Reasons to Use Us –




Reasons to Use Us


Youstepping stones will have specialists working on your behalf

Receive a fast and efficient service

Have individual attention from one of our experienced staff

Direct access to our personable staff

Be able to ask as many questions as you want to reassure yourself about progress on your work

Your individual needs will be assessed and your questions answered

You will be kept informed at every stage of the process

You will get value for money

Quite simply, you will get an excellent service


Why a financial planner is an essential part of your divorce team –




Why a financial planner is an essential part of your divorce team


By Guest Blogger Hannah Foxley of The Women’s Wealth Expert http://www.thewomenswealthexpert.co.uk/#!


 

A mistake that is often made in the divorce process is involving the financial planner at the end once the settlement has been agreed, but they can add much value in helping to reach a settlement.

A good financial planner will bring to your attention and help you avoid making mistakes, I have included some here as examples but the list is not exhaustive;

Dealing with financial assets on a single basis rather than taking account of the bigger picture

  • Keeping a house that you can’t afford
  • Failing to break all financial ties
  • Not having a true understanding of the financial assets and debts of a marriage
  • Failing to understand what your true outgoings are and preparing an incorrect budget
  • Assuming that an equal division is a fair division on divorce
  • Failing to understand the risk and reward trade off when offsetting assets
  • Having an unrealistic expectation of your lifestyle after divorce
  • Failing to understand the true value of your husband’s defined benefit pension scheme
  • Failing to take your fair share of your husband’s pensions
  • Taking the house in lieu of the pension
  • Not taking into consideration the impact of tax on assets
  • Failing to change joint life policies
  • Failing to insure the maintenance payments and maintain control of policies
  • Not understanding the liquidity of assets
  • Failing to consider your long-term security
  • Forgetting about the long-term impact of inflation and tax and having unrealistic expectations of investment returns
  • Failing to develop a post-divorce financial plan

So, as you can see, having a financial planner is key.

Here are some of the ways that they can help you.

 

Help with preparing the Form E

The Form E is the financial statement document in a divorce and is the lynchpin of the financial decision-making. It is absolutely vital to get the information on it correct. The most crucial part for you to get right is part 3, which relates to the financial requirements that you have both in terms of capital and income. This is where any mistakes in the budget could have a negative impact on the settlement that you agree. It is imperative to include absolutely everything on that statement and take into account the impact of inflation and tax.

In addition to that, a financial planner can help with the rest of the form by assisting you to obtain all of the relevant information about your savings, investments and pensions from the providers. Because they see this paperwork all of the time, they know exactly what they are looking for and can take the stress away from you and save your solicitor time also.

 

Understanding the assets

If your husband has many different assets and investments, you will need to understand exactly what they are, how risky they are, what the tax implications are and whether you can actually sell them.  You will also need to understand the future value of those investments and how they will help your future financial security rather than focussing on the current value of it. Your husband is likely to have a different risk profile to you and so you will need someone who really understands the assets to explain them to you. A financial planner can do this for you.

 

Getting to grips with the pensions

Getting your share of your husband’s pension is absolutely crucial and it’s not just about agreeing an equal split based on the current value of the funds, doing this could be seriously detrimental to you. There are many factors to consider when looking at splitting the pension and they are a significant asset in most marriages, so getting it right is crucial. Only a financial adviser can advise on pensions. They work with your lawyer and, if necessary, an actuary, if a final salary pension scheme is involved to bring the figures to life and explain the impact of the factors used in the calculations.

 

Calculating your future income needs

When calculating your future income needs factors such as inflation, tax and investment returns need to be taken into consideration so that you do not run out of money. Failure to take these factors into consideration can and will have a devastating effect on your future financial security.

A good financial planner uses specialist software, which can analyse future cash flow requirements taking into account inflation, tax and different investment returns to calculate the sum that would be required as a settlement.

 

This software gives you a visual representation of how different factors can affect your future financial security. It will show when you will run out of money, which allows the financial planner and lawyer to calculate how much of a lump sum you need as a settlement or how much maintenance needs to be paid. It can also be used to show how much of your husband’s pension you will need to take to ensure that you have a fair income in retirement. It clearly shows the effects of inflation and investment returns on your money and is brilliant for helping you to plan and budget. The results of this analysis and the assumptions used can be used to produce a report to provide to the court. The planner will then use this software for the post-divorce financial planning to help you set a realistic budget to live on so that you don’t run out of money. This is the true value of a great financial planner.

