Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

Making a will
Ensuring that your family members are taken care of after your death by having a valid will may be one of the most significant things you ever do. Although different people will have different reasons for making a will, the end result is the same; your loved ones are looked after and things are made as simple as possible for them after you pass away.  

One in three people in the UK do not have a will and half of all people over the age of 45 have not made a will. Many people put off making a Will as they believe they have nothing to leave but we all accumulate possessions during our lifetime (even if they are only of sentimental value). We also all have to decide whether to be buried or cremated after our death.

Not having a will adds a burden on your loved ones at a very distressing time for them, particularly if you have not made your funeral wishes known. It can also cause unnecessary delay and expense in administering your wishes after your death.

How much does it cost to make a will?

We offer the following fixed fees for preparing standard wills:

  • £150.00 plus VAT for a single will
  • £250.00 plus VAT for mirror wills 

Reviewing your will
If you have already made a will we recommend that you review it regularly to ensure it meets your current circumstances. If you have a homemade will or have any doubts over whether your existing will meets your current wishes we are happy to review the will for you free of charge. It is important to remember that having a badly drafted will or one that has been completed without the relevant formalities being adhered to could leave you in the same situation as if you had not made a will at all.

Garden House Solicitors in HertfordThere are certain events and circumstances that can affect the terms of your will. For example, if after signing your will you get married, that will is revoked (unless the Will was made in contemplation of that marriage). Other circumstances include:

  • birth of new children or grandchildren;
  • start of a new relationship;
  • divorce or separation;
  • purchase of a new property (either in this country or abroad); and
  • any money you win or inherit. 
If any of your circumstances have changed please contact our team on 01992 422128 and we will be happy to arrange a free will review. 

Storage of your will
We offer to store your original will free of charge for your lifetime, and provide you with a certified copy for your records. This avoids the possibility of the original document getting lost or destroyed. 

We also recommend that all wills are with registered with Certainty, the National Will Register. When we write a will for you, registration is included as part of our service and doesn't cost you any extra. 

If you have any questions, contact our Private Client team on 01992 422128 or to arrange a free will review.  

Jointly owned property

If you own a property with another person you may wish to consider the way in which you own that property. When you first purchase a property with someone, you are asked if you wish to own it as 'joint tenants' or 'tenants in common'.

Joint tenants means that you both own the whole house and that if one of you was to pass away the property automatically passes to the surviving owner regardless of what the person's will may say. If you own the property as tenants in common it means that you each own a share or percentage of the property and can say in your will what should happen to your share when you pass away.

If you contribute different amounts of money towards the purchase then it is a good idea to choose 'tenants in common' and to also prepare a declaration of trust. This is a document that sets out the details of your ownership, and the agreements between you about how the proceeds should be divided if the property is eventually sold. It can also set out who is responsible for outgoings (such as utility bills, mortgage payments and repairs and maintenance) and set out a procedure to be followed if one person wishes to sell. 

If you have a declaration of trust that needs reviewing or amending, or if you think that it may be appropriate for your circumstances please call our Private Client team on 01992 422128.

Discretionary trusts

There are two ways to set up a discretionary trust: i) in your lifetime and ii) in your will.

A trust generally is any arrangement whereby selected assets are transferred to trustees of your choosing who have a responsibility to look after and manage the assets for the benefit of the named beneficiaries. A discretionary trust is a type of trust where the trustees are given discretion over the trust fund.

Typically, whilst you would choose the class of beneficiaries eligible to benefit from the fund, your trustees would have complete discretion over which beneficiaries get paid what and when, and they would have the power to decide how to use and invest the trust assets in the interests of the beneficiaries.

If you decide to set up a discretionary trust, we would recommend that you prepare a 'letter of wishes' addressed to the trustees setting out how you would like them to exercise their discretion (we would prepare this on your behalf). Although not legally binding, your trustees would be able to take this into account when exercising their discretion.

Reasons for setting up a discretionary trust might include:
  • Flexibility to enable your trustees to pay different amounts of income and/or capital to different beneficiaries. This can be useful if the future needs of beneficiaries are not known e.g. differing school fees for grandchildren.
  • If one or more beneficiaries are not capable of looking after money for themselves e.g. a child or adult beneficiary with severe learning disabilities.
  • Protecting selected assets from claims and creditors. If any beneficiaries are subject to proceedings, including divorce and bankruptcy, a discretionary trust will usually offer protection from third parties.
  • If any beneficiaries are in receipt of means tested benefits, a discretionary trust will enable your trustees to pay money to them as and when required in such a way that the arrangement will not affect the beneficiary’s entitlement to benefits. This is because no beneficiary would have an absolute interest in the trust fund.
  • Ensuring that the trust fund is kept outside your beneficiaries’ estates for inheritance tax purposes so that when a beneficiary dies, the trust fund is not subject to any inheritance tax which may be due on their estate.
  • Keeping the trust assets within the family and future generations.
Please note that discretionary trusts are required to pay tax on income and capital gains like individuals. There may also be small inheritance tax charges throughout the lifetime of the trust, namely anniversary charges which arise once every 10 years and exit charges payable on distributions made to beneficiaries.
Please note that if you decided to set up a discretionary trust in your lifetime, there may be an immediate inheritance tax charge depending on the amount placed into trust.

If you have any further questions in relation to discretionary trusts, please contact the Private Client team on 01992 422 128 and we will be happy to assist with any queries you may have.