Thursday, 22 November 2012

You Earned it - Now Keep It

The threats to wealth and how to overcome them -

We work hard to make our money, we scrimp and save to make a better life for ourselves and our families and then what happens? Just as we get to a point where life seems good a whole new set of threats and challenges appear.

As we get older we naturally think about enjoying retirement and leaving something to the family to make their lives a little better after we have gone. To do this we all know that we need to make a Will and invest wisely, but we need to look at the threats to our wealth.

Threat One: World economic turmoil. If you have the answer to this then you should call 10 Downing Street and share it immediately, otherwise you should view the market uncertainty with some trepidation. Interest rates are at an historic low and the need for high quality investment advice is at an all time high. To navigate your savings and investments through these uncertain times you need good advice from properly qualified Independent Financial Advisors, call Tancreds on 01778 342291 for a free initial consultation.

Threat Two: The Taxman. If you have gained even modest levels of wealth, through property, investments or even inheriting from your relatives you will need to be aware that the tax man might want his share. Proper planning can avoid unnecessary tax bills and in many cases we can significantly reduce any liability to Inheritance taxes with some simple and cost effective steps.

Threat Three: Long Term Care. One in three of us will need some form of long term care as we get older. Good planning now can reduce the burden that is likely to fall on your shoulders and in many cases could protect your home and assets into the future.

Threat four: The cost of dying. Latest government estimates put the cost of dying at over £7,000, this includes funeral charges and the legal costs associated with probate. These costs are escalating at far more than both inflation and savings rates. You could fix them now and save your family money and heartache in the long run.

If you need any advice and help to protect your wealth call us now on (01778) 382723 for a free no obligation consultation.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Maude and the Advisor who failed

This is the story of Maude and of how my business came to be set up. Maude was a client of an advisor friend of mine, she was reasonably wealthy and over the years my advisor friend had served her well, getting her an extra percentage point growth here and there and keeping a watchful eye on her investments. He earned a little retainer each year and all was well.

Until Maude had a stroke – She had a severe stroke and her son who lived away came to my advisor friend and said ‘You were my mum’s financial advisor; she held you in great regard and said you did everything for her.’ My friend was delighted, Maude’s son recognised how well he had served her (he even thought the son might become a client). Then Maude’s son asked a simple question, ‘where is her Power of Attorney’, on hearing that my friend didn’t know his mood darkened ‘You are her financial advisor, you had told her that everything was well, and that her affairs were taken care of, she told me often when I spoke with her that I had no need to worry because you had her affairs in order, yet you missed a simple thing like that.’

The financial advisor was distraught, nobody at financial advisor school had taught him about powers of attorney, but he knew everything about investments, but now in this pivotal moment investment performance didn’t matter. For the next three years the son and the advisor watched as the investments went up and down with the markets – they could do nothing more as nobody could access the funds on behalf of Maude and Maude couldn’t do it herself.

After three years Maude suffered another stroke and died, the son contacted the advisor and said ‘You were my mother’s trusted advisor she put all of her faith in you and you told her that everything was in order – so where is her will?’

Will and Probate Services can make sure that you never go through what Maude’s family went through – Call us on 01778 382723 we can help.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Help When You Need It Most

Losing a loved one can be an emotional and stressful time. We provide all our clients with friendly, efficient, professional and sympathetic advice and assistance. We are happy to visit you at your own home at a time that suits you or you can meet us at our offices whichever is more convenient.

There are many practical issues to manage when someone dies which are the legal duty and responsibility of the personal representatives. Registering the death and obtaining copies of the Death Certificate (several may be required and we advise that you obtain at least five copies as all of the institutions and agencies will need to see a copy before assets can be released or transferred) is the first step. Once this is done we can help with all aspects of the administration including:

