David Hall
David Hall
Deputy Head of Legal Services and Head of Private Client

Planning in advance is the best way to protect what you have and make things simpler for yourself, your family and loved ones.

Our team of experienced lawyers of qualified Solicitors and Chartered Legal Executives are here to help you plan for your and your family's future.  You can talk to us in strict confidence and we pride ourselves on handling all work in a considerate and timely manner. 


If you die without a valid Will it can be a costly nightmare for those you leave behind and your estate will pass in accordance with the Intestacy Rules.


Katherine Carroll
Katherine Carroll
Partner - Private Client

The Intestacy Rules set out who will inherit from your estate and those you wished to benefit may miss out.  If you have no living relatives and do not have a Will, your estate may pass to the Crown.

What are the Benefits of Having a Will?

A will sets out who will benefit from your property and possessions (your estate) after your death.  There are many good reasons and advantages to making a will such as:

  • You can decide what happens to your estate when you die

  • You pick the executors and know that they will comply with your wishes when they deal with the administration of your estate 

  • You can provide for your partner if you are not married or in a civil partnership.  Some people think that after they have been living with their partner for a couple of years, they become ‘common law husband and wife’ with the same rights as married couples or civil partners.  This is not the case, and could mean that your partner loses the home you shared (See The Hidden Dangers of Common Law Cohabitation).   

  • You can appoint guardians for any children under the age of 18

  • You can ensure that your children from a previous relationship can benefit from your estate  

  • You can obtain some Inheritance Tax planning advice

  • You can decide what should happen to pets

  • Property owned as ‘joint tenants’ automatically passes to the survivor and you may want to make provision for that share to pass to someone else instead

What if I already have a Will?

If you already have a Will you should review it regularly to make sure it still reflects your wishes.  The reason for reviewing your Will are numerous and may include: 

  • The arrival of any new children or grandchildren

  • The death of a beneficiary, executor, trustee or guardian 

  • The admission of a family member into a care home

  • Any change in your circumstances through Marriage, Civil Partnership, divorce or separation.  Getting Married or entering into a civil partnership automatically revokes any Will you have previously made unless provision was expressly made in contemplation of the marriage. 

  • Any change in your financial circumstances such as buying, selling or inheriting a property or business, selling or buying stocks, shares or other investments.

  • To check if there has been a change in the law which may affect you

We Can Help

Wills are legal documents and even the smallest errors in them can cause huge problems which can be very costly and, more importantly, may also mean that your wishes are not met.  There are numerous legal formalities that need to be followed correctly without which your Will may be deemed invalid.  

Although it is possible to write a Will by yourself, At McMillan Williams we advise all our clients to use a lawyer who will help you think about things that you may not have considered or even thought possible and then provide you with legal options to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

Using a Lawyer means you receive the benefits of their professional knowledge and experience safe in the knowledge that they are regulated and insured and you can be confident that there will be no mistakes.  

If you are in any doubt as to your need for a Will, or if your Will is out of date, call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk  

 

When a person dies, someone has to sort out their estate, their money, property, possessions and debts.


Andy Grant
Andy Grant
Partner, Private Client

If the deceased person left a will, this will explain what should happen to their estate.  The executors will need to apply for a grant of probate which will give them the legal right to administer the estate, this is know as ‘probate’
If the person didn’t leave a will, or the will is invalid or doesn’t specify executors, the person who deals with the estate is called an administrator.  They will need to apply for  a grant of ‘letters of administration’ to deal with the administration of the estate.

Administering an estate

Being appointed as an executor or having to be an administrator to an estate can be a daunting prospect. We always recommend to our will clients that they ask their chosen executors whether they would be willing to act before appointing them.

Administering an estate usually comes at a time of grief and high emotion and it can be a very stressful and time consuming process made potentially more difficult if you do not personally know the beneficiaries.

Appointing a Solicitor to Help You

Appointing a solicitor to act on your behalf means that you are still in control of the administration and can get the support of experts to guide you through the administration process.

We Can Help

At MW we have a dedicated and experienced team of probate solicitors who can undertake all the work that is needed.  We will give you a clear time-frame of when the administration will conclude and we will keep you and the beneficiaries updated throughout.

To make matters simpler all fees incurred by the solicitor are paid from the estate so there is no need for you to fund the administration.

If you are in any doubt about your role as an executor or you feel you need help with any aspect of the probate process call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

Powers of Attorney give someone you trust the legal power to act or make decisions about you on your behalf.  