 

Protection of the settlement

You may agree as part of the settlement that your husband will pay you maintenance either until the children reach a certain age, or it may be for the rest of your life. It is essential that this is protected in case your husband becomes sick or dies. It is also vital to ensure that the protection is set up in such a way that you know that he is paying the premiums, and you don’t find out when it is too late that he cancelled the policy without you knowing.

 

Post-divorce financial planning

Once the divorce has been finalised and you have your settlement, you will be on your own financially. Proper financial planning is really important as you don’t want to get ten years down the line and run out of money, or get to retirement and realise that you don’t have enough.

As described above, financial planners can help you to budget correctly, so that you have money for now and money for the future. You will also need help with school and university fees for the children.

You may have got some of your husband’s pension as part of the settlement and this will need to be invested for you, as well as a discussion around adding to it yourself. You may have cash and assets that you have no idea what to do with. This is a very scary and fearful position to be in when you are not used to it and this is where the planner can help. The relationship with your financial planner is a long one and will guide you through life’s changes as well as any curve balls that it throws at you.

Your relationship with your lawyer ends as soon as the divorce is finalised but a financial planner will be there for as long as you continue to have a relationship with them. This will give you a feeling of security and continuity. By having them involved at the very beginning you can ensure that you avoid making expensive financial mistakes, they can support your lawyer, working with them to ensure the best outcome for you.

If you would like further financial advice then you can contact Hannah on 020 7125 0409 or email her at Hannah@thewomenswealthexpert.co.uk


Seasons Greetings –




Seasons Greetings


Please note Lawindexpro’s offices will be closed from 5.30pm on 24th December 2013 and will re-open at 9.00am on 2nd January 2014

 


Women on the Rise –




Women on the Rise


A recent article by the Law Gazette said that women account for almost a third of new partners in the magic circle’s latest appointment round. Whilst this is higher than last year, of 91 promotions across the big five law firms only 32% were women.

Traditionally, the ‘Old Boys Network’ meant white middle class men dominated the legal profession, but will it always continue? According to The Law Society, in July 2013 48.6% of the 158,644 Solicitors on the Roll were women. This number could rise further still if we look at educational statistics in the industry as The Law Society also found that in 2012, 62.4% of students accepted onto University law degree courses were female.

Lawindexpro is ahead of the curve in the surge of female legal professionals with women making up three quarters of our employees. In fact: 9 out of our 14 solicitors are female (including a trainee); 3 out of 5 Directors are also women at the top of their fields; and Nicola Chard is our founder and Managing Director.

We pride ourselves on our progressive and modern approach to the law where the only thing which matters to us is how hard you’re willing to work to reach your goals. We hope to see an increasing number of female legal professionals in senior positions throughout the country which should appropriately reflect the evident rise of young women studying the law.


Staff Training – Early Closure – Tuesday 4th February –




Staff Training – Early Closure – Tuesday 4th February


Please note that the Lawindexpro offices will be closed at the following times on Tuesday 4 February due to staff training and will all re-open at 9am on Wednesday 5 February:






Guildford Globeside 3.30pm
Guildford High Street 3.00pm
High Wycombe 3.00pm
Henley 3.00pm
Beaconsfield 3.00pm


“Judges say your Will can be ignored” Landmark Court Ruling: Ilott v Mitson –




“Judges say your Will can be ignored” Landmark Court Ruling: Ilott v Mitson


 

On Monday The Court of Appeal ruled on the case of Ilott v Mitson which has led lawyers to warn that the outcome could undermine the rights of an individual to leave their assets to whoever they wish.

 

The facts

Mrs Ilott had been estranged from her Mother for 26 years after she eloped at the age of 17, some 37 years earlier, which had resulted in a family dispute. The deceased had taken steps to have her will professionally drawn up, realising  there could be a potential claim on her death, and had even prepared a letter explaining why she had disinherited her Daughter and instructing her executors to fight any claim.

