors (16/03/2016)

A new pilot scheme has begun which allows the public and media to gain access to Court of Protection hearings across England and Wales for the first time.

The Pilot Practice Direction applies to new proceedings issued from the 29th January 2016 onwards. Although hearings scheduled already under the old rules will not be changed, some urgent open hearings will feed through to the courts from February 2016.

The Court of Protection makes decisions about the personal welfare, property and affairs of a person who lacks the capacity themselves. Under the new direction, hearings will be held in public, but there will be reporting restrictions to protect identities.

Court of Protection judgments have been routinely published since 2010 and serious medical cases are held in public, with the identities of those concerned kept anonymous. Committal hearings where a custodial sentence is imposed are also held in public.

In addition, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is amending the way it displays court lists so that the media and public can decide if they want to attend a hearing by providing a short summary of a case details. These lists will be published on a weekly basis in court buildings and online at www.courtserve.net.

The pilot is anticipated to run in all regions for at least six months to allow for the changes to be fully tested, with the possibility of it being extended. More information can be found here.

Planning for the Inevitable (26/01/2016)

Other than taxes, the only certainty in life is death. A morbid thought perhaps, but an inevitability that no one can avoid. What it does allow, however, is the opportunity to plan for the future.

Most people only start thinking about the subject in older age or after bereavement but, providing you are over 18, it’s never too early to start planning.

“It’s about taking control of what might happen to you in later years”, says Emma Wood of Russell and Russell. “Because no one knows what’s around the corner it’s important to make arrangements now, so that you know your estate will go to the people you want to have it, rather than who the law states should get it.”

There are two ways to plan; a Lasting Power of Attorney and a Will. Lasting Power of Attorney – or LPA – deals with affairs before death, whilst a Will takes care of things after the event.

“LPAs are increasingly important”, continues Emma. “We’re living longer and, therefore, more of us are exposed to age related illness which could prevent us from making decisions in the future. An LPA allows you to make those decisions in advance. Property, financial arrangements, welfare and even care needs can be organised. There may even be big medical decisions that need to be considered should you lose your faculties – all these can be accounted for in an LPA.”

Emma also believes myths surrounding Wills does nothing to help the situation: “Many people think they can do it themselves, but they often don’t take into account the complexities of the law and often learn, to their family’s cost, things are never as straight forward as they appear. Dying without a Will means your estate will take longer to finalise, which is not what your loved ones need to be dealing with at such a stressful and emotional time.”

Emma’s final words of advice: “Always use a qualified solicitor. They're bound by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s code of conduct and are legally obliged to maintain high levels of service. If you don’t put your affairs in order, the law will and that could not only end up costing you money, but your loved ones too.”

Will Writing: Solicitors vs Accountants (21/01/2016)

Changes in the law have allowed accountants to provide will writing services. While many people may see this as an opportunity to open up the legal services market, it’s worth remembering that your will is one of the most important financial and personal decisions you’ll make, so it’s vital it’s done properly.

Accountants tend to charge fixed fees for writing wills and the view is that this will drive down the cost of making your will, however, most forward thinking solicitors already offer fixed fees for a range of probate services.

Will writing is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sorting out your estate. It’s a specialist area of the law and there are a host of different scenarios which can quickly turn into a legal minefield.

Accountants can only deal with uncontested, straight forward wills and anything that falls outside this will still need to be dealt with by a solicitor. Often, even when a will isn’t contested, the family may have beneficiaries who feel that they haven’t got what they thought they would and it’s in situations like this that a solicitor adds real value.

Rather than just providing the bare financial facts, a solicitor can take a more holistic approach, explaining how your estate will impact on your beneficiaries or, if you’re a beneficiary, how a will may affect you. They can also advise on other complex issues, such as inheritance tax, trusts planning, deeds of variation and lasting powers of attorney so that your will is legally watertight.

Finally, it’s important to make sure that your will writer is affiliated to an industry standard, such the Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS). This proves that your legal services provider has undergone an application and assessment process to demonstrate their adoption of best practice procedures in delivering wills and probate advice.

88% in North West Region Leave Life-changing Decisions in the Hands of Strangers (08/12/2015)

  • Alarming new report reveals people in North West region leaving major decisions about housing, assets and care to chance
  • 78% want loved ones to make decisions in the event of illness or accident – but only 6% have created a lasting power of attorney (LPA) to enable this
  • People in North West better at planning for death than later life; 31% of people with a will vs. only 6% with an LPA
  • SFE member, Judith Bromley from Bolton based, Russell and Russell Solicitors urges UK to safeguard wishes in the event of accidents or illness like dementia

88% of people in the North West region are currently living with no control over important later-life decisions around their housing, assets, heath, and care, according to a new report by SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly), the national organisation representing legal professionals, including Russell and Russell’s wills and probate team, who specialise in helping people plan for later life.

