person holding multi colored heart shaped ornament

Will Trusts – how to protect a disabled or vulnerable person in a Will

Do you have someone in your family who you consider to be vulnerable? Someone who, for various reasons, may struggle to manage a large sum of money. Is it your son or daughter who may be physically disabled, or who has Downs Syndrome, ADHD, Autism or Aspergers or another illness which may affect mental capacity?

Do you worry about how you could safely leave them money after you are gone? You know they could benefit from an inheritance, and maybe you also want to treat all your children the same, but how would they cope with the sudden inheritance of a large sum of money – and importantly, how would that affect the benefits they receive?

Did you realise that you could leave money in Trust for them, to be looked after by people you appoint in your Will – people you would trust to look after the money, to invest it wisely and to make sure it is advanced to your son or daughter as they see fit?

The money wouldn’t belong to the disabled or vulnerable person, so it wouldn’t affect their means-tested benefits and reassuringly, their generous nature couldn’t be taken advantage of when you wouldn’t be there to protect them.

The money would be available to them for all sorts of things – all the things you would have wanted them to have and enjoy. The Trustees could agree to money being spent on lovely holidays, nice clothes or stylish/practical furniture etc and things that would never be afforded out of the benefits they receive; but that will make their lives easier and more enjoyable.

A Will Trust of this type is treated differently to most Trusts when it comes to tax etc. There are concessions which broadly mean that for tax purposes the assets are treated as belonging to the beneficiary/s of the Trust, so the tax treatment is much more favourable.

If you’d like more information about how you could use a Trust of this type to protect an inheritance for someone in your family (it will probably cost a lot less than you think), please do contact us on 01438 746977 or

bank notes

How charitable gifts in a Will can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that has to be paid

There are many reasons why the making of a Will is delayed, and it can feel like a daunting
prospect even thinking about it, but the fact is that a Will is the only way to ensure your
wishes are honoured after your death. 

There are a lot of benefits to writing a Will, but one you may not be aware of is that a Will
can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that has to be paid on your estate.

As a general rule, anyone who owns a property which will ultimately be left to children and
or stepchildren/grandchildren (as part of the ‘pot’), can leave £500,000 tax free.

In the case of a married couple, in most cases where assets pass to the surviving spouse on
first death, the allowance of the first to die can be used on second passing – so a married
couple (or those in a civil partnership) can leave £1million tax free (this tax-free allowance
would be less where the total estate is over £2million). Inheritance Tax is paid at 40% on
anything over the tax-free threshold.

Where the estate is likely to be over the Inheritance tax threshold it can be a good idea to
make gifts to charity in your Will. This can reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that will be
paid when you are gone.

Gifts to charity are exempt from Inheritance Tax – so these sums get taken off the value of
the estate before calculating how much Inheritance Tax is due to be paid.

And…did you know that if you donate at least 10% of your estate to charity, Inheritance Tax
is paid at 36% instead of at 40% on anything over the Inheritance Tax threshold?

Once you have provided for your loved ones, you can use your Will to donate money to
causes that are close to your heart. Your generosity can live on through you if you leave a
gift to charity, and it can also mean that less Inheritance Tax has to be paid!

For more information about this, or about making a Will in general, contact us today – Tel: 01438 746977 or email

That ‘7- year’ thing – what does it actually mean?

Most people have vaguely heard that if you make large gifts, you then need to live 7 years. Sometimes that is the full extent of the understanding about this – and sometimes people know a little more; sometimes they understand it fully and sometimes they have a confused understanding.

Luckily, it is relatively easy to clarify what the ‘7-year rule’ is all about and when you need to
worry about it.

The good news is that if it is unlikely there will be Inheritance Tax to pay when you die then the 7-year rule is irrelevant to you. This is the starting point when considering gifting money and assets. Do what you like from an Inheritance Tax angle as there would never be an issue with this, and therefore it doesn’t matter how long you live after making large gifts.

There can be things to think about from another angle but more about that later…

When Inheritance Tax may be due

As a very simple summary – every individual can currently leave £325,000 tax free. If you own a property and will ultimately be leaving it to children, stepchildren or grandchildren there is an additional £175,000 allowance (Residence Nil Rate Band). Meaning that parents who own a property can usually leave £500,000 tax free (anything above that level is taxed at 40%).

