Making Dementia Friends

Beckie is a Dementia Friends Champion for the Alzheimer’s Society.  This means that she was trained by the Alzheimer’s Society to present Dementia Friends information sessions.  The sessions are aimed at increasing understanding about dementia and helping make our communities more inclusive and  dementia friendly.

Beckie has been a Champion for a number of years and has been delivering the sessions to small local groups and companies.  We are pleased to announce that Beckie has now trained over 100 people to become Dementia Friends, having hit 113 on the 18th July 2018.  Beckie has more sessions planned for later in the year as well.

Rebecca Head of Four Oaks Legal Services
Beckie Head, Co-Director of Four Oaks Legal Services

Beckie said “The sessions are a great way to get us all talking and thinking about dementia.  By increasing our own understanding, it can only be beneficial to those living with dementia.  There are some 850,000 people diagnosed with dementia in the UK, so whether we realise it or not, we all know someone living with dementia, be it the person themselves or those that care for them”.

Many businesses, large and small, are seeing the benefits of making their team dementia friendly.  A member of staff from a Sutton Coldfield security company who recently had a session delivered said “Really enjoyed your session and the feedback from the attendees was equally complimenting. It evoked a lot of thought and we all feel better equipped to engage with those that have the condition. I shall spread the word – so just be aware you may get a deluge of requests!”

If you would like Beckie to run a session for your group or business, please contact us.  The sessions are run by Beckie on a voluntary basis on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society and are therefore completely free of charge.

Can I get a copy of a deceased’s Will?

A question that our probate team often get asked is “Can we get a copy of a Will after a person has died?”.

Can I get a copy of a Will?
Can I get a copy of a Will?

If an estate requires a Grant of Probate then the deceased’s original Will is submitted to the Probate Registry and is retained there.  The Will then becomes a public document and anyone, upon payment of a small fee, can apply for a copy of it.

You can find out if a Grant of Probate has been obtained, and order a copy of a Will, by using the Gov.UK search tool here:-

https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills

If an estate does not require a Grant of Probate, the Will remains a private document and only the Executors of the estate can then agree to release a copy.

 

 

 

Court of Protection to Refund Overcharged Fees

Following the successful refund scheme for registration fees in relation to Lasting Powers of Attorney, the Ministry of Justice have now announced that some Court of Protection fees are also to be reduced.  An internal review found that the fees are higher than necessary to recover court costs. Therefore, a refund scheme will be set up to reimburse people the amounts they have been over-charged. Details of the scheme are yet to be published.

New Report Warns of Looming Incapacity Crisis

• 98% of people in the West Midlands leave important health and welfare decisions to chance
• 71% would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf, in the event of mental incapacity
• 80% of people in the West Midlands are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves
• 81% haven’t discussed end of life medical and care wishes
• 36% admit to having made no provisions at all, such as a will, Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), pension or funeral plan

Coalition of partners join forces to warn of ‘incapacity crisis’ led by SFE, including Baroness Ilora Finlay, Alzheimer’s Society, Dying Matters, Age UK, Anchor, and SOLLA

A new report from SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) and independent think tank, Centre for Future Studies, reveals the UK is leaving medical and care preferences to chance. The report looks at the ever-increasing number of people living with dementia which, combined with the failure to plan ahead for mental incapacity, exposes a looming crisis.

The study found 98% of people in the West Midlands have not made necessary provisions, should they lose capacity from conditions like dementia. A further 36% admit to having made no provisions at all for later life, including a will, pension, funeral plan or LPA.
The research found that 80% of people in the region are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, but 81% have not spoken about, or even considered, personal medical and care end of life decisions.
A staggering 70% of people incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to and 71% of the public would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf.

69% of people incorrectly believe that their spouse has the power to do so

80% of those in the West Midlands are worried about becoming mentally incapacitated and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves

60% believe that being on the NHS organ donor register ensures that organs are donated following death, however this is not the case.

Only 2% of Britons surveyed in the West Midlands by SFE have a health and welfare LPA in place.

SFE is urging the nation to act now to avoid this incapacity crisis by planning ahead in case of mental incapacity.

It is crucial to have a conversation with loved ones in order to make specific medical and care wishes known – such as, where you are cared for, whether you wish to be an organ donor and whether or not you would want to be resuscitated – otherwise there is a risk your preferences are not taken into account.

The campaign calls on people to act now and start a conversation with loved ones about end of life topics to remove the stigma surrounding the discussion.

Lakshmi Turner, Chief Executive of SFE, said:

“Most of us do not like thinking about, let alone talking about, death, disability or disease, despite the fact that it touches all our lives – but it is essential that we do so.

“Whilst it’s great that more and more of us are putting wills in place and establishing plans for finances and assets, far too few of us are planning ahead for our health and care needs and wishes, leaving this to chance.

