Residential property

Wills and inheritance tax planning

The thought of creating a Will can be daunting but it’s one of the most important documents that you’ll sign in your lifetime.

We help prepare a Will tailored to suit your specific needs to give you peace of mind that your affairs will be carried out as you’d hoped when you’re no longer around.

What happens if I have no Will?

If you die without leaving a Will, the law decides who should get what from your estate and it’s likely that your assets will be distributed differently from what you‘d expect or want.

A common misconception is that your spouse/partner will inherit everything however, parents/siblings will often have priority. Unmarried couples also have limited claims unless there’s a Will in place.

Why have a Will?

As well as clearly setting out how you’d like your assets to be divided, appointing Executors you trust to carry out your wishes and also saving in administration expenses, a Will can help you to:

  • protect young or vulnerable beneficiaries
  • appoint guardians to look after your children under 16
  • protect a family business
  • secure assets for the next generation
  • deal with complicated family matters
  • minimise potential Inheritance Tax liabilities

Inheritance Tax Planning

If the value of your estate exceeds £325,000 (otherwise known as the Nil Rate Band) then Inheritance Tax is due on the part of your estate that’s above that threshold, and normally at a rate of 40%. If the value of your estate is less than £325,000, or if you decide to leave everything to your spouse or a charity for example, then you’ll be exempt from paying Inheritance Tax. If you have survived a spouse, you may also be able to benefit for any unused portion of their Nil Rate Band.

A new Inheritance Tax allowance was introduced on 6th April 2017 known as the “Residence Nil Rate Band”. This works under certain circumstances and helps to cover some or all of the value of your house provided that it’s inherited by qualifying beneficiaries. It’s important to have a correctly drafted Will to ensure this relief isn’t lost.

Contact us if you need help with Inheritance Tax Planning.

Rights of relatives and cohabitants on death

In Scotland, it’s very difficult to prevent your spouse or children from inheriting something, even if you have a valid Will in place. Both spouses and children have “Legal Rights” to make a claim on your “moveable” estate. This includes things like money, shares, vehicles, jewellery etc but normally excludes land and buildings. This is very different from the position in England.

Legal Rights don’t include cohabitants (couples living together but who aren’t legally married or in a Civil Partnership) as they have limited rights to claim on a deceased partner’s estate.

It’s therefore important to seek professional advice when creating a Will or if you wish to disinherit a close relation - we can guide you through your options and the Executry process.

Digital Assets

An area that’s often overlooked when creating a Will is what should happen to your digital assets?

Digital Assets can include:

  • personal photo collections
  • online only bank accounts
  • digital downloads (music and e-books)
  • registered domain names/email accounts
  • social media accounts

It’s important to think about what digital assets you’d like to pass on, who should receive access, and whether your social media accounts should be memorialised or simply deleted.

When discussing your Will, we can help in planning the succession to your digital estate. We’ll also help you consider how these assets will be accessed during your lifetime, should you lose capacity to manage them yourself.

International Estates

Succession planning for individuals and families with connections abroad can be complicated. Many of the families we advise have assets in other countries; these can include off-shore bank accounts or holiday homes. We also help in outlining the different succession and tax laws that should be considered in each relevant country as part of your planning.

We regularly advise on the administration of cross-border estates. We can help you plan during your lifetime, and if necessary liaise with foreign advisors on your behalf, to ensure that your estate can be administered smoothly.

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