If you are married, Inheritance Tax often doesn’t need to be worried about when the first one in a couple passes away; something called ‘spousal exemption’ applies to anything passing to the survivor, and then when the second one in the couple dies as well, they can use the Inheritance Tax allowance of the first to die – so as a general rule a couple can leave £1million of joint assets without Inheritance Tax having to be paid.

The 7-year rule where Inheritance Tax is likely to be due

This is where it gets a bit more complicated; understandably people who have a lot of assets often want to avoid their family ending up with large Inheritance Tax bills and losing a lot of money to the government. They also want to see their family benefitting from, and enjoying gifts, so they want to make gifts while they are still there to witness that enjoyment. Small gifts are always allowable from an Inheritance Tax angle but for gifts above the thresholds set out in the gifting legislation, the 7 -year rule will apply to those gifts.

Basically, the theory behind the 7-year rule, is that if you live for 7 years after you’ve given assets/money away then the asset/money will no longer form part of your estate when calculating if Inheritance Tax is due when you die. Instead, it is treated as belonging to the person you made the gift to.

What happens in the intervening period from gifting to the date when 7 years has passed?

You can check out the full details in our factsheet. To summarise, however, the gift is treated as belonging 100% to the person who has made it until 3 years has passed. After that, in years 4 to 7 the gift is increasingly treated as belonging to the person who it has been gifted to, until in year 7 it is 100% owned by the person who has received it and 0% owned by the person who has made the gift.

Apart from Inheritance Tax what else needs to be considered?

As mentioned above – if there is probably no Inheritance Tax to worry about you might think you can just give as much away as you like. After all, as we get older it’s harder to spend money on things like holidays, and if you see family members struggling you might want to help them.

So, you can do what you like with your assets and money from an Inheritance Tax angle BUT it is not the only consideration. If, as time goes on care is needed, either at home or in a residential home, a local authority will assess your assets when deciding how much you need to contribute towards care costs. If you have given a lot of assets and money away prior to needing care, it can be deemed to be a ‘Deliberate Deprivation of Assets’.

There is a common misconception that the 7-year rule applies in this situation BUT this isn’t true. A local authority won’t care if something was gifted one year ago or twenty years ago. If they think it can be treated as you ‘deliberately depriving yourself’ of assets to avoid care fees, whenever you may have gifted the asset/money, they can try to get the money or asset back from the person/people they were given to.


It’s a bit of a fine line between legitimately giving assets away where there is likely to be Inheritance Tax to worry about (bearing in mind the 7-year rule), and also making sure it wouldn’t be seen as a ‘Deliberate Deprivation of Assets’.

Where there are no Inheritance Tax implications, you can forget about the 7-year rule completely BUT ‘Deliberate Deprivation of Assets’ is still something to consider.

If you’d like any more information about how gifts you are considering making will affect your Inheritance Tax position, please do get in touch.

man and woman sitting on the chair

What we can do for you after the loss of a family member… Help and support when you
need it most…

When someone passes away it is always an extremely difficult and emotional time. Dealing with the obvious grief is one thing, but couple that with dealing with the practicalities of things like:

  • Closing bank accounts
  • Notifying companies
  • Selling property
  • Applying for ‘Probate’ where it is needed and
  • Working out whether Inheritance tax is due and if it is due, how it can be paid

…and it can make life ridiculously hard and stressful for those left behind, at a time when they really don’t feel up to coping with that stress.

That is where we step in and offer free advice to assist with executor duties and finalising estates. With over 12 years of practical experience in dealing with the estates of people who have died, we are well equipped to help.

We get asked all sorts of questions; we are asked to assist in all sorts of ways and people come to us through various routes:

  1. By recommendation – lovely people we have previously helped recommend us to help family and friends.
  2. By search – local people will see our website when searching. They’ll see all our 5* Google reviews and they’ll like the look of the website and the services we offer – all with a very personal approach.
  3. Existing clients or the family of clients – this is always a difficult situation as we know the person who has passed away, or we know the family who have lost someone close. We offer a sympathetic, practical ear (sometimes accompanied by a few tears where the family can’t help but get upset while we are helping them).