The report reveals that whilst 31% of people in North West have a will in place to manage their affairs after death, only 6% have a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place to safeguard their wishes in the event they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, due to accident or illness like dementia.

78% want a family member or friend to make important decisions on their behalf, in the event of illness or an accident. However, few are aware that without an LPA in place, any individuals’ affairs, such as their end-of-life wishes and health treatments, can be left in the hands of third party solicitors, social workers, medical doctors, or the British courts.

Even the minority of people that have taken steps to plan ahead for later life may still be at risk, due to poor quality legal advice and invalid documents. 32% of the people with LPAs in place did not use experts or legal guidance, instead taking a gamble using online resources, non-legal advisers, or off-the-shelf kits.

“These are alarming figures”, explained Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “As more of us are living longer, there’s a greater risk of people developing degenerative mental illnesses, such as Dementia, so it’s really important to think about what you need to do to secure your future if something like that happened.”

Lakshmi Turner, Chief Executive of SFE, added: “Most people assume that if they suffer an illness or accident, their next of kin will be responsible for vital decisions. The reality is starkly different – loved ones may not be able to make a decision on your behalf unless you have an LPA in place.

An LPA is by far the most powerful and important legal document an individual can have. If you have children, own a home, or have views on your preferred health treatment, we urge you to go to an expert to get the right advice.”

SFE is an independent, national organisation of professionals, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, committed to providing the highest quality of legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

To download the report ‘Who will decide for you when you cant?’ go to: http://www.sfe.legal

New Partner for Russell and Russell (01/12/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has appointed Louise Rance to partner.

Louise, a wills and probate solicitor at the firm’s Farnworth office, has worked at the practice since 2007. She specialises in Lasting Powers of Attorney, estate administration and court of protection work. A member of Solicitors for the Elderly, a national organisation which provides specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers, Louise has been instrumental in the expansion of the firm’s elderly care team at its Bury and Chester offices.

Speaking of her promotion, Judith Bromley, joint managing partner at Russell and Russell, said: “Louise’s contribution to the firm over the years has been invaluable. Her hard work and dedication in providing an excellent standard of service has been exemplary, so her promotion to salaried partner is well-deserved. I know she’ll continue to play extremely important role in the firm’s future.”

Withdrawal of Cap on Care Fees is Only Part of a New Way of Caring (15/10/2015)

Government plans to introduce a £72,000 cap on paying for care fees have been shelved amid concerns over the perilous state of council social care budgets. The new payment system, which was due to come into force in April 2016, has now been put back to 2020.

The idea behind the cap was that once a person had spent £72,000 on their care, the state would step in. The problem is that without a substantially funded council care system, pressure on local authorities will become financially crippling.

The government had hoped the insurance sector would seize the opportunity by offering products, but this hasn’t happened. With local authorities already struggling to cope with black holes in their budgets, parliament has pulled the plug while it examines other options for paying for care.

Currently, the elderly and younger adults with disabilities have to pay for their care; whether that's round-the-clock help in a care home or support with tasks such as washing and dressing in their own home. Anyone with less than £23,250 in savings and, in some cases, the value of a home receives help toward their care costs. This, however, doesn’t include living costs such as food, bills and accommodation, for which people will still be liable to the tune of £230 a week.

But it’s not all about money. Hailed as the solution to demystifying outdated and complex legislation, the revised Care Act seeks to cut through red tape to make the process of getting help with care much more transparent and accessible.

Aside from the monetary aspect, the other four pillars to the Act, which were introduced in April this year, are far more central to the essence of what the Act aims to achieve and these haven’t been blocked. Firstly, the government has adopted the Socrates approach; prevention is better than a cure. Local authorities will be required to provide services aimed at maintaining people’s health to reduce or delay the need for care or support in the first place.

Clearer information and fairer access to care is another key ingredient to the new changes. Local authorities will now have a duty to ensure care and support is available to everyone when they need it. In cases where people are unable to understand the care system, assistance must be provided.

The changes also incorporate a common system across the country. Previously, access to care has been a lottery with each local authority being able to apply its own financial eligibility thresholds. The consequence of this has resulted in varying levels of entitlement depending on where people live.

Under the new rules, anyone, including carers, who need support, will receive an assessment. The individual’s physical, mental, emotional wellbeing and any needs already being met by a carer, must be taken into consideration, so that support is built around their needs and wants and how they can be best cared for, along with a commitment to regularly review it. On completion of the assessment, the local authority can refer to the nationally aligned threshold to determine whether the individual has eligible needs.

