Wills, trusts and probate solicitors
Private Client Services
Planning for the future is just that – planning. It takes calm consideration and some hard thinking about what you really want to happen when you are no longer around to shape events.
Over years of working in this field, our Wills, Trusts and Estate solicitors have learned that every client has a different set of circumstances, and that no estate is quite as simple as it first appears. The factors to consider can be complicated, with different legal structures and interdependencies to take into account. Understanding each element and how it works for you as part of the whole is essential and it’s this expertise and holistic approach that characterise our approach.
At Morrisons, our Wills, Trusts and Estate solicitors provide a highly personalised service, drawing on expertise from around our firm, including our property, commercial law and tax planning solicitors, to ensure that your plans for the future are robust and that all your concerns are taken into account. We will take you step-by-step through the process, supporting you along the way, so that you can be confident that your wishes are accurately captured and that your legacy is secure.
We recognise that the discussions we have with you are sensitive and that they may involve addressing some difficult or uncomfortable issues, particularly around disability, mental capacity and complex or fragmented families. Many of our lawyers are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), the worldwide professional body for the trust and estate profession, The Law Society Private Client section and the Chartered Institute of Taxation. Our team includes members of Solicitors for the Elderly and we are on MENCAP’s recommended list of solicitors, which specialise in advising on legal affairs for the disabled and vulnerable.
Whatever your circumstances, we will provide a highly professional, discreet service and help you to make clear plans and balanced decisions.
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Products and services
Below is a quick overview of a number of the ways in which the Morrisons team is able to support you, and your family.
- Advance decisions (living Wills)
An Advance Decision or ‘living will’ is a statement you can make during your lifetime about the medical treatment you may or may not wish to receive under certain medical circumstances. An Advance Decision would typically come into effect during your lifetime at the point where you lack the capacity to make such decisions for yourself. For this reason, they are extremely sensitive and you should always seek expert advice before establishing an Advance Decision, or activating one.
While it is possible to for Advance Decisions to take the form of oral statements, this can result in precisely the ambiguity that such a statement is intended to remove, so it advisable to have a written Advance Decision to ensure clarity in this respect. If the Advance Decision is to include a refusal of life-sustaining treatment, it must always be in writing.
It is also possible to sign a health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA)appointing a friend or relative to make decisions relating to your health and welfare in the event of future mental incapacity. While it is possible to create such documents without legal advice it is always advisable to ensure that the statements you make, and the terms under which they would be activated are clear and unambiguous, and this usually requires legal advice.
At Morrisons, we can help you with all aspects of Advance Decisions, and LPAs, to ensure that your wishes are observed when you are no longer able to express them for yourself.
- Powers of attorney
Mental incapacity is upsetting under any circumstances but it can be doubly so if there are no arrangements in place to guide decisions relating to the affected individual, their property and affairs, including finance and healthcare.
This situation can be avoided by creating a lasting power of attorney.
Power of attorney is a legal process where you grant another person or persons (the attorney) the power to make decisions on your behalf. This can include acting in your financial affairs, dealing with property and making decisions relating to your continuing health and care needs.
The power itself is given as a simple Deed by you, the donor, to the attorney. An ordinary power of attorney can only be given while you continue to be mentally capable of managing your affairs.
Setting up a lasting power of attorney is usually straightforward. However, it is worth taking expert advice to ensure that the wording of the deed is robust and unambiguous. At Morrisons, we can help you with all aspects of setting up a lasting power of attorney, including choosing and appointing attorneys, and ensuring that your wishes are accurately reflected in any documentation, particularly in relation to finance and healthcare.
A Will is the most common vehicle for distributing your estate after your death and it is wise to give the terms of your will, and the likely circumstances of your intended beneficiaries considerable thought before signing any document. However, it is also highly advisable not to delay writing a will. Dying intestate – without a will – may leave your family and others with considerable work to do at a difficult time and be the cause of lasting dispute and rancour. It will also mean that your estate will almost certainly not be distributed in the way that you might want and that a proportion of the estate you have worked so hard to build will be dissipated needlessly in tax or legal fees, instead of going to loved ones and good causes.
- It is a common misconception that, in the absence of a will, your estate automatically passes to your surviving spouse or civil partner. It does not.
- Government figures suggest there are currently around 3,600 spouses and civil partners who are at risk of losing their family home to meet claims as a result of intestacy.
- Despite the ease with which a will can be created, and the risks associated with a failure to do so, the National Consumer Council estimates that more than two-thirds of British adults have not made a will.
By taking advice from one of our qualified solicitors, you will find that making a will can be simple and straightforward. It will also give you absolute confidence that you have control over your estate. Our STEP-qualified trust and estate-planning experts will help you to write a will that ensure your assets are distributed exactly as you intend. Our advice will also guard against any unwanted claims on your estate, even in the most complex of situations.
If you are in business, a will should also be a fundamental part of your succession planning. Our specialist lawyers work with our Corporate & Commercial department and your corporate advisers to maximise any tax-saving opportunities.