Some people we have helped in recent months:

  • A lovely lady from Letchworth who lost her father a while ago. His affairs were complicated, and he had multiple shareholdings, amongst other assets which meant that Inheritance Tax needed to be paid. She had tried her hardest to deal with everything, but she was struggling with the sheer volume of aspects that needed to be sorted out. We took all the stress away from her by gathering information and documents together and, continuing the process on her behalf.
  • A Stevenage man in his 40s who lost his partner last year. We drafted his partner’s Will while he was in hospital, and he later passed away in a local care home. Probate is needed as there is a life insurance policy that wasn’t nominated to be received by the spouse, so we are helping with the Probate application.
  • Another Stevenage man who has recently lost his father and came to us after a Google search for companies who could help with administering an estate. There is a Will, and he is named as executor. There is a house to sell, so Probate is needed, and the man needed help with obtaining this. We are assisting him with this so he will end up with the Grant of Probate in his name so that he will have the right to sell the house etc. There are complications with the Will, due to people passing away before they inherited. This case has highlighted the dangers of making a Will and then not reviewing as time goes on. In this case the Will was made 30 years ago!
  • A Stevenage lady who sadly lost her elderly Mum recently and was confused about what she needed to do as executor. Was there Inheritance Tax to worry about? how soon could the house go on the market? what was the process with Probate? We answered all her questions and supported her to deal with matters herself. We never charge for advice unless we end up taking on any work for our clients.
  • We have got to know a lovely couple in their 80s over the last few years – helping them with new Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and Pre-paid Funeral Plans. It was an incredibly sad day when Mrs H called to tell us that her husband had passed away in June. Since then, we’ve held a meeting at their home in Hitchin to go through everything and to offer advice. Mrs H has decided that she would like our assistance with applying for Probate, so we are currently dealing with this for her.

All the people we have helped will hopefully say that we have offered a sensitive, personal service at a time when they really needed it. Always there at the end of the phone (returning calls the same day wherever possible), always responsive with emails (usually responding within 24 hours) and always offering a listening ear and practical advice.

It is our pleasure and privilege to be able to support people in this way after the loss of a loved one and there is a lot of useful information on our website.

Contact us by email or call us on 01438 746977.

a person signing contract documents

What are Lasting Powers of Attorney and why you should make them sooner rather than later…

If you’ve never heard of a Lasting Power of Attorney (or LPA), you’re not alone. Or you may be familiar with the term, but have decided it’s not relevant to you. Few of us want to think about what might happen if we lost our mental capacity, but the statistics of people living with dementia in the UK are sobering (the Alzheimer’s Society predict over one million people by 2025)! An LPA is a legal tool which means you can appoint someone you trust to help you make decisions about your finances when you are no longer able to do so. Most LPAs are used in this way, by people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, but they may be needed sooner if you were suddenly involved in an accident or suffered a stroke.

An LPA must be made when you are fit and well

Once mental capacity has been lost, it’s too late and then it’s up to a relative to apply to act on your behalf – this involves a lengthy, often costly court process. The creation of an LPA is as important as creating your Will and without these legal tools in place, you and your family may be left in a very vulnerable situation.

Lasting Power of Attorney for Finance & Property

Everyone should make a Finance & Property LPA when they are young to act almost as an insurance policy. But don’t be frightened that setting up an LPA equals losing financial control. It may never be needed, or it may only be needed many years later. Everyone should have the reassurance of knowing that whatever happens, their family will be able to help pay their bills or access money for their care.

Lasting Power of Attorney for Health & Welfare

As well as an LPA for financial and property related matters, there is also an LPA document which covers your health and welfare. You can use a Health & Welfare LPA to appoint people you would trust to speak to medical professionals on your behalf if you were too ill to do that yourself. Without an LPA in place medical practitioners do not have to listen to family members!

Two quite different LPAs – and both could be needed if you became unwell. You will find more information about these particularly important documents here. We can take the stress away from making LPAs by completing the paperwork on your behalf.

For a no obligation chat please do get in touch using the form below:



New Year – New You?!?

Isn’t that a phrase you hear a lot at this time of year!

