Tag Archives: Executors

Dying and Bereavement

26 Oct


Dying and bereavement


When a family member is terminally ill, everyone deals with that information in different ways, that includes the person themselves.  The Kubler-Ross model has 5 stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  These stages can work for all parties involved.


Family members can therefore choose to be very involved or not at all and this difference of grieving process has an impact on family relations, at an already difficult time.


Some people are afraid of dying and don’t want to do it alone, they will hang onto life for as long as they can.  Others accept it and at the end willingly go there, rather than cling to life.  Some terminally ill people don’t want their family to witness their death, they consider it personal.  So for family’s who are on a 24 hour vigil, the 5 minutes in which they leave the bedside to have a comfort break will be the 5 minutes that person chooses to pass away.  Others want their family there, will white knuckle the hands of a loved one, rather than let go and feel alone.  Either situation has its emotional impact on all parties.


Some family members will communicate with the others that turn up and let them know that if there is anything they can do to help, they will, yet when asked, are always busy with something more important.  They just can’t deal with facing the situation.


Some family members want to be involved with everything, do as much as they can, which might be more than is required and might be an invasion of the privacy of the dying person.


So what is the answer?  There is no “one” answer and there is no “right” answer.  Everyone deals with death and grief in their own way.  It is important to remember that, however anyone else deals with it, they might not understand how you do and vice versa.  So just give everyone a bit of slack.


When in doubt, imagine yourself in a week, a year and a decade and do the thing that means that you won’t have regrets, whatever that is.  And whatever you choose, know that you are not the only person in the world that has felt that, grief is universal, even if you feel alone in the moment.


Wealth Preservation Schemes – Part 2

2 Oct

shutterstock_118081339 (46) - Copy

Wealth preservation schemes – Part 2


Following on from my earlier blog about Wealth perseveration schemes.   So far I’ve covered the points that they are challengeable, they may not save tax overall and may cost more, they may not save fees overall and they may not resolve a misdirection of assets and may even create one.


The other point that the leaflet I have been given raised was the Court will take over your affairs if you lose capacity.  Firstly the best thing to do is create Lasting Powers of Attorney, so that you can choose who manages your affairs if you are unlucky enough to lose capacity.  If you don’t then your loved ones can apply to the Court of Protection to appoint someone to manage your affairs.  So to be clear, it is not the Court taking over, they simply retain oversight of someone else managing your affairs.  Their role is to ensure your affairs are managed properly and in your best interests and that your money is used for you and not anyone else whilst you are alive, so that you estate can ultimately be dealt with in accordance with the wishes expressed in your Will.  The Court of Protection is not some malicious body dealing with your affairs, nor is it draconian in the orders that they make.


So in conclusion, will this scheme save probate, yes might well do, if you transfer enough assets into it, but it won’t save money overall.  Will it avoid Inheritance Tax, no, the Trust is taxable and subject to IHT.  Will it protect your bloodline, it probably will ensure that your bloodline inherit your estate, but what if you want someone who isn’t your blood line to inherit?  And what if someone new comes into your life?  Does it stop claims against your estate?  It can certainly make them harder, but whilst the Court cannot compel Trustees to exercise their discretion, the Court can make orders on the basis that their expectation is that they will exercise their discretion in a certain way.


Can the scheme protect from relationship failure, it can’t prevent the relationship failure, but it can put assets out the of reach of the family Court in some circumstances, so yes, it might well be able to do this in some circumstances.  It will protect disabled beneficiaries, yes it probably can do that, but if you do have a disabled beneficiary, then you should take specialist advice about protecting them.  There are some tax reliefs available for disabled beneficiaries.   It avoids Court of Protection control, yes it probably does, but Court of Protection control is nothing to worry about and depending on who the Trustees of the Trust are, Court of Protection control may be preferable.


Does it protect your estate from bankruptcy, it depends, if you gift your assets into the Trust and live for more than 5 years, those assets are no longer available if you become bankrupt, but any assets outside of the Trust are potentially available to the Trustee in bankruptcy.  But if you hadn’t given your assets away into Trust, then you’d probably never go bankrupt anyway, so whilst it will protect them after 5 years, the point is a bit of a red herring.


Does it protect your estate against care home fees?  It might, sometimes these schemes can work, and sometimes they are challenged, but not always.  It does depend on the circumstances and you would benefit from good advice.


Also, it doesn’t make cappuccino, nor does it cure old age, dementia or cancer!!


One final word, take good balanced advice if you are thinking of one of these schemes, understand the negatives as well as the positives, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Wealth preservation schemes – Part 1

25 Sep

shutterstock_78395899 (38) - Copy

Wealth preservation schemes – Part 1


I’ve just been handed a leaflet about this fantastic scheme to preserve your wealth against the threat of dreaded care home fees.  This totally amazing scheme will also save you thousands in probate fees, save taxes and avoid any misdirection of assets – I’m surprised it doesn’t make cappuccino as well!!  It also says that the Court will take control of your assets if you lose capacity.