  • Arranging the Funeral. The cost will usually be the first expense paid for from the Deceased's Estate. We will help you to make enquiries about the existence of a prepaid Funeral Plan or dedicated insurance policy which may help meet the Funeral costs or will arrange prompt settlement of the account from the estate.
  • It doesn’t matter whether the deceased left a will or not, we can help with applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration at the Probate Registry – We will advise if this is necessary and then liaise with both the Inland Revenue and the Probate Courts to ensure this is done in a timely fashion.
  • We will arrange to open an Executor/Personal Representative Client Account. This will be used for the receipt of money due to the estate and any loan arranged to pay an Inheritance Tax bill and/or Probate fees.
  • We will take away the stress of informing all relevant persons and organisations —Banks, Building Societies, Life Assurance Companies, Employers, Local Authorities, Inland Revenue, Benefit Agencies etc.
  • We will arrange for a complete valuation of the Estate. This will include the house and its contents, other personal effects, Investments, Life Policies, Bank and Building Society Accounts etc.
  • We also draw up a full schedule of debts that must be paid from the proceeds of the Estate, including Mortgages, Income and Capital Gains Tax, Bills, Credit Cards and Loans.
  • We deal with all of the forms required by HM Revenue & Customs so that it can be established whether any Inheritance Tax is payable or if any Income Tax is due to be rebated to the estate. 
  • We will of course complete the Probate forms required by the Probate Registry.
  • When Inheritance Tax is due the Executor's Account of the Estate is passed to HM Revenue & Customs and the Grant of Probate cannot be issued until the Tax is paid. There will be circumstances where part of the Estate has to be sold to pay the Tax and if this is the case we will help you to deal with the Banks who can arrange loan facilities to enable the Tax to be paid straight away.
  • On receipt of the Grant we will send it to everyone who owes money to the Estate. The Executors now have legal authority to pursue any debts owing to the Estate and realise the assets of the Estate.
  • When the Grant of Probate is received and the assets and liabilities dealt with the Estate can be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will. We prepare Estate Accounts showing who has received what from the distribution so that the personal representatives can show that they acted in accordance with the terms of the Will in case there is any dissent from the family of the deceased.
  • We can arrange to sell the deceased's house, arrange specialist insurance whilst the building may be empty and deal with conveyancing issues on your behalf.
  • We can advise on post-death arrangements and Inheritance Tax planning and can introduce you via our associated companies to Chartered Independent Financial Advisors who will help you deal with any inheritance received.

We aim to make the process of dealing with a death as straightforward as possible.  If you feel that we could be of help to you and your family call us today on 01778 382323 to arrange a discussion of your circumstances and how we can help you.

You are under no obligation and our initial discussion is free of charge.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Doing The Things Everyone Needs but Nobody Wants –

Over the past Seven years I have been asked what I do on thousands of occasions, but I never had a good answer, but a few days ago, lying in my bath I had my Eureka moment – we do the things that nobody wants but everybody needs.

Write your Will todayNobody wants to make a Will, but we all need to – almost everyone I write a Will for tells me that they have been meaning to do it for ages and how relieved they are that they have finally done something about it.

Nobody wants to deal with a Death, but inevitably we will all need to at some point – We can’t take the pain away, but we can take away the burden of administration, leaving you and your family free to grieve. 

Nobody wants to face up to the possibility of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but we all need to – sensible planning now can save time, hassle and a huge amount of money in the future and place control over your money and welfare in the hands of those that you trust.

Nobody wants to spend money when times are tight, but the things that you need are probably cheaper and easier to put in place than you think.

Nobody wants to phone 01778 382723 to find out more but everyone needs to – make the call, put your mind at rest.

You can find out more about the things everybody needs but nobody wants at my websites:


Monday, 16 July 2012

Ever Had a Client Die? – What Happened Next?

I have often posed this question when I chat with advisors and there are normally one of two answers:

Either, The investments and assets were cashed in and the advisor moved on to the next client.

Or, The work that the advisor had done with the family kicked in, the family were put in touch with someone who could help them deal with the probate process, and three or four new clients were created from the beneficiaries of the will.

Wills and Probate are not glamorous, but they are essential when building a relationship with a client.

Whilst many advisors have a ‘Will Writer’ who they use very few go on to offer a full probate option that deals with the consequences of a death in a family. That’s where we can help Will and Probate Services can deal with an estate whether or not we wrote the Will, even if there is no will. We will guide your clients quickly and efficiently through the probate process until they emerge at the other end with their inheritance. We always offer a fixed fee, free initial consultation and if the client is introduced by an advisor generous introduction fees.