Many people’s first reaction when they hear it is guilt. Oh dear, I must make an effort to…lose weight, get fitter, spend less time on social media etc etc.

Is there always a little guilty feeling at the back of your mind about being better organised and having your affairs in order? If something was to happen to you, would your family know enough about your affairs to deal with matters that need to be sorted out? We all have so many things to think about these days – utilities / insurance / mortgage / mobile phone contracts / broadband / TV subscriptions etc etc and that’s without even mentioning bank accounts, loans and credit cards.

Do you love a list? Some people definitely do; but even those people maybe haven’t made a list that would help family members if they were in a situation where they couldn’t ask you about all the companies you have accounts with.

If you’d like a document you can print and use for that purpose, please go to and you’ll find our ‘Useful information about me’ sheet listed. Maybe print it off and start filling it in so that your family would at least have a starting point…

That could of course just be the start of getting your affairs in order; what about your Will – have you got one, do you know where it is? Do your executors know where it is? Is it up to date?

Have you made your Lasting Powers of Attorney yet? We should all make these while we are completely well – just in case they are needed in the future. If you’re not sure what the documents are all about you should look into it so you understand how useful they could be (to you and your family)! You can make one document to cover finance and property issues, and one to cover health related matters, but don’t leave it until it is too late as it would cause major problems for family members if you hadn’t appointed them to help you while you were well enough to do so.

You will find information about these particularly important issues on our website.

If you need our help with anything please do get in touch – email or call 01438 746977.

crop man playing with dog on street

Animals are important too…

There are lots of ads on TV and in the press telling us how we can make sure pets are looked after if we weren’t there, or were no longer well enough, to look after them.

Did you know that you can make provision for pets in your Will as well?

You can set out who you’d want to look after pets (possibly leaving the person you’ve chosen some money as well) to pay for food, vet’s bills etc.

You can say if you think an organisation like Cat’s Protection, Dog’s Trust or the RSPCA would be the best way to make sure your pets are taken care of re-homed.

You can leave a separate letter of wishes to accompany your Will, if you think the person you’ve chosen to care for your pets would like some tips and ideas about the best way to do that.

If making sure your pets would be ok is important to you, please get in touch to see how we can prepare a Will for you which would give you peace of mind that your wishes would be followed.

a couple filing a divorce

What are your choices if you are appointed as an Executor of a Will?

Ideally it should not come as a surprise if someone dies and you are notified that you have been appointed as Executor of their Will. Although, by law, you do not need Executors to agree to act in advance it is always a good idea to try to forewarn them, and to make sure they would be happy to take on the role. We also recommend that our Will clients advise those they wish to appoint as Executors where the Will and other important documents can be found. This will make it so much easier for them to act.

In some cases, very simple estates do not require Grant of Probate, for example where only small amounts of money are involved, or on the death of a spouse if all assets are in joint names. If ‘Probate’ is needed this means completing HMRC forms and making an application to the Probate Registry.

If you are appointed as Executor and you find that Probate is needed, there are various options open to you. The main three options are –

1. To get professional help with acting as an Executor from a solicitor or probate firm. They will deal with everything on your behalf and submit the relevant forms to the Probate Registry and HMRC. Once Probate is obtained, they will also make sure assets are gathered in, property is sold and any debts are paid, before distributing the estate in accordance with the Will (or the Law of Intestacy where there wasn’t a Will). The fees incurred should be a paid out of the estate, provided sufficient funds are held. This is of course the more costly option.


2. To gather all the information yourself and then seek professional help to apply for the Grant of Probate on your behalf. The forms involved are quite complex and if completed incorrectly, this may result in additional costs and delays with settling the estate.


3. To do all the work yourself and submit all the relevant documents and forms to the Probate Registry and HMRC. Some people do feel able to cope with this, but as the forms are lengthy and complicated it is only really advisable to take on this work if you are completely confident about being able to do it accurately.

If you choose option one or two, we at A R K are here to help you deal with things as quickly and in as stress free a way as possible.

What happens if you don’t want to take on the role of Executor of a Will?