For further information regarding writing your will you may find our will questionnaire helpful.
- Administration of estates
At a time of bereavement, the thought of dealing with a loved one’s financial affairs, even if they have left a will, can be a daunting prospect. The burden of administration, and of having to field other people’s enquiries, can be a significant burden precisely at a time when you feel least able to deal with it.
As the personal representative of an estate, you have responsibility for its administration. This means establishing its value, paying debts and distributing the balance.
Morrisons can ease that burden and help to ensure that the process is handled with sensitivity and professionalism, taking as much of the stress and strain away from you and your family. We will support and guide you through the legal procedures and related tax issues and help you to understand your responsibilities to the deceased, the state and to the beneficiaries of the estate.
We also offer expert advice on the more complex areas of estate administration, including:
- International aspects of the deceased’s affairs (such as foreign tax on property)
- Post-death tax reduction, including deeds of variation
- Establishing and winding up discretionary trusts in wills following the introduction of the transferable nil-rate band
- Resolving disputes relating to Contested Probate
Our dedicated Residential Conveyancing team can assist in the legalities of selling any property in the estate.
If the estate you are dealing with is straightforward and you are seeking a cost-effective solution, please see our Probate section above
- Probate services
Losing a loved one is painful and can leave you feeling bereft and helpless. You need time to come to terms with your loss, whether sudden or after an illness. And may find it difficult to grieve when you know that there are practical matters to address in relation to the deceased’s estate. These matters are generally termed ‘probate’, and they relate in particularly to the locating, reading and agreement of any will that the deceased has put in place.
Morrisons can help you with all of these matters. We will be there to help you work through the practical side of your bereavement, including administrative formalities such registering the death and arranging the funeral.
We will help you to understand the terms of any will and explain the next steps. We will assist in obtaining share valuations, realising assets, paying legacies, completing inheritance tax forms, settling inheritance tax, applying for probate – which is the Court’s approval of the will and which his needed before any assets can be released – and other processes. We will also help you through the process of what to do if someone dies intestate – without a will.
We will help you to understand every aspect of probate and can, if required, administer the estate on your behalf.
- Inheritance and Capital Gains Tax for individuals and Trusts
Sound inheritance tax advice is vital to ensure that no more tax than necessary is paid from a deceased person’s estate.
We can advise you on all aspects of inheritance tax, including how best to minimise the exposure of your estate to inheritance tax after your death, and also on the process of probate and paying the tax before the estate can be distributed to its beneficiaries.
The rules around inheritance tax can seem complicated but there are a number of important guiding principles that you should understand, particularly in structuring your estate in order to shield it as far as possible from taxes after your death. We can advise you on all of the issues.
- Foreign Wills, assets and domicile
The increasingly global nature of business careers, free movement within the EU and the ease with which people can now relocate have all meant that a growing number of people have assets located in more than one country. This has radically increased the complexity of the issues relating to wills and estate planning, especially around the issue of taxation on assets.
The concept of ‘domicile’ is peculiar to England and Wales and has particular significance when it comes to inheritance tax and the passing of assets to beneficiaries in other jurisdictions. The law is complex in this area, but domicile should not be confused with ‘residence’.
Equally, if you or someone in your family have assets outside England and Wales, it may be advisable to have a will drawn up in the jurisdiction in which they are located. It is very important, if you have a will in more than one country, that you inform your legal advisers in both countries to avoid any conflict between the wills and to ensure that one has not been revoked by the other. For example, a number of countries have the legal concept of ‘forced heirship’. This can supersede your will and mean that certain individuals may automatically be entitled to an asset in your estate irrespective of your wishes.
At Morrisons, we have experience of supporting clients with multi-jurisdictional estates and wills and our specialists in this are registered Trust and Estate Practitioners and members of STEP– the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners. We will guide you through the tax pitfalls and complexities associated with foreign wills and domicile to ensure that your wishes are carried out effectively and as tax-efficiently as possible.
- Formation and termination of trusts
- Formation and termination of trusts
- Administration of trusts
- Trusts for disabled individuals
- Trust-related disputes
Formation and termination of trusts
Trusts are a valuable estate and succession planning tool, allowing you to securely transfer assets to an individual or company to ensure their safe future management for the benefit of others.
Like a will, trusts provide a means for you to control the way in which your accumulated wealth or assets are distributed. They can be established by an individual, a family or a company and can brought into effect at any time, not only after death, as is the case with a will. Trusts can also be created under the terms of a will.
In addition to the control they provide over an estate or asset, trusts can protect assets against claims from creditors and considerably reduce tax liabilities – sometimes completely, in the case of inheritance tax.