So next time you hear of a death by all means think that’s sad, but think how can I help the family and then refer them to us – or call us 01778 382723. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Could you leave your children at the mercy of Social Services?

The easiest way to make the toughest decision

Don't leave your child's future to chance
“If anything happens to us, my sister (mother, best friend) will look after the kids, I’ve already talked to them about it.”

Sounds familiar? It’s what an awful lot of people think. The truth is rather different, however. If you haven’t made a Will, then the decision is out of your (and your sister’s, mother’s or best friend’s) hands, because Social Services will make the decision as to who will be the guardian of your children until they reach the age of 18. For those people who are not married to the other parent of the children, it gets even worse, because the father is not automatically given guardianship of his own children should the mother die.
And there’s such a simple way to avoid this; make a Will!

The key decision to make is who, if you die, should look after your children and carry out your wishes for their care. Even if you haven’t got many worldly goods, your most valuable asset is your children, and a Will ensures they go where you want them to. It obviously ensures that all your other assets go where you want them to as well.

Guardians should ideally be of a similar age to the parents. If appointing older guardians, then make sure you review their suitability at regular intervals.

Unless the guardians are a couple, do not appoint joint guardians. Typically appointing both grandmothers is a recipe for disputes. On the face of it they get on, but would they if they had joint guardianship of the children? Whom do they live with? What type of discipline do they get? Which church do they go to? The list is endless. The last thing you want is to risk your children being the centre of a dispute when they are already upset.

Appointing guardians who live abroad, can cause problems as permission will be required to take them abroad and that might not be granted. Just because a person is a guardian to children, the children will not automatically be allowed to live in the guardian’s country (e.g. USA). Nor will the guardian be automatically allowed to live in England unless they are from the European Union.

One final point – before you take the big step of appointing guardians for your children, make sure they want the job and are prepared to look after them.

If you need to make a will or just need some advice, call us today 01778 382723.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Is Your Life Relevant?

If you worked for a big organisation chances are that amongst your benefits would be a death in service insurance linked to your pension scheme. As an entrepreneur you probably don’t have that luxury. However there is a way that you can insure your life through your business without falling foul of the benefit in kind rules, and whilst most death in service benefits to out at four or five times your salary a relevant life policy can in certain cases offer cover of up to twenty five times salary.

Sounds great, but who is it aimed at and how does it work?

The plan is aimed at three groups, Company Directors, High Earners and smaller companies who don’t warrant a group life insurance cover, but want to protect key staff members.

The policy must be written on a single life basis and the only benefits which can be provided under the relevant life policy are terminal illness cover during the employee’s employment and Lump sum death benefits. In other words, the policy can’t be used to provide other benefits such as critical illness benefits, income protection or disability cover.

Cover can be taken on a fixed term basis of up to 50 years in some cases. However, the policy can’t continue beyond the life assured’s 75th birthday. The employer pays the premiums to maintain the policy. If the employee leaves the employment of the original employer, there are two options:-
(a) The employee could choose to let the policy lapse or
(b) The life policy could be maintained by the employee personally. However, under the terms of the policy the terminal illness cover would terminate.

The premiums paid won’t form part of the employee’s annual allowance. The annual allowance is the amount that can be contributed by, or on behalf of, an individual to any registered pension scheme with the benefit of tax relief. So the employee is still able to make full use of their annual allowance to make contributions to a registered pension scheme. Premiums paid by employers are not normally assessable on the employee as a benefit in kind so they’re not subject to income tax. Premiums paid by employers are not normally assessable for employer or employee National Insurance contributions.

A relevant life policy could be worth serious consideration if you are looking to cover yourself or your key staff, however you should always seek professional financial advice on your particular circumstances from an independent financial advisor. If you feel we could help please call us on 01778 342291 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Are You Taking The Biggest Risk of All?