1. You can renounce (resign) from the role – if you want to completely opt out of the role of Executor, you can choose to officially renounce your position. This is done by completing a Deed of Renunciation which you will sign and submit to the Probate Registry. There is no going back if you take this action, so you need to be certain about your decision before going ahead. You can only do this if you have not already carried out any duties that an Executor should perform, such as closing accounts and settling debts, etc.

2. You can reserve your right to apply for Probate – you can apply for ‘Power Reserved’ if there are other Executors who can take on the responsibilities. This allows you to step back from applying for Grant of Probate but still gives you the option to help out if needed. This is a good option if perhaps you would like some involvement but do not have time to do the practical signing and sorting of paperwork.

3. You can appoint someone else to take on the role – the final option is to appoint someone (not a professional) to carry out the work on your behalf. To do this you would need a Lasting Power of Attorney appointing someone to act on your behalf. This would only be a last resort and usually happens only where an appointed Executor lacks mental capacity, maybe through ill health.

At A R K we are here to help and support Executors as much as we can, and we offer free initial advice. When making your Will with us we will discuss your choice of Executor to help ensure no problems arise. We also have some useful resources on our website which can be used by anyone making a Will, and to help you understand the work that is needed by an executor.

What is Intestacy? And what happens if someone dies without leaving a Will?

‘Intestacy’ is when someone dies without leaving a Will. Surprisingly less than half of people in the UK have a valid Will. This means many die without leaving any sort of Will.

When someone dies ‘Intestate’, that is without leaving a valid Will in England and Wales (Scotland have slightly different rules) then their estate (money, property and belongings etc) are divided up according to the ‘Rules of Intestacy’. Only married or civil partners and blood relatives (in a strict order) can inherit when someone dies without leaving a Will. If there are no such relatives then the person’s belongings will go to the Crown.

Married or civil partners inherit under the Rules of Intestacy only if they are actually married, or in a civil partnership, at the time of death. If you are divorced or your civil partnership has legally ended, then you cannot inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. If you are still married or in a civil partnership you can inherit:

  • All the personal property and belongings of the person who died
  • The first £270,000 of the estate
  • Half the remaining estate where there are children – the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren will inherit the other half. (If there are no surviving children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, the partner will inherit the whole estate).

Children of the intestate person will inherit once they reach 18, if there is no surviving married or civil partner. Grandchildren or great-grandchildren can only inherit if their parent has died before the Intestate person. It is important to know that stepchildren would not inherit anything at all if you have not made a will.

In some circumstances other close relatives can inherit under the Rules of Intestacy but there would have to be no surviving children or grand or great-grandchildren.

Who cannot inherit from someone who dies intestate?

Unmarried partners
Close friends

If there are no surviving relatives then this is known as Bona Vacantia. The estate passes to the Crown. The Treasury Solicitor is then responsible for dealing with the estate. We have a list of recent unclaimed estates where people have died locally on our website (link)

What happens if someone dies intestate and has jointly owned property and other assets?

There are two ways to jointly own property – as ‘beneficial joint tenants’ or as ‘tenants in common’. Different things would happen with your share of a property if you haven’t made a Will, and this depends on the way you own your home with your partner.

If partners were beneficial joint tenants at the time of death, when the first partner dies the other will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property. However, if the partners are tenants in common the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the other’s share of the property. At A R K we will give you advice to help you understand the different way you can own property, so you can decide which is the best option for you.

Couples who have joint bank accounts often think that they will automatically inherit all the money in the account if their partner dies. This is not correct, as half of any funds in any joint account will be subject to the intestacy rules unless it can be proved that the money belongs to the surviving partner in a different percentage.

How to make sure that your estate goes to who you want to inherit it?

The only certain way is to make a Will and detail exactly how you wish your property to be divided after your death. Where couples are married or in a civil partnership it is common that they make Mirror Wills leaving everything to the other partner and specifying what they want to happen on second death. However, so many families are now blended, with children from different relationships and this can add complications. At A R K we are happy to give you advice on this and how best to make sure your wishes can be carried out. For example, it could mean you include a simple trust in your Will (for a small additional cost) that will ensure that your share of any property goes to those you want to have it. See more information on this type of trust on our website (link to Protective Property Trust)

For more information visit

Contact us at A R K for advice on making your Will and ensuring that you leave your estate to the family members and loved ones you want to inherit.

flock of sheep and lambs walking on farmland against mountain

My Experience With Probate

The following is a true story written by A R K Consultant Julie, about her experience with probate.