Peter Woods
Peter Woods
Deputy Head of Private Client

There are a number of reasons why you might need someone to make decisions for you or act on your behalf for example:

  • You may be going into hospital and need help with everyday things such as making sure that bills are paid.  
  • You may need to make more long-term plans if, for example, you have been diagnosed with dementia.

There are two main types of Powers of Attorney:

Lasting Powers of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that appoints a trusted relative, friend or professional (known as an attorney) to help manage your financial affairs and/or make decisions about your health and welfare.

Adults of all ages should consider making a LPA as anyone can lose mental capacity, for example, through illness, as a result of an accident or because of the onset of dementia.

There are two types of LPA: one for your property and financial affairs and another for your health and welfare and you can make one or both types.

  • Property and financial affairs LPA - This allows you to choose one or more people to make decisions about money and property; for example, paying bills, collecting benefits, making investments, selling your home. This type of LPA can be used as soon as it is registered, with your consent, unless you stipulate otherwise.

  • Health and Welfare LPA - This allows you to choose one or more people to make decisions such as where you live, who cares for you and your medical care, There is also an option to give your attorneys authority to make decisions about life sustaining treatment. A health and welfare LPA can only be used if you lose mental capacity.

Both types of LPA need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before they can be used.

Your attorneys cannot do whatever they like, they must act in your best interests and follow the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

By making a LPA, you do not suddenly give up control. In fact, you retain more control as if you do not have a LPA in place and need some help, someone may need to apply to the Court of Protection to be able to manage your affairs. You will then not have control over who applies to the court and this could mean that someone who you would not necessarily have chosen, will be able to make decisions on your behalf. The process can be costly and lengthy and can be very stressful for those involved. 

Ordinary Powers of Attorney

If you want to give someone the authority to make decisions and take action concerning your finances, you can set up an ordinary power of attorney. Unlike Lasting Powers of Attorney these can only be used while you have mental capacity, so that you can keep an eye on what the person making decisions for you (your attorney) is doing.

You can limit the power you give to your attorney so that they can only deal with certain assets and it can also be limited for a period of time. An ordinary power of attorney can be revoked at and time and will be automatically revoked if you lose mental capacity.

Enduring Powers of Attorney

Lasting Powers of Attorney replaced the previous Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) system.  An EPA set up before 1 October 2007 is still valid in relation to your finances, but it does not cover decisions relating to your health and welfare.

We Can Help You

At MW our mission is to make quality legal services accessible to everyone including those who cannot act for themselves.  If you are in any doubt that you may need to establish Power of Attorney either for yourself or a loved one call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.


David Hall
David Hall
Deputy Head of Legal Services and Head of Private Client

If someone does not have sufficient mental capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney it is necessary to make an application to the Court of Protection to appoint a “Deputy”.  

A Deputy will have power to manage the financial affairs of the person who lacks capacity, although this can be limited by the Court and there are strict rules on how the Deputy can act and the types of decisions that they can make. 

Interim Orders

Deputyship applications can take more than three months to complete.  A decision or payment (perhaps for outstanding care home fees or other debts) may need to be made sooner than this.  You can make an application for an “Interim Order”.  This would give permission for certain acts to be done whilst the Court of Protection is considering the main application to appoint a Deputy.  We can assist with these applications and let you know when such a request is appropriate.

We can also act as a Deputy if there is no one willing or able to act.

Annual Reporting to the Office of the Public Guardian

A Deputy will have to keep accounts and receipts as they need to submit yearly reports to the Office of the Public Guardian, the body who supervise the steps carried out by Deputies.  We can assist with the preparation of these reports.

Health and Welfare

It is possible to make an application to the Court of Protection to be appointed Deputy to make decisions regarding health and welfare.  Very few of these applications are approved by the Court of Protection.  We will be able to give you advice on the Court’s views on any application.

Statutory Wills

If someone does not have mental capacity to prepare a Will, it is possible to make an application to the Court of Protection to get a Will put in place.  This is known as a Statutory Will.

This is very useful if someone does not have a Will and you need to put one in place if the intestacy rules would not give an appropriate outcome.  It may be that there is a Will but it is not effective – for example, it contained a gift of a property to a family member but the property has been sold to pay for care home fees, or a beneficiary has died and a new beneficiary needs to be included.

These applications are very specialised as not all solicitors deal with these applications or know when a Statutory Will application is appropriate.  Our team of specialist solicitors have lots of experience in making these applications so can guide you through the process and make sure that any proposals made are reasonable and likely to be accepted by the Court.