According to research published by the Nationwide, almost half of parents in the UK are leaving their families at risk because they do not have any life cover in place and over three-quarters, have no protection against the impact of a critical illness. It is a sad fact that whilst most of us are quite happy to insure our car, our house, our travel arrangements – and even our mobile phones – to their full value, few of us take quite as much care over our health and loved ones.

The following questions may help you to start thinking about what is most important:
• Do you have young children or others who are dependent on you financially?
• Do you pay school fees or nursing home fees for others?
• Do you have debts (including a mortgage) which your beneficiaries could not manage, even if it were only for a short time?
• Do you have investments which might provide income if you were unable to work?
• Do you have any assets which could be sold if you were unable to work?

If the answer to the first Three questions is NO and the last Two is YES then you will probably be OK, if not then you need to consider the options for protecting your family.

If you need to talk to someone for impartial and independent advice call us today on 01778 342291

Monday, 13 February 2012

Loss of Child Benefits hides a more frightening truth.

The latest government spat over the reduction of child benefits for high earning families has created a massive amount of heat in the press, but whilst the argument highlights the need that many people have for that income, it masks the real story which is the worrying lack of planning that most families have in place for their finances.

Most people take good health for granted. But how would your family manage financially if you lost your income through accident or illness unexpectedly? A government source recently revealed that the average person in the UK has savings of only around £400 (BBC radio 4 12/1/2012). It's a sad fact of life that accidents, illness and death can happen to anyone, at any age. If the unexpected occurs, the last thing your family wants to worry about is money.

On average a family needs £455 each week to cover its costs meaning that most people would be in trouble very quickly if the worst happened yet very few ever address this possibility (source NFU mutual).

You can give yourself and your family financial peace of mind, with a range of protection plans but the choice can be bewildering and the cost can vary massively. The best way to cut through all the options is to seek a review with an Independent Financial Advisor who will help you get the right amount of cover for your needs, review your circumstances on a regular basis, and ensure that you and your family are protected if the worst happens. Call us today to book you review.

Cross Options & Shareholder Agreements Every Business should have them.

But most don’t ……

When you set up a business, there are a million and one things to do and inevitably some things get pushed to the back burner. Shareholders and Cross Option agreements are prime examples of the things we all should have, but never get round to.

I was sitting with an accountant the other day and asked one of my favourite questions – ‘What happens to the business if something happens to you?’ He turned and tapped the desk of his office manager and said ‘He gets it’ my second question threw him off balance ‘How will that happen because your shares will go to your wife?’

Cross Options

It may not be a comfortable thought, but at some point a business may be confronted by the critical illness or death of one of its founders. A cross option agreement gives surviving shareholders the right (but not the obligation) to require the deceased shareholder’s personal representatives to sell the shares to them. It also gives the personal representatives the right (but not the obligation) to require the surviving shareholders to buy the deceased shareholder’s shares. By combining these options in a single agreement each side has the option of ‘forcing’ a sale of the shares. Cross option agreements should also oblige each party to insure their lives under a life insurance policy for a value which reflects the value of their shares. The proceeds of the policy should be held on a trust for the other shareholders who will be the beneficiaries. These proceeds provide the remaining shareholders with the cash to buy the shares of the deceased shareholder.
The structure of the cross option is vitally important for taxation planning purposes.  Important tax reliefs for both inheritance tax and capital gains tax can be lost if the documentation is not properly structured.

Shareholders Agreements

These often get missed but are critical to the running of a business if a dispute ever arises A shareholder's agreement is a contract between the shareholders of a company in which they agree how the company will be run. They all agree that they will use their voting power in the company to ensure that the terms of the agreement are complied with for as long as they are all shareholders. A shareholders' agreement should always be considered when there are between two and twenty shareholders in a company.

Shareholder agreements vary widely, but the typical agreement is designed to protect all the parties against a majority using their voting power to the detriment of the others. Without such an agreement, a company is under the control of those who hold a majority of the votes at a directors' or shareholders' meeting. Majority decisions are all very well for day to day matters, but where something goes to the heart of running the company, most shareholders want to have their say or be able to block a major change. A shareholders' agreement will specify decisions which require unanimity.