Having been a member of the A R K Team for almost four years, I have come across a lot of people with difficult and challenging circumstances. Prior to joining A R K, I worked for HMRC for over 40 years. I am very experienced in all aspects of tax and have dealt with probate for both sets of our parents. I therefore expected to find dealing with the probate of my aunt and uncle who died last year fairly straightforward. How wrong I was!

My aunt and uncle were sister and brother who had lived on the family farm in Warwickshire all their lives. My aunt went into a care home several years ago and my uncle struggled on in the farmhouse on his own. Sadly, he had a stroke in March 2019 and also ended up in the same care home. He was unable to manage his affairs so my cousin and I, as his attorneys, stepped in. Thank goodness he had made both Health & Finance Lasting Powers of Attorney.

What we found was a total nightmare. We knew our uncle liked buying shares and investments but had no idea of the extent of these, or how very disorganised he was. Room after room in the farmhouse and even the garage were absolutely crammed with papers. They were in no particular order and dated back to the 1950s. Nothing had ever been filed or even put in date order. In amongst ancient farming magazines and every empty envelope he had ever opened were share certificates and other important information. It took weeks of sorting through everything to find out what we needed to keep and what was rubbish. Then next challenge was identifying what were still current assets and what had been sold or merged with a new company. Hours of googling names of companies of which I had never heard. It was like piecing together a giant jigsaw.

Sadly, whist we were still undertaking this mammoth task my uncle died in April 2020 from Covid. His sister in the same care home died two weeks later. As their Executors we thought that getting probate would not be quite so difficult as we had already got to grips with much of their financial affairs. However, it was still a huge amount of work. Getting valuations of the shares and other investments at the date of death was the first step, but often we did not know when the shares or investment trusts had been purchased or how much was paid for them, so getting valuations and calculating the Capital Gains tax due was a huge challenge. To our surprise most companies just do not keep information for long and were unable to help us.

In smaller probate cases where there are minimal amounts of investments and property, obtaining probate is still quite complex, and not easy for someone who does not come from a tax/law or financial background. We had the even more complex forms to complete as there was Inheritance Tax due on my uncle’s estate. I understand tax and the complex legislation surrounding it, but this was a new field even for me. Farmland and farm buildings in certain circumstances can be entitled to Agricultural Property Relief, woodlands can also be eligible for tax relief depending on their use. I had to research and learn all about those aspects of tax that were completely new to me. My aunt had been a partner in her family sports business so there was Small Business Relief to consider and calculate, as well as the normal Income tax, Capital Gains tax and completion of their tax returns.

There are two types of Inheritance tax forms (IHT) that are required. If there is no IHT to pay, then the forms are slightly less arduous as mentioned above, although an excellent understanding of tax and form filling is still required. It would be very easy to make a costly mistake, but If IHT is due, then the forms are really complex. Luckily although I did all the groundwork for the completion of these forms, we work closely with a very reputable law firm at A R K, who completed the Probate and IHT forms and submitted them on our behalf. I am pleased to say we got received Grant of Probate from The Probate Office around eight weeks from submission. All our hard work had finally paid off.

Looking back, I wish when we had been appointed as my uncle’s attorneys, we had asked questions and got the finances sorted out whilst he was still well enough to help us. We had to do so much work that was made so much harder by not being able to talk to him. Everyone knows that getting financial papers in order is a task they need to do, but often put it off. My advice would be to make sure you have a folder with details of all investments, property details, accounts with mobile phone providers, credit cards etc. Include account numbers and passwords. This could save weeks of work for your family and eliminate the danger that they will never find some of the assets you have. To this day we are not sure that we have found everything my uncle owned. Accounts or shares could be out there that we have not been able to identify and maybe never will.

The most important message from my recent experience though is to seek help and not struggle with it all yourself. Missing out some vital information or an incorrect calculation, could cost you far more than paying for some additional help with probate work.

To find out more about how A R K can help you regarding Probate and what you need to do to get organised for your family please read the following blog on our website and complete our ‘useful information about me’ template.