Additionally, all local authorities will be required to adopt a joined up approach to social care by collaborating with other public bodies, such as health and housing, as well as external organisations so that people don’t ‘slip through the cracks’. This vision also extends to ensuring a seamless transition for young people to move into adult social care services.

Finally, safeguarding forms the final piece of the jigsaw. The new statuary framework aims to protect adults from neglect and abuse and stipulates that there should be a diverse range of high quality care services for people to choose from. If a care services provider fails, local authorities have a duty to intervene to ensure a person is not left without care.

There is no doubt the reforms to the Care Act have been designed to promote good practice by personalising care to the individual rather than focussing on the masses. The essence of the changes is to ensure wellbeing and quality of life, so people shouldn’t get hung up on the financial cap. Unfortunately, it’s what most believe the Care Act to be about, but this element only forms a small part of the changes. Whereas previously it’s tended to be a one size fits all approach, the new legislation will fundamentally change the way local authorities deal with caring for people.

Russell and Russell Solicitors Retains WIQS Accreditation (10/09/2015)

Russell and Russell Solicitors has successfully gained reaccreditation to the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS). In 2014, the Wood Street based firm became the first legal practice in Bolton, and one of the first in the North West, to receive the prestigious accreditation.

Operated by the Law Society, WIQS provides a best practice quality mark for firms that specialise in will writing and estate administration and gives confidence to consumers to know they are receiving advice they can trust from a Solicitors Regulation Authority regulated practice.

“This is a fantastic achievement“, said Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell. “The team has worked extremely hard to maintain the high standards required for retaining our certification and this demonstrates our determination to provide clients with the best possible service. Too many people receive bad advice or experience poor service from unregulated firms and, unfortunately, their families are left to deal with the consequences. Using a WIQS accredited firm offers peace of mind so that clients can trust that their affairs will be dealt with by a safe and experienced pair of hands.”

Landmark Ruling Could Mean Your Will Can Be Ignored (28/07/2015)

A court case involving a woman cut out of her mother’s will could change the rights of people wanting to disinherit their children.

Heather llot of Hertfordshire was awarded £164,000 by the Court of Appeal after it ruled that her mother had not left "reasonable provision" for her in the will.

Mrs llot was cut out of her mother’s will after eloping with her boyfriend at the age of 17 - an act her mother, Melita Jackson could not forgive. Instead, Mrs Jackson chose to leave her £486,000 estate to animal charities, with which she had little connection, after she died in 2004. Mrs llot, who married her partner and has five children, had planned to use the inheritance to buy their housing association home.

In what could prove to be a landmark ruling, at the Court of Appeal Lady Justice Arden stated that Mrs llott's mother had been "unreasonable, capricious and harsh" and that Mrs llot should receive a third of the estate. As a result, Mrs llot will now be able to buy her housing association property without losing her state benefits.

Speaking of the ruling, Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell Solicitors, said: “This case could pave the way to significantly weakening the rights of people who leave money, or assets, to those they want to inherit it. While people can still disinherit their children, they will need to provide an explanation why and what connects them to those people or organisations they do leave money to. Otherwise adult disinherited children could challenge the will to claim larger sums by way of reasonable provision. If you’re planning to disinherit main beneficiaries, you need to seek professional advice to avoid any issues which could result in your wishes not being carried out.”

Mrs llot, an only child born two months after her father died in an accident, was originally awarded £50,000 in 2007 after a district judge concluded she had been "unreasonably" excluded by Mrs Jackson. Mrs llott’s appeal to get the amount increased at the High Court in London was dismissed in March 2014 by Mrs Justice Parker, who ruled that that £50,000 was appropriate could not "be said to be wrong". That decision was overturned in the Court of Appeal by Lady Justice Arden who said that Mrs llot should receive a greater proportion of the estate.

Russell and Russell Lawyers Become Solicitors for the Elderly (21/07/2015)

Two solicitors from Russell and Russell Solicitors have been awarded a quality mark for their work with elderly clients.

Victoria Marsh and Harry Mistry of the wills and probate department have qualified as members of Solicitors for the Elderly, an independent organisation of legal advisers who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

The practice is also a member of Dementia Friends, an Alzheimer's Society initiative which helps people and organisations learn more about what it is like to live with dementia. The business was also the first legal firm in the Bolton area to be accredited with the Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme which sets the benchmark for best practice and transparency in the provision of wills and estate planning services.

Judith Bromley, head of wills and probate at Russell and Russell, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for Victoria and Harry, they’ve worked extremely hard to attain their certification and their membership means that all the probate solicitors at Russell and Russell are members of Solicitors for the Elderly. This is a kite mark that demonstrates that the firm is committed to helping vulnerable and elderly clients to ensure they receive the best service possible.”