So to give a balanced view of these kinds of schemes, I’d like to say the following:  They might work, but they might not – there is no guarantee.  One of the important things to understand about these schemes is that they are potentially challengeable and depending on the sales tactics of the company selling them, they can be even more challengeable.  I have heard on the grapevine of a Local Authority that challenges every single scheme created by a certain company, as they are aware of the sales tactics used and consider every single one to be a potential deprivation of assets.


If you move your assets into a Trust, which is what these schemes are, then depending on when you go into care in relation to the date of the transfer of assets, the Trust can be undone.  So if you need Local Authority financial support within 5 years, the Local Authority can apply for a bankruptcy order to get the Trustee in bankruptcy to undo the transaction, not a nice thing to happen!  Even after 5 years, the Local Authority can still financially assess you as though you own it (although after that amount of time they might not).


It might save Inheritance Tax, but you would have to live for 7 years after the date of the transfer of assets, otherwise the IHT is still.  Even if you do live for 7 years, the Trust is taxable in its own right, so you will be paying tax and if you have transferred your house into a discretionary Trust and have not been granted an interest, then you could be paying tax on something that was exempt from tax.  The message is that there is potentially no huge saving on tax, in a good scenario there might be a saving, in a bad one, there could be more tax to pay!


Saving thousands in Probate fees.  The cost of getting the Grant of Probate is £215 if you are applying privately or £155 if you apply via a solicitor, so not thousands then!!  If you choose to appoint a solicitor to assist with the administration of the estate, then the fees will vary depending on the size and complexity of the estate and yes, they could be thousands.  But it will cost thousands of pounds to create this trust, so no overall net saving and it will cost hundreds or even thousands to administer the trust during its lifetime.  So yes, there is are no fees on death, which is at a time when you no longer need the money, but there are fees during lifetime, when you might need it.  This is a total red herring and hides what is really going on.


How about misdirection of assets?  For that to happen, then there will need to be no planning or poor planning, as in a Will you can direct exactly who you want to have your assets after death.  A Will also gives you options to change your mind as life and circumstances change.  Once assets are in a Trust, then they belong to all the various named beneficiaries, so what if someone new comes into your life and you want to include them?  Unless there is a clause that says that you can add a new beneficiary into the Trust, then you can’t benefit them, so the Trust may create a misdirection of assets. It might work in some circumstances, so if your surviving spouse remarries, you may not want their new spouse to benefit and you probably want to ensure that the assets ultimately return to your children and this could work well, but there are issues with this.  Good Will planning is essential and review the Will to ensure it is still relevant.

Dementia – Part 3

5 Sep

Dementia – Part 3

Coming back to an earlier question of what is dementia, it is a loss of cognitive ability and function, it is a deterioration for an earlier presentation and in the early stages the individual may not know.

It is likely to be a huge problem for the state going forward and there are huge sums of money being spent on research and how to make the management of the disease easier as the costs on the state of dementia are enormous.  There is the cost of care of the person with dementia, but there is also the loss of income of the carer to the state, as sometimes people with high skill sets will give up work to care for a loved on with dementia.

I’ve been told by clients with dementia that in the early stages it is like having a brain full of fog, that somehow they know the answer is there, but just cannot quite get to it.  They know that they don’t know and recognise their loss.  So they are angry and very upset.  Within a family, even a supportive family, they feel alone, as only they have it.  It is also very, very frightening, as most people have heard horror stories about someone with dementia and they don’t want to become that “them”.

What I see, in very simple terms, is two outcomes, either with dementia the person becomes “the essence” of themselves or they change completely and become an entirely different person.

When they become the essence of themselves, it is as though any social etiquette that they retained to hold back their personality is lost and they remain exactly as they were, just more so.  If they were always a sweetie, they are sweeter than ever and if they were always critical or negative, their criticism is magnified.

The change is the hard one for families to cope with, as they really do lose the person that they knew and grieve the loss before that person has passed away.  It is especially hard when this change is accompanied by bizarre behaviour that is unlike what they did before.  The bizarre behaviour is commonly aggression, but can include neurosis or hyper sexuality.  I’ve had lots of stories of meek and mild individuals having shocking language that their families never knew that they knew!

So I still don’t know what it is like to have dementia or to hands on care for someone with dementia, but I’ve supported individuals and families that do.  It is a horrible disease and heartbreaking to see what it does to individuals and their families. And with the work that I do, I will continue to have enormous admiration for those that have the condition and deal with it with enormous grace and for the families who provide unflinching support for a loved one in heart wrenching circumstances.

Talking about death

17 May

Talking about death

We live in a very death phobic society. We hear about life saving medical revolutions, but they are not life saving, they are death postponing and there is a big difference.

Years ago, when someone died, they would be laid out for mourners to come and pay their respects, but these days we don’t do that any more, it has been made much more clinical. Death is no longer a part of life within society.