Despite the deceased seemingly having done everything she could to ensure her estate did not pass to her Daughter the Court awarded the sum of £164,000 to Mrs Illot, instead of the whole estate (£489,000.00) being paid to the three charities named in the Will.

 

Why did the Court reach this decision?

While it has always been possible for certain people to make a claim against your estate by proving the will to be invalid or that they had not been given reasonable financial provision, the latter has always been notoriously difficult for a self sufficient adult. The concern is that this case has widened the gap to make it more accessible for claims to be brought.

However, whilst this is a landmark decision it should be noted that this case is very fact specific and the Court took into account many factors when making their decision.

Although the pair had been estranged for a number of years it was noted that Mrs Ilott had made several attempts to reconcile with her Mother during that time, the Court acknowledged that some fault must lay with Mrs llott but that the deceased had in fact been the dominant cause in the breakdown of the relationship.

The Court held that the deceased had failed to make “reasonable financial provision” for her Daughter and took into account basic human needs given Mrs Ilott’s circumstances. She has 5 children and is dependant on State Benefits, her and her Husband live in a Housing Association house which they had the right to buy but could not afford and in addition the family had never had a holiday and had at times struggled to afford clothing and food.

The amount awarded was enough for her to purchase the property and cover any incidental costs incurred in doing so.

Finally, the Court’s decision was influenced by the fact the deceased had “little association” with the Charities she had named in her Will and the charities in question were not dependant on the funds.

 

What does this decision mean for you and how can we help?

It is likely that as a result of this decision we will see an increase in the number of claims being made against estate and if these are successful it will be a cause for concerns for those who wish to disinherit members of their family from their Will.

It is more important than ever to ensure your Will has been drawn up professionally to make it as water tight as possible.  It is not sufficient to just give the reasons why someone is not inherit; you must now go the extra step and give detailed reasons why you have left the estate to those named in the Will.

Our team of private client solicitors can discuss your circumstances and wishes and how best to achieve these. We will then accurately record your wishes in detail so that should a claim arise all aspects have been covered. We keep our Will files and these can be called upon as evidence.

If you do not have a Will, or have made a Will in the past and want to make sure everything is in order, then please contact one of the team to arrange a free initial consultation.


Conveyancing Fees Outpaced by Estate Agents Charges – Copyright lawindexpro Limited 2015




Conveyancing Fees Outpaced by Estate Agents Charges


The Law Society Gazette has recently reported that the cost of Conveyancing for a house purchase has risen less than fees charged by estate agents and surveyors in the past decade.  Not a title that would come as a surprise to most in the legal profession, although it is interesting to examine the facts contained in the surveys’ findings, which support the suspicions of most in the legal profession.

The average cost of a purchase conveyance was said to be £1419 in 2014, and this amounted to 12% of the total outlay in house buying charges.  These figures were compiled in a study by Post Office Money and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.  They represented an increase of 37% compared to 2004, when the average Conveyancing purchase fees were £1039.  Looking at these figures in isolation may paint a positive picture, and perhaps help to alleviate some of the self pity one may have felt following a glance at the article heading.  However, putting things in context, it is evident that this rate of increase was significantly less than the other home moving costs.

At a glance:-

  • The average stamp duty rose 87% to £3,620 in 2014
  • Estate agents fees rose 61% to £5,214 surveyors fees rose 51% to £607
  • Only removal costs, which rose 21% from £855 to £1034 during the same period, increased at a slower rate.

That the survey concludes that estate agents fees now equate to 44% of the total Conveyancing costs will no doubt be the main gripe, which is perhaps intimated by the title of the article.  Whilst I am a firm believer that a good estate agent is an essential tool in helping a transaction go through smoothly, there are of course those agents that can have the opposite effect.  The fact that there may be no difference in what these two types of agents will be paid highlights further the frustration for Conveyancers.  With the increase in panel and other referral arrangements – which we are continually assured has been concluded to have no effect on consumers (?!) – the gap between Conveyancing and estate agents fees is only likely to widen.   This merely highlights the challenge facing all Conveyancers in trying to operate a profitable Conveyancing department, in an industry which is becoming more commoditised but retains the demand for top class levels of customer service.