Morrisons has advised on the creation and management of trusts for hundreds of years, helping individuals and families to protect and pass on their legacies for the next generation. We will support you with all aspects of establishing and managing a trust, including:
- choosing the most suitable form of trust
- administering trusts
- serving as professional trustees
- reducing your tax liability through the creation of trusts
- removing or appointing trustees
- trustees’ duties and compliance
- accounts, tax returns and continuing tax efficiency
- wills and trusts for disabled and vulnerable individuals
- varying existing trusts
- dealing with trust-related disputes
Many of our lawyers are members of STEP – the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, and we also have partners who are members of the Chartered Institute of Taxation. We can assist trustees with all trust-related activities and, where required, can take over the general administration of the trust, though the major decisions would still have to be taken by the trustees. We can also introduce the trustees to financial planners and investment managers to advise on investments and, if required, to take over the management of those investments.
Wills and trusts for disabled and vulnerable individuals
In a time of means-tested benefits and extreme pressure on social care budgets, it is vital that people with responsibility for vulnerable individuals [link to Elderly & Vulnerable adults] and individuals with a disability, and those closest to them, seek specialist advice regarding future financial arrangements, particularly wills and trusts and the assets they contain.
At Morrisons, we are experienced in providing advice on matters relating to the financial provision for vulnerable individuals with professionalism and sensitivity. We have specialists within our team who advise disabled individuals and their loved ones in respect of establishing the best structure for wills and trusts for the disabled, including:
- wills to ensure that individuals who are in receipt of means-tested benefits can still be adequately provided for without affecting their entitlement to benefits.
- Disabled Persons’ Trusts, which make the person with the disability the principal beneficiary and ensure they do not lose their entitlement to benefits.
Whatever your concern, we will provide sympathetic and specialist advice to guide you through the complex and competing issues when providing for disabled and vulnerable loved ones. Several of our solicitors are listed on MENCAP’s register of specialist lawyers who advise on issues affecting the disabled and vulnerable.
- Asset Protection
After years of working to build up your personal and family wealth it is only natural to want to protect, as far as possible within the law, the value of your estate from erosion by inheritance, capital gains tax and income tax.
At Morrisons we will provide comprehensive advice on the best ways in law to protect the value of your home and reduce or eliminate inheritance tax and capital gains tax, often using a combination of trusts and available exemptions or reliefs. We specialise in advising on making tax efficient wills, lifetime gifts, trusts, reducing the potential taxes payable on your death and protecting your home and other assets should you need to go into nursing care.
We will develop an individual strategy based on a deep understanding of your specific circumstances and goals, working with your existing advisers where appropriate, and drawing on expertise from around our firm, including commercial, property and family law specialists.
Whether you are a high-net-worth individual here in the UK or domiciled overseas, or the owner of a business, we can help you secure your legacy for the future and ensure that your assets are robustly and legally protected as far as possible.
Many of our lawyers are members of STEP – the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, and we also have partners who are members of the Chartered Institute of Taxation.
- Elderly care and long-term planning
The legal issues affecting elderly clients, their families and carers can become complicated and there is often a need for clear and reliable advice in the important area of long-term care planning.
We offer clear and expert advice, delivered with professionalism and sensitivity, on a variety of issues, including powers of attorney, Court of Protection, management and protection of assets and effective planning for long-term care.
We can also advise you on the impact of nursing home fees and the effect this will have on your ability to leave assets to your family. If required we can refer you to a suitable independent financial adviser. We also understand the mobility issues facing many elderly clients and are happy to set up appointments at home or in a care home or hospital if this would be preferable for you and your family.
- Elderly, disabled and vulnerable individuals
Whatever the cause of mental incapacity – disability, learning difficulties or dementia for example – individuals who are unable, or becoming unable to manage their affairs require the support of lawyers with specialist knowledge and a sensitive approach, particularly when it comes to planning for the future.
At Morrisons, we have a dedicated team of specialist lawyers who focus on issues relating to vulnerable adults, helping them to make decisions for themselves so far as is possible, while ensuring they receive advice that protects their interests. We are experienced in setting up trusts to protect the assets of vulnerable adults and children.
We can assist you by providing support in dealing with the Court of Protection. This may include help in the process of the appointment of a Deputy by the court to act in a person’s interests. Our specialist team may also assist existing attorneys and Deputies in fulfilling their duties as well as in the appointment of new trustees to enable sale of a property, authorisation of gifts and making a statutory will, as well as a variety of other issues relating to elderly and vulnerable clients.
You may wish to give money to charity in your will or by way of a lifetime gift. Charitable donations are tax deductible, so as well as benefiting the charity, this enables you to reduce your own income tax or the inheritance tax that will be due on your estate after your death. If Gift Aid is used, the charity will also be able to reclaim the tax on the gift, thereby increasing the amount it receives.
If there is a charitable aim that is particularly important to you, you may even wish to set up a charity, possibly with family, friends or business associates.
Existing charities often need legal help and advice on their management, in order to comply with their charitable objects, and on issues of charity trusteeship and disposal and acquisition of property.
At Morrisons, our team of specialists can advise on all aspects of charity formation and administration and on charitable giving, to ensure that the causes you cherish receive the maximum benefit, with minimum impact on your own estate.