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Sarah Roberts, Senior Associate Solicitor

Wills, Trusts and Estates

Direct Dial: 01242 216 178

A bit about me

Walking with my clients through life – celebrating their successes and supporting them at times of loss or change – is one of the privileges of my work. I’m often their first port of call for the specialist help they need to deal with a new situation because I’m not only a tax and trusts specialist but I also really care about them and their families.

I advise clients from all walks of life and in all kinds of circumstances, and I work hard to achieve the right outcomes for them. Many are businesspeople and many have extended families – family structures can be complex, and I want to be sure that their financial arrangements work for them.

Want to know more?

Cherish your family and friends and make time for them – it’s what literally everybody wishes they’d done more of at the end.

Make Lasting Powers of Attorney – in an age where more and more people are living with diminished capacity, we all need someone to take care of us.

You will die, so make a plan: it’s not as scary as it seems. Not making one is so much harder for everyone.

Should I change to be tenants in common?

I’m surprised by just how often I get asked this question, above all else.

There are two ways to own property jointly in England and Wales – as joint tenants, which means that if one owner dies, the surviving owner(s) carry on as the only owner(s) by law – or as tenants in common, which is where each owner owns their share and can do what they want with it.

The problem is that just changing ownership from joint tenants to tenants in common might not achieve anything. The important thing is to review this alongside your will because your will would not work properly if the wrong type of ownership was chosen.

Will I have to pay inheritance tax?

This depends on how wealthy you are, but also on who you leave your assets to and how.

The only simple thing to say is: no, if all your assets amount to less than £325,000. This includes your home, assets that you own jointly with other people and also possibly things you may have forgotten about or don’t realise you would have, such as lump sum payments from a pension scheme, employer death-in-service or life assurance.

Unfortunately, inheritance tax rules and allowances have become progressively more complicated over the years and the only way to really be certain of your position is to conduct a full review of everything with the help of a specialist.

I’ve been to a seminar where they said I could avoid care fees (and/or save tax) by putting my home in a trust; is that true?

The big issue with this is that many providers of these type of trusts don’t properly explain the potential risks. You would be giving up significant control/freedom by doing this and, although you might think that you can trust everyone involved now, people often don’t take account of the fact that they could end up having to defend their right to live in their home against others, such as divorcing spouses or trustees in bankruptcy – potentially even losing their home.

Local Authorities also have the power to ignore anything you’ve given away (including creating trusts) if you did it to avoid paying for care, so it might not even work. I’ve also even seen a few cases where setting up such trusts has actually created a tax liability which wouldn’t have existed otherwise!
However, this solution can be right for some circumstances and it’s important to weigh up all the advantages and disadvantages.

Should I get rid of the nil rate band discretionary trust in my will?

This is another really difficult question to answer without a detailed look at your individual situation.

These trusts used to be very common in wills made before 2007 because of how the inheritance tax rules worked then. In 2007, the government introduced provisions which made the tax-free allowance transferable between couples, which got rid of the basic need to include these trusts. However, there were still opportunities to use the trusts to save inheritance tax in the right circumstances and advice was often to leave them in place because a decision can usually be made about whether or not to keep the trust within two years of your death.

The question over these trusts has recently reared its head again, following the introduction of the new allowance for homes passed onto descendants. As a result, I definitely recommend that you review your will if it has a nil rate band discretionary trust in (or if you benefit from one that has been set up in the past). There are still savings to be made in the right circumstances, but it’s important to be sure that the trust (or specific elements of the wording of it) won’t mean that you lose an allowance to which you would otherwise be entitled.

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