“It’s time to set the record straight. Planning ahead by talking to family or friends shouldn’t be seen as doom and gloom, it’s about having a positive conversation about welfare, empowering your loved ones and making the decision-making process easier for everyone.”

Professor Ilora, the Baroness Finlay, states: “With decades of experience working and campaigning around palliative medicine, the low numbers of health and welfare lasting power of attorneys is of concern.

“When a person loses capacity to take decisions, it is sad to see families and professionals struggling to try to determine what a person would have wanted. Delays and distress can be avoided by appointing someone to speak for you when you can no longer speak up for yourself.

“Discussing medical and care wishes ahead of time ensures that care can respect an individual’s wishes, with the respect they deserve – even when it comes to fulfilling wishes after death, such as organ donation.

“It’s important to have an open discussion about future illnesses and possible incapacity. I urge the millions of people who haven’t given loved ones the opportunity to listen, to act now.”

Jeremy Hughes CBE, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society

“We welcome this initiative. Lasting powers of attorney for health and welfare too often get overlooked.

“People with dementia have the right to make choices about their care, just like anyone else. Making someone they trust their attorney for health and welfare is one of the ways people can do this. A health and welfare LPA provides reassurance to them and the act of creating one can start useful conversations about the future with family and friends.”

 

To download the report, a short video and infographics, visit https://sfe.legal/the-incapacity-crisis-a-nation-unprepared/

Will This Be The Next Mis-selling Scandal?

Promises from slick marketing campaigns that by putting your property and assets into a trust you can avoid care home fees and Inheritance Tax (IHT) are all over the local and national press.

Several companies are currently running high profile marketing campaigns targeting people concerned about their wealth being chipped away by care home fees and IHT. Often termed in the adverts as ‘Asset Protection Trusts’ or ‘Family Protection Trusts’, this type of trust has been around for many years but has been given a ‘marketing makeover’ by these companies, who are eager to cash in on worried consumers, often charging several thousand pounds to set one up. In fact, in our opinion, this type of trust may only be suitable for the circumstances of around 5% of the UK population.

The companies often name themselves as Trustees on the Trusts they establish meaning that they then own and control the assets within the Trust; for instance, if you put your house into the trust, then the company directors (as the Trustees) own your house. It isn’t possible to end the trust without their consent and in order to give that consent many will charge a fee of several hundred pounds for meetings and further charges will be made should the Trustees retire from the Trusts.

Why Don’t These Trusts Work?

If you need to go into care in the future a local authority could decide you should pay for your care anyway because by putting your assets into the trust you have ‘deliberately deprived’ yourself of capital which could have been used to meet the costs.

How Are They Getting Away With It?

The provision of advice around Will writing and estate planning is not regulated by a professional body; the scheme these companies are marketing is not illegal but would only be suitable in a very limited percentage of cases.

If you are considering whether a trust would suitable for your situation, you should seek advice from a regulated professional with appropriate qualifications.

It is advisable to use a provider who is regulated such as a Solicitor or a member of the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners. Solicitors are regulated by the SRA and are required to have professional indemnity insurance. If the firm you used to make your Will no longer exists, then your documents will still be safe as the SRA will ensure all matters are passed to another Solicitors’ firm. Anyone can call themselves a ‘lawyer’ but only Solicitors with practising certificates issued by the SRA can legally use that term.

If you would like to talk to us about how we can help you please contact Rebecca Head or Joanna Parkin on 01543 440 308 or use the contact form on our website https://www.fouroakslegalservices.com/contact/

 

Property Trust Wills

An increasing number of people are worried about the possibility of needing care in the future and the financial impact that may have upon their assets. Protective Property Trusts in your Will can enable a couple to save part of their property to pass onto their family.  These types of Wills are also sometimes called Property Trust Wills.

What is a Property Trust Will?

A property trust is a type of legal structure that can be included as part of your Will and is designed to protect your share of jointly owned property from being included in financial assessments that are carried out to determine how much you should contribute to long-term care fees. The structure can also be useful should you be worried that your spouse might re-marry in the future by protecting your share of the property for your family.

A property trust will covers a share of a jointly-owned property to ensure that a surviving spouse or partner can still benefit from their deceased partner’s share in the property even when they are gone.  Should the survivor have to go into long-term care, their deceased spouse’s share will be protected – and can be passed onto family members upon their death.   

Most couples when making a Will, leave their assets directly to their partner. Should the partner require care, this can mean that there are less assets to pass onto the family after their death.

For this reason, Property Will Trusts can hold assets on behalf of the partner to guard against deductions made due to care costs.

How Does It Work?

The best way to explain how Property Trust Wills work is through an example:-

Let’s say Mr and Mrs Marr jointly own their home. They want to ensure that their respective shares will be passed to their two children when they pass away.  They want peace of mind that if the survivor of them needs care, at least half the property can be passed to their two children.

