remote employee talking on phone and taking notes

Why it is important to get at least a little professional advice when someone dies – it can have massive repercussions if you don’t do that!

At A R K Lasting Powers & Wills we offer free initial advice after the loss of a loved one. Family members might think they understand what needs to happen, but sometimes aspects are overlooked or mis-understood.

Here are a couple of case studies highlighting the problems that can arise when estates
aren’t dealt with properly:

  1. Mrs S sadly passed away in 2019, having lost her husband a few years before. Her son and daughter delayed dealing with some of her estate until this year. They knew that ‘Probate’ would be needed before they could sell her house, but they found it all quite difficult – they buried their heads in the sand and didn’t do anything for 4 years.

    Strictly, estates should be finalised within 2 years of the person dying, and if Inheritance Tax is due it needs to be paid within 6 months of death. If everything had been dealt with when it should have, their late father’s unused Inheritance Tax allowance could have been claimed. This isn’t possible now as more than 2 years has passed since they lost their Mum. The whole estate would have been tax-free if they had dealt with everything within 2 years. The delay has cost them dearly – Inheritance Tax is now due at 40% on £200,000!! That equates to £80,000, and there will also be interest and possible penalties to be paid as it is being paid late.

    The moral of the story – don’t put things off for too long after you lose a loved one. Understandably, it’s a really difficult time, but delaying for too long can have massive financial implications!
  1. Mrs H asked us to help her make a new Will recently. She lost her husband in 2005 and showed us her old Will that was made before he died. There was a Trust in it, and we assumed her late husband’s Will would have contained the same sort of Trust. We asked if this had all been dealt with after he passed away; had Probate been obtained and had his share of their home been put into Trustee names on Land Registry records? They were Tenants in Common – meaning that the ownership was 50/50 and Probate would be needed to do anything with Mr H’s share of the property. Mrs H said no, she hadn’t realised that work was needed.

    We offered to help sort this out for her, and asked for Mr H’s Will – unfortunately despite a thorough search it can’t be found. This means that the Law of Intestacy will apply (dying without a Will). The levels of money etc that a spouse could inherit in 2005 means that Mrs H should never have inherited everything!

    What a can of worms, and a lot of worry and stress for Mrs H. Luckily there are no tax implications, but still it’s made everything more complicated, and the time- delay has meant that the all-important Will has been lost!

Contact us if you have any concerns about dealing with the estate of a loved one. Hopefully we can just provide reassurance that you have understood everything correctly, but if not, we can explain the way forward. Call us on 01438 746977 or email

man and woman standing on grave with flower on tombstone

Do you know what would happen if you died without making a Will?

If you are married or in a civil partnership, do you assume that everything would automatically pass to your spouse if you died without making a Will?

Well, that isn’t always the case – it completely depends on the value of the assets you are leaving as to where everything goes.

The amount that automatically passes to a spouse (where there are no children) increased in July of this year. It went up from £270,000 to £322,000. If you don’t have children your spouse would inherit everything, no matter what the value – but if you have children it would work like this:

The spouse would inherit £322,000 plus all personal possessions.

Whatever is left would be split – 50% would be divided equally between children and the other 50% would go to the spouse.

It could also cause an Inheritance Tax issue as only the amount passing to the spouse would be tax free at that stage. If the money going to children was over the Inheritance Tax threshold there would be tax to pay!

If you die without a Will and you don’t have a spouse, then everything would go to your children – and that may be what you would want, but it’s always easier to deal with an estate where there is a Will in place.

If you have no children and there are no grandchildren/great grandchildren, but a parent is still alive, everything would go up the line to them, but that could mean it gets taxed twice – once when it passes to them and once when they die as well (if both estates are above the tax-free threshold).

If your parents have already passed away, there are other relatives who could inherit. It
goes in this order –

  1. siblings, and if any have passed – their children (nieces and nephews)
  2. any half siblings, and if any have passed – their children
  3. grandparents
  4. aunts and uncles, and if any have passed – their children (cousins)
  5. half aunts and uncles, and if any have passed – their children

If there are NO living relatives everything would go to the crown.

The bottom line is that it is always easiest for your family if you have set out your wishes in a legally valid Will. Make sure your assets don’t end up with family members you haven’t seen for years. You may prefer everything to go to charity if you have no close family/friends to leave everything to, but you can only do that if you specify it in a Will.

If you would like some help setting out your wishes in a Will, please contact us at A R K Lasting Powers & Wills – we’d be happy to help!

Email or call 01438 746977

selective focus photo of terms and conditions written on a paper

‘Free’ Wills may not turn out to be free at all!

When we see this offer advertised, our hearts sink (unless there is a charitable reason).

Will writing is our core business, we are specialists in the field and hold the relevant insurances and a Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) qualification. Our fees are not extortionate, but they do cover a lot of work:

  • setting up an appointment
  • sometimes travelling to an appointment and the associated travel costs/time
  • carrying out the appointment (usually appointments last around an hour) and
  • offering advice and answering questions
  • sending follow up emails where appointments have been held remotely
  • drafting Wills and sending them to clients
  • liaising with clients regarding draft Wills and sending gentle reminders where
  • necessary
  • making amendments and then preparing final Wills and posting them/hand-
  • delivering them to clients
  • checking the way Wills are signed
  • sometimes placing them into storage

How long do you think that whole process takes? On average it is around 4 – 5 hours.

So why would any company doing the job properly give away all that time for free? They probably make shortcuts, and it will probably be a less personal service, and that is just the start…there must be something in it for that company to be offering something for free. The saying ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is’ springs to mind!

Is the person who is conducting the work qualified? Will you end up with a legally valid Will document if someone with no qualifications and/or little experience drafts your Will for you?

What is the core business of the company who are offering ‘free’ Wills? Are they Financial Advisors, Mortgage Consultants or Protection specialists – are they looking for Will clients who they can talk to about all their other services in the hope that they can make money that way? You may be fine with that, but be prepared to possibly be ‘sold to’ about other services etc.

Are they a company who offer ‘Probate Services’ and may try to persuade you to appoint them as executors of your Will? This may not be the best solution – often it is better (and much cheaper) for family members who have been appointed as executors to choose who they use if they need professional help when the time comes.

The terms and conditions when a ‘free’ Will is offered will no doubt say that the free Will would only be a basic one. It may be that some aspects like appointing more than one executor, appointing guardians, or making gifts won’t be treated as a basic Will, so fees will be incurred that way – you may end up paying more for your ‘free’ Will than you would have if you had paid the standard fees of another firm. Our Will fee covers most aspects apart from business clauses and any Trusts (apart from those for minors which are covered by our standard fee). There are no nasty surprises if you make a Will with us!

As mentioned at the outset, an exception to this is where free Wills are offered in exchange for a donation to charity. It is clear, that in this case, the company are offering the ‘free’ Will for a valid reason and will use their experienced, qualified staff to prepare a certain number of Wills for free – usually over a one week or one month period. They will have a suggested amount that should be donated to the charity in return. This is commendable of course we have no issue with this and have participated in Free Wills week/month several times ourselves.

You might deem the free Will offered in return for a charitable donation not to be free at all – and you’d be right (unless you decide not to donate of course).

So, the bottom-line is make sure you check out the company offering a ‘free’ Will. Look at their reviews, check their qualifications and insurances and ask questions about what a ‘basic’ Will consists of and what you might have to pay for. Ask yourself why they might be offering this as a free service. It is likely that the ‘free’ Will won’t actually turn out to be free at all!

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

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.