We here at B Legal are fully aware of this challenge and tackle it head on, using a structure which streamlines all processes involved in a conveyancing transaction, with clear and open lines of communication throughout.  We aim to deliver an exceptional service at a fair price, and if clients feel that they are being looked after throughout the transaction then levels of satisfaction can be upheld irrespective of the percentage of the costs when compared to other house moving charges. It is only hoped that providing a service that clients value will enable us to move closer to a level of fees commensurate with other parties involved in the process!”


2015 Budget Changes to Inheritance Tax: What does it all mean? – Copyright lawindexpro Limited 2015




2017 Budget Changes to Inheritance Tax: What does it all mean?


Following the release of the current Budget there has been a lot of talk about the proposed changes to Inheritance Tax (“IHT”). We have heard much about a rise in the “Nil Rate Band” (the amount of your Estate which can pass IHT free) to £1 million with the caveat that it applies to a “family home”.

At Lawindexpro we aim to make legal jargon as simple and understandable as possible so we have prepared the following brief points to note on the upcoming changes:

 

The Transferable Nil Rate Band

The Nil Rate Band for an individual is currently set at £325,000 per person and this will not change.

For those who are married or in a civil partnership, if you gift your estate to your spouse upon your death then your estate passes spouse exempt and no IHT is payable. Rather than your Nil Rate Band going unused, it can be transferred to your spouse so they can use your Nil Rate Band together with theirs so the have a new Transferable Nil Rate Band of £650,000 to apply to their estate upon their death. This too will remain unchanged.

 

What has changed?

The government have announced a new tax free “Main Residence” Band which can be used in addition to your existing Nil Rate Band when applied to your family home/main residence.

The new Main Residence Band can also be transferred from one spouse to another. The amount you can claim from 2017 as the new Main Residence Band is as follows:

For individual’s:                     For Married Couples or Civil Partnerships:

2017      £100,000             2017   £200,000

2018      £125,000             2018   £250,000

2019      £150,000             2019   £300,000

2020      175,0000             2020   £350,000

 

Where does the “£1 million exemption” come from?

When looking at married couples or couples in a Civil Partnership, it is possible to claim up to £1 million exemption from IHT when you add together the Transferable Nil Rate Band (£650,000) and the Transferrable Main Residence Band (£350,000) which will be available in 2020.

 

What if I downsize?

As from now, if you choose to downsize your property you can still claim the Main Residence Band as if you still owned the larger property.

 

So what is the catch?

If you are single you will not be able to claim the higher Transferrable Main Residence Band of £350,000 but instead will only be able to claim your individual Main Residence Band of £175,000.

If your property is worth considerably more than £1 million then you might not be able to claim the full Main Residence Band. For every £2 of value over £2 million, £1 is to be deducted from the new Band until the Band is depleted.

Further, you will only be entitled to the new Main Residence Band in the event you pass away in 2017 or later.

 

Summary

There are lots of benefits to the new Main Residence Band which aims to see 94% of Estates passing without paying IHT, however, as with any new scheme there are plenty of conditions to meet and hoops to jump through.

Lawindexpro will keep an eye on the finer details of this new scheme so we can keep all of you up to date with the latest news.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact one of our Private Client Team members on 0845 1124452


Guest Blog: 5 reasons why your house isn’t selling –




Guest Blog: 5 reasons why your house isn’t selling


http://www.nikischaferinteriordesign.co.uk/5-reasons-house-isnt-selling/

If you’re selling your house this year, it’s important that you understand how to present it to the market.  Yes, I know that sounds callous and commercial, but in truth, that’s what you’ve got to do now. Your house, as lovely as it may be, is now being sold and you have to present it in a way that will attract as many potential buyers as possible.

Here’s what not to do when selling your home.

1. Emotional attachment

This is the hardest bit so let’s get it over with, shall we?

Your home has been a wonderful source of security, laughter and comfort for you and your family. However, staying attached to this is only going to make the separation more heart wrenching.  Once you’ve made the decision to find a new home, it’s important that you learn to let go of your old house.

This doesn’t mean that your home has to be devoid of any personal items though.  It’s a good idea to de-clutter and remove excess, but you don’t need to take away every family photo and beloved piece of ornamentation.