If Mr Marr dies before his wife, his half share in the property will go into the Property Trust set up in his Will – with the remainder of his estate left to Mrs Marr. She then has the right to occupy the property or move house if she wishes. If she requires long-term care in the future, her Husband’s share of the property remains in trust and cannot be taken into account during any financial assessments to determine what she will need pay towards her care.

In short, 50% of the value of the property cannot be taken and used to pay for her care fees.

This type of trust covers every eventuality. Even if Mr and Mrs Marr’s children divorce, predecease them or declare bankruptcy, the surviving spouse still retains occupancy and their share in the property is fully protected. Upon Mrs Marr’s death, the half share of the property is transferred to her two children, even if Mrs Marr has used all her assets to pay for care.

What Does This Cost?

Depending on your circumstances, this type of arrangement can cost from £400 – £525 + VAT.

Four Oaks Legal Services can assist if you feel a Property Trust Will might suit your circumstances.  Please contact us on 01543 440 308.

 

Should You Give Your Property to your Children?

One of the frequent questions I get asked as a Solicitor is whether a parent should give their home to their children. My clients have many reasons in mind as to why they might want to do this from ensuring the house passes to the children to attempting to avoid paying for care  or just getting the children to take over responsibility for the property so they don’t have to worry about maintenance issues any longer.

Providing you have no mortgage on your property, you are at liberty to gift your home to your family if you want to do so. But there are a few issues you may need to bear in mind before making that decision:

You will no longer be the legal owner of your home

If you gift your home, you need to consider the possibility that your child may divorce. If this happens, they may be forced to sell your home as part of those proceedings. Equally, your son or daughter’s ex-spouse would have a legal claim against their estate, which would also include your home.

If your child has financial problems and had an issue with bankruptcy, your home would form part of their estate. This could then potentially be claimed by creditors seeking to claw back money from their estate.

If your child predeceases you, their beneficiaries would then become the owner of your home.

If you wanted to obtain equity release on the property, you would be unable to.

If you needed to release some equity from your home, perhaps to help pay for adaptions if your health needs changed, you would not be able to do this. As you wouldn’t own the property, you can’t take equity release on it.

You need to consider Inheritance Tax

You may think that if you transfer your home to your children, then it won’t form part of your estate for inheritance tax purposes should you survive 7 years after making the gift. Unfortunately that is not the case. Due to the reservation of benefit rules, if you “give” away an asset that you continue to use, it is still treated as part of your estate for inheritance tax purposes. By gifting your property to you children during your lifetime, you could also lose the new residential nil rate band allowance as well.

You need to consider Capital Gains Tax

Before gifting your property, you also need to think about other tax, such as capital gains tax. This applies where a property is not a “principal primary residence” and could apply if, for example, your child is not living in your home when it is transferred into their name but has increased in value when they come to sell it.

Will I avoid care home fees?

You need to tread carefully before passing your home onto your children for this reason. The Local Authority could view this as “deliberate deprivation of assets” to avoid having to pay residential care home fees.

Put simply, transferring your home to your children in this way may be seen as an attempt to conceal funds to avoid paying for care.

If this is deemed to be the case, the Local Authority can reverse the transfer of ownership back to you or they can include the value of the home in your financial calculation anyway but including it as “notional capital”.

So gifting your home involves a number of considerations and a decision to do this should not be taken lightly. I would recommend seeking advice from a specialist Solicitor about these issues beforehand.

Rebecca Head is a private client Solicitor with many years experience and can be contacted on 01543 440 308.

Four Oaks Legal Services at the Business Networking Awards 2018

Four Oaks Legal Services were once again shortlisted in the Business Networking Awards in the category “Professional Business of the Year”, along with a number of other prestigious local companies.

The Business Networking Awards takes place each year and brings together businesses from Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and Lichfield.  The event took place this year at Drayton Manor on Saturday 7th April.

Four Oaks Legal Services were delighted for the second year running to be the only business in their category to be awarded a”Highly Commended” status.

Director Stuart McIntosh and Solicitor Joanna Parkin attended the entertaining evening celebrating the success of local businesses.

Four Oaks Legal Services would like to thank everyone involved with the Business Networking Awards for all their hard work and congratulate all those who were recognised on the evening.

Are you due a Refund for Lasting Power of Attorney Fees?

 

We reported back in July 2017 that the Office of the Public Guardian would be making partial refunds to people who had paid to register their Lasting Powers of Attorney between the 1st April 2013 and the 31st March 2017.  This was due to the Office of the Public Guardian making savings on their operating costs which weren’t passed onto the public at that time.shutterstock_119205097

The Office of the Public Guardian have now announced that either the donor of the power or their appointed attorney can make the application for a refund.  Full details can be found on the Government website https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund but applications can be made online  or by telephoning the Office of the Public Guardian on 0300 456 0300 (choose option 6).