If you need any advice on your cross option and shareholder agreements call us on 01778 341490.

The Real Value of Advice.

It sometimes amazes me when I talk to businessmen about their ‘planning’ just how polarised the views are. Broadly speaking they fall into four camps –

I don’t need advice I just need to get on with the day job – These are the people who are doing the same thing again and again, often making mistakes that they don’t learn from. These guys aren’t necessarily unsuccessful but the long term planning they need for sustained success is usually missing from their armoury.

Advice? Just an unnecessary expense – A bit of an old school attitude these days but these guys will have an accountant, bank manager, financial advisor, solicitor, and web designer, doing what they are told for a fee, never offering input or opinions just standing on the sidelines looking in.

I’m too small for anyone to be bothered with me – This is probably the attitude I see most often, people with successful businesses but who lack the confidence to ask for help and guidance. This is often because they are scared to ask a silly question or because they feel their business lacks clout. These are the people who could benefit most from trusting in good quality advice.

Advice – Yes please – I can’t know everything – Always a refreshing attitude, these businesses embrace the need for outside expertise and view their advisors as part of the team. This view is becoming more prevalent among businessmen who are battling their way through difficult times.

Hopefully you will recognise yourself in one of the camps, but whichever you fall into you should bear the following in mind.

Good advice should be an investment, it should make or save you more than it costs, if you can’t measure it then think twice.

Surround yourself with a circle of people you trust and get them to talk to each other. If you are unhappy with the thought of your bank manager talking to your financial advisor or your accountant to your lawyer then you have the wrong people working with you. Advice works best when everyone is pulling in the same direction.

If you take your time and choose wisely you and your advisors will successfully chart your way through these interesting times.   

Who Should Write a Will

Who should make a Will?

Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney are the cornerstones of Estate Planning so the short answer to the question is everyone. However there are certain people who have a greater need than others and if you fall into one of the following categories and don’t have a Will you should take action now.

Single Parents – Single parents are amongst the least likely to have a will in place, but arguably they are the people who need one most. The reason is simple, if you die who will look after your children? This is not something that can be left to chance and a Will is the document that allows you to appoint the guardians that you want for your children. Whilst appointing the children’s guardians you will also make other important decisions like who will look after their money, what age they will receive their inheritance and what can be released to them and their guardians to fund their lifestyle. These are all questions with consequences and it is best to talk them through with a specialist professional advisor before making any decisions.

Cohabiting Couples – Think your other half will get what’s yours if you die? Think again, whilst there is talk about changing the law around co-habitation, as we go to press co-habiting partners have no rights of inheritance unless there is a valid will which leaves what’s yours to your partner. When making your Will you might want to consider guaranteeing provision for you children (especially if they don’t all share the same parents) through the use of trusts or specific gifts. If you don’t take action your partner could end up in the courts trying to get back what could have been theirs if valid wills were in place. 

Second Marriage/ Relationship – A second marriage or relationship can be complicated, especially if someone else’s kids are involved. A carefully constructed will can make sure that everyone involved is provided for in a fair and equitable way. This is essential if you want to avoid a great deal of bad feeling and heartache after you have gone.

Over 55’s – As we get older a properly executed will becomes more and more powerful, depending on your circumstances your Will can help you save on inheritance tax, help to minimise your exposure to care fees, and together with Lasting Powers of Attorney ensure that control of your assets and choice over your lifestyle stay within the family.

Business Owners – Your Will can ensure the continuity of your business and is potentially the most important tax planning vehicle for your family at your death. My favourite question is ‘Who would run your business if you were not around?’ without a valid Will there is often no answer to the question, with a Will your business can continue to thrive long after you have departed.

The Will and Probate Services Difference – Will and Probate Services are not solicitors and as such are not traditional 9 to 5 office workers. We are run by a Fellow of the Institute of Paralegals who has specialises in Will Writing and Estate Planning. By having a narrow focus we can offer a huge range of services from simple advice to full probate and estate administration, but the three things that our clients like most about us are – Home Visits, Weekday Evening Visits and our Competitive Pricing.

Call us today 01778 341490 for a free initial conversation about your needs.