If you asked most people how they want to die, if you can get them to talk about it, they will usually say in bed at home (or in their 80’s in bed with their 8th spouse, who is in their late 20s!!). That’s not where most people die.

We are all going to die. We can use face creams and surgery to hold back time, we can exercise and eat well, but nothing can hold back death forever.

It is therefore worthwhile going through the uncomfortable conversation with those around you about what you want to happen. It is a difficult conversation as children often don’t want to discuss it, as they don’t want to think about the death of their parent.

I often describe a Will or Power of Attorney as a plan. Talking about death and planning really is a plan in the commonly understood sense. Death is always devastating to those left behind. Even if the survivors didn’t get on well, it ends the nature of the relationship; it ends the possibility of a change in the nature of your relationship. In one sense the relationship never ends, whilst there are those left who remember the deceased, but is has changed forever.

For those left behind, the memories that they have of the death of a loved one can be key. It is important that they feel that they have achieved for the deceased the best possible death, where everything has been done and everything has been said that could have been and should have been.

The survivors will have a good feeling and it will help in the process of grieving, but it all starts with a conversation.

What to do when someone dies – Part 2

9 May

What to do when someone dies – part 2

I’ve covered in the earlier blog the functional issues of dealing with the death of someone. But I’m going to get “touchy feely” and I’m unashamed about it, it is important to understand.

Dealing with the functional issues is only part of the process, those left behind have to deal with the emotional consequences of a death of someone close to them.

It is important that the survivors acknowledge the impact that the death has had on them as it can create greater problems for them, as it is a significant stress factor that will magnify any other issues they may be going through.

To the bereaved grieve; it is not a sign of weakness. They need to process the emotions that a death to someone close brings up. Those around the bereaved will need extra patience and forgiveness, as will the bereaved themselves.

The bereaved should not rush to make enormous changes in their lives; they should take time to consider things carefully.

It often takes a whole year to get over the worst of the grief; it is not something done in a couple of weeks. We almost all have birthdays and Christmas as times of significance, but there are other key anniversaries that are important, so to a spouse, their wedding anniversary or the anniversary of their first kiss. To an outsider it may seem less important, but to the bereaved they are huge emotional issues to get through on your own, without the person who has passed away.

Everyone grieves in a different way to everyone else, it is why that couples who lose a child often end up separated, as they struggle to cope with the way that the other one grieves.

Like the tarot card, death can be a change and a new beginning, but no-one should underestimate how hard the new beginning is to achieve. Forgiveness in all its manifestations is key.

What to do when someone dies?

2 May

What to do when someone dies?

The first thing to sort out is registering the death with the Registrar and sorting out the funeral. The deceased will have an estate that needs to be dealt with, but that can happen later.

A doctor needs to certify the death and if there is to be a funeral, there needs to be 2 doctors who certify the death if the body is to be cremated, this is post Harold Shipman, if the body is cremated, there can be no later investigation into the circumstances of the death. The purpose of the 2 doctors is to confirm that there are no unusual or suspicious circumstances.

Registration of the death is essential, as the death certificates are required. On occasions you may only be issued with fact of death certificates, as there needs to be a Coroner’s inquest into the cause/s of death. These Coroner’s death certificates are usually fine to deal with the administration of the estate in respect of most things. For example the banks generally need to know that someone is no longer alive in order to ultimately have their bank account closed. However things that have an insurance element to them will need to know how they died and its causes, as this will make a difference as to whether the insurance element of the asset can pay out or not.

There is almost always a Coroner’s inquest when there has been a death due to industrial injury or in suspicious circumstances. An industrial injury can be something that happened years ago, as well as something that happened whilst at work. The Coroner will work with the Police and the Health & Safety Executive.

Coroner’s inquests are a complex area of law and specialist advice may be needed if there is an issue that arises in respect of a Coroner’s inquest.

Assuming that there is no Coroner’s inquest, and then the Registrar will register the death. They also now have a system that informs various aspects of the state or big organisations. So if a retired teacher has passed away, the Registrar can also inform the DWP (to stop their pension) and the Teacher’s pension Trustees. The same is true for retired armed forces personnel; their pension organisation is advised of the death.

The Registrar will take the doctors certificates and provide the necessary paperwork for the funeral to proceed and the death certificates to allow the administration of the estate to be sorted out in due course.

Arranging the funeral is generally straightforward, as the Funeral Directors will talk through the process and arrange the booking of the church or crematorium. It is then a question of trying to ensure that the format of the funeral is in keeping with the wishes of the deceased. Anything the Will says about the funeral is an expression of wishes and is not binding, but hopefully will be adhered to.

I’m going to say a brief word about body or organ donation. If it is for individual organs, then these will be resolved by the health authorities, who will sort out the transplant. It can be a comfort to the surviving family members to know that the organs of a loved one can help another or many others in some cases. For some families, they want their family member to remain complete and the choice is very personal. On occasions, people donate their whole body to science and may have a specific science or medical school in mind. The Executors will have to check with the school the process for donation.