 

What Might I Be Entitled To?

How much you get will depend on when you paid the fee.  You will also be entitled to 0.5% interest on the sum due.

When you paid the fee Refund for each power of attorney
April to September 2013 £54
October 2013 to March 2014 £34
April 2014 to March 2015 £37
April 2015 to March 2016 £38
April 2016 to March 2017 £45

You’ll be entitled to half the refund if you paid a reduced fee.

The Office of the Public Guardian has estimated there will be some £89 million pounds to be refunded, so they are estimating it will take up to 12 weeks to process the refunds.

Finally, if the donor of the power has since passed away, a refund can still be claimed.

For further information, please contact us on 01543 440 308.

 

Why Making a Will is Tough for Parents of Children with Disabilities

Statistically speaking, some 60% of the population haven’t made a Will. Of the 40% that have, around 20% of those need to review those provisions. Scary, isn’t it?

For parents with children who have disabilities, there are no specific statistics on how many of them haven’t made a will but in my 14 years’ experience as a wills Solicitor, I would guess it it will be an even higher percentage than 60%.

Over the years, I’ve given numerous talks on behalf of Mencap and other organisations, such as schools and charities, who support the parents of children with disabilities. I’ve talked about the issues which surround making a will when you have a child with disabilities and I’ve made many wills for parents in this situation, ranging from children with very mild to moderate disabilities to those who have very severe disabilities. In talking to many of these parents over the years, I’ve gained an insight into why many don’t act to make wills. In order to help other parents who may be in a similar situation, I thought I’d share those reasons with you, together with my responses.

Top Reason – the Ostrich Approach

No-one likes to think of a time when they won’t be here for their children but for parents of children with disabilities, this can be even harder to think about. For most of us, when our children are adults in the eyes of the law, they can take care of themselves and whilst we may not be around, they will manage. For those parents of children with disabilities, especially those with severe disabilities, it can be a real worry to think about who will care for your child as they may never be in a position to care for themselves. This tends to mean that parents just don’t think about it as it’s too upsetting for them to do so. They take the ostrich approach of sticking their head in the sand and no planning gets done.

Answer: Whether you make plans or you don’t, the inevitable will happen. It is surely better to have a will in place setting out your plans for your child, so that you can rest easy in the knowledge you’ve taken care of everything that you possibly can for them.

Second Reason – my child doesn’t understand the value of money

We all want to pass on our hard-earned money to our children and give them as much of a head start as possible but, when you have a child with a disability, it may not be as simple as that. If your child does not understand the value of money, this can be a huge problem as it may not be appropriate to leave them a large inheritance that they will not be able to manage. They may have no, or limited, skills to manage the funds or they may use it inappropriately.  There is also the risk that they may become susceptible to third parties who may want to relieve them of your hard earned money.

Answer: Trusts can be used to help provide for children who cannot manage funds themselves.

Third reason – my child will lose their benefits, there’s no point me giving them anything

Some children with disabilities may be reliant in the long term on means tested benefits. Therefore if they inherit money, they will have to declare this to the DWP and they may then lose those benefits. Many parents feel that they are giving with one hand and the DWP are then taking it away with the other hand. Some parents, therefore choose not to do anything as they can’t see the point in leaving anything to their child in this situation.

Answer: Certain types of trust can be used to help provide for children who are in receipt of means tested benefits. The funds are owned by the trust and not the child, so their benefits are not affected, even though the trust funds can be used for the child.

Fourth reason – I just don’t know where to start thinking about this

Many parents of children with disabilities feel overwhelmed at the thought of making a will because they don’t know where to start or how they will resolve the issues in making appropriate provision for their child. So instead of seeking advice, they do nothing.

Answer: a good friend once said to me “You don’t know what you don’t know”, which is some of the best advice I’ve ever been given. How can you expect to make decisions about your child’s future if you don’t know what the law allows you to do and what options are open to you. Of course, you will feel confused and unsure. If my car makes a strange noise, I don’t lift the car bonnet and look at it thinking “How can I fix this? I don’t know how to do it!”. I call the local garage and have experts look at it and tell me what my options are. It’s really the same with making a will. Have a chat about your situation with someone who specialises in preparing wills for families like yours and they will give you the options that are open to you. Once you know the options, it’s generally very easy to make a decision.

If you are a parent of a child with a disability, or you know someone who is, and you haven’t made a will, I can help. I offer an initial no obligation, no charge meeting to discuss your situation and to advise you about the options available to you, to help you make decisions so that you can begin the journey to properly protect your child and family.

Rebecca Head of Four Oaks Legal Services
Rebecca Head of Four Oaks Legal Services

 

Rebecca Head is a Solicitor and Director of Four Oaks Legal Services and can be contacted on 01543 440 308.