Sometimes, this process is more easily done by an outsider, someone who can pack away the items that don’t add any value to the room.  (Of course you love these items for their story and their emotional value, but don’t think they’ve gone forever, you can put them back in your next home!)

What is more, good de-clutterers and house doctors will be able to do this in a percentage of the time you will, as they’ll not be side tracked by the stories (ahhhh remember when we were on holiday and bought this… etc).  It’s time to get efficient if you want your house to be sold and then you can move on – both physically and emotionally.

2. You have a very distinctive interior design taste

Now I’m an interior designer who believes that your home is your chance to truly express yourself so don’t go thinking I’m saying it’s wrong to have a distinctive style.  Far from it!  On the other hand, if you’re fond of the lurid (and you’ll know it if you are) and you like dark colours then it might be wise to give the place a bit of a spruce up.

People want to see light, spacious rooms. So make them light!

You don’t want people dismissing your entire house in the basis of wallpaper you love but alas, most people can’t quite handle. So get rid of it and start making plans for your new home’s interiors.

 

3. You are not presenting the rooms to their best functionality

It’s all very well that you’ve been using the spare bedroom for your miniature railway set or your sewing emporium, but you don’t want potential buyers seeing the room only as a hobby room (read small) rather than a double guest room (psychologically much larger). Set the rooms up traditionally – don’t make buyers have to work hard.  They want simple obvious solutions.  Give them the chance to easily slot their lives into your home.

 

4. You aren’t showing the potential space in your home

Estate agents and house doctors are frequently asked whether doing an extension will help with a sale.  More space will surely help, think sellers.

This is not an unreasonable thought, however, what if the new buyers don’t want to extend?  Or what if they’d have done the extension completely differently?

The answer is to get some drawings done and, even better, to get planning permission for the work to be done.  Buyers love to see the potential in their new home and showing them a brand new future is going to be very appealing.

They also think the planning process is complicated and lengthy (not always the case but we’ll leave that for another blog…) and so with it already completed they’re halfway there.   This is a very appealing sensation!  Don’t forget people buy with their emotions so make them feel great!

 5. Your entrance is confusing, unwelcoming or unattractive

After location, kerb appeal is the most important aspect of your home.  People either fall in love at the end of the drive or they don’t.  You need to do everything you can to make them fall the right way.

Mow the lawn, tidy up the borders, fix the gate, paint the front door, cut away the bushes. Make a clear path to the front door (it’s an awful feeling not knowing where to go to enter a building!). Put a bright, seasonal plant at your door. Add lighting so people can see where they’re going.  Make sure the door bell works and ding dong, you’re in with a chance.

http://www.nikischaferinteriordesign.co.uk/5-reasons-house-isnt-selling/


How to Change the Registered Owner of a Car when the Owner Dies –




How to Change the Registered Owner of a Car when the Owner Dies


We have had a number of Clients lately whose partners have sadly passed away which has left them with many questions, including: what do I do about the car? At Lawindexpro we try our best to give straight forward, practical advice, so we have created a short guide on how to change the ownership of a car when the registered owner has died.

1. Check the Will to see who should inherit the car. If you require assistance interpreting the Will please do not hesitate to contact us to help as we offer free initial consultations;

2. Find the V5C (the registered keepers booklet) document and fill in the details of the person inheriting the car in the “new keeper details” section;

3. The new keeper must sign and date the V5C as normal;

4. Where the deceased would normally sign the V5C to transfer the car you should write “deceased”;

5. The V5C should then be sent to “DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1ZZ” together with a cover letter. You may also be required to send a copy of the death certificate;

6. The cover letter should mention that any car tax paid by deceased should be returned to the Executors account or the Estate together with the appropriate bank details;

7. This will take roughly 2-4 weeks for the DVLA to action;

8. The new owner may re-tax the vehicle in his or her name using s. 10 of the V5C either at a post office, via telephone or online; and

8. Don’t forget to notify the insurers for both the deceased party and the new keeper.

We hope this is useful to you at this difficult time but if you have any questions in relation to the above please do not hesitate to contact us as we will be happy to assist you.

To suggest other “How To” guides you would find useful and would like to see please send your suggestion to us at enquiries@Lawindexpro.co.uk