The Ilott case has certainly put the spotlight on the dramatic changes in legal planning over the last couple of years. How recently have you reviewed your own Will, Powers of Attorney and have you considered the use of (in particular) Property Trusts?
The Supreme Court has overturned a decision to increase the amount of money left to a woman whose estranged mother left her £500,000 to three animal charities. Prudential legal experts says financial advisers can play a key role preventing expensive will disputes by ensuring high net-worth clients are referred to solicitors specialising in estate planning.
Clare Moffat, pensions expert and qualified solicitor at Prudential, said:
“Rising property prices and other increases in the value of estates mean that legal disputes about inheritance are becoming more common. They can be hugely expensive and legal bills can sometimes be more than the value of estate. Advisers have a crucial role in preventing these disputes arising by working in conjunction with estate planning solicitors to help families discuss issues before it is too late.
“Although pension funds do not normally form part of the estate, there are some scenarios where they may and solicitors need to be aware of this. With many retirees transferring valuable defined benefit schemes into defined contribution schemes and transfer values of 40 times final benefit not being uncommon, the scope for dispute may increase. The fact is that many solicitors may not fully understand the implications of pension freedoms for estate planning or the way in which pension death benefits work. Developing strong links with financial advisers is an important step in solving this problem.
“One interesting quirk of the law is that although in England and Wales it is possible to disinherit your family it is not allowed under Scots law.”
The Head of Legal at The Probate Department said: “We work closely with many financial advisers in England and Wales, and our attitude to Legal Planning is similar to financial advice: it needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. We have seen seismic changes in tax and the law when it comes to estate planning – not least the Ilott case. Now we have the potential incredible increase in probate fees which will (or may) dramatically affect out advice to clients. Team work with financial advisers and clients is really important to get the right results, and clients need to understand that reviews are essential, which is why we have developed our economical Peace of Mind Service.
It is interesting to note that the legal costs incurred by the charities, in this case, were probably substantially in excess of the £50,000 Ilott finally kept. Even more interesting is that the judgement distinguished this case from others so that the case is not that useful as a precedent for the future.”