Appointment of a Second Trustee

If a property owner lacks capacity and is unable to sell a property, often it is necessary to make an application to appoint a second trustee to enable a sale to proceed.  This can be the case where a property is jointly owned and the second owner is also the sole Deputy or Attorney.

We can guide you through the application process and assist with gathering all of the information and documentation required.

Expert Witness Service

David Hall, the head of the private client department, acts as an expert witness giving statements on the potential costs of having a Deputy in personal injury or clinical negligence matters where a professional Deputy is required to manage large damages awards.  This is often in medical negligence cases where a child suffered brain damage at birth.  Please contact us if you require further information on this.

We Can Help

At MW our mission is to make quality legal services accessible to everyone and our team of specialised solicitors is waiting to help you.  If you are worried that you might need to make an application for a Deputyship to the Court of Protection call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

Buying a property is a big investment and these days it is very common for buyers to make uneven contributions to the purchase price or borrow money from parents to be able to get onto the property ladder.


Amrit Rana
Amrit Rana
Partner and Head of Private Client - West London

At MW we always advise co-owners who hold property as “tenants in common” to consider entering into a declaration of trust so they can:

  • Confirm the extent of their respective beneficial interests, for example, because one person has contributed a greater share to the purchase price of the property, to the mortgage or improvements.

  • Set out any express terms that the co-owners want to include. These might include provisions to deal with a situation where one of the co-owners wants to sell or practical arrangements for day-to-day issues such as how the parties will arrange for maintenance and meet other expenses related to the property.

What are “Joint Tenants” and “Tenants in Common”?

As co-owners of a property, you can hold the property in one of two ways as either joint tenants or as tenants in common. These are two ways of describing how you own the property, the terms have a different legal meaning to the type of tenant who rents a property from a landlord.  If you are making a declaration of trust or you are creating a trust over your property either during your lifetime or in your Will then the property must be held as tenants in common.

Joint Tenants

If you hold the property as joint tenants, both of you will own the whole of the property. You will not each have a quantified share in the property and will not be able to leave a share of the property in your will.

If you sell the property, or if you separate, it will be presumed that you both own the property equally, regardless of your respective contributions to the purchase price. On the death of one co-owner, their interest in the property would automatically pass to the remaining co-owner without any further action. The surviving co-owner would then own all of the property and on their death it would form part of their estate. This is known as the "right of survivorship".

Married couples or those in a civil partnership commonly use this method of co-ownership because the right of survivorship makes it straightforward to inherit each other's shares in the property.

However, there may be reasons not to become joint tenants. For example, if one of you has made a larger contribution to the purchase price of the property and you would want this to be recognised if the property is sold or if you separate. A joint tenancy is also not suitable if you have a family from an earlier marriage and wish to leave your interest in the property to them, instead of passing it to the other co-owner.

Tenants in Common

If you hold the property as tenants in common, each of you will own a specified share in the property. You need to consider whether each person's share will be fixed or whether the shares will vary according to the financial contributions made by each person during your ownership of the property.  In coming to your decision, you should think about the following:

  • If you opt for fixed shares, your shares may be equal, but they do not have to be. Holding the property as tenants in common in unequal shares may be desirable if you have made unequal contributions to the purchase price of the property.

  • If your shares are fixed, you will need to decide the size of those shares now. You may therefore need to revisit the split if there is a change of circumstances in the future which you want to reflect in the proportions in which you own the property. An example would be if only one of the co-owners pays the costs of significant improvements to the property.

  • If your financial contributions towards the property throughout your ownership may be unequal (for example, if one person pays a larger proportion of the mortgage repayments or the costs of any major works to the property), you may want your shares to reflect this. This means that your respective shares in the property may vary from time to time depending on who pays what. The calculations will be more complex and you will need to keep accurate records of each person's contributions.

  • If you hold as tenants in common, your share of the property can be passed on to another person, either during your lifetime or under your will. If you do not have a will at the time of your death, then your share will pass in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

Holding the property as tenants in common may be appropriate if you have children from previous relationships and would prefer them to inherit your interest on your death rather than your co-owner.

If you wish to hold the property as tenants in common, then you should sign a declaration of trust. A declaration of trust is a document that formally records that you hold the property as tenants in common and sets out your respective shares in the property. If you sell the property, or if you separate, the declaration of trust will be referred to, to work out your entitlement to the sale proceeds from the property.

We Can Help

At MW, our mission is to make quality legal services accessible to everyone, including anyone helping their children to buy their first home.  If you are in any doubt over any aspect of declarations of trust you can speak to one of our specialist solicitors, call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk

Whether you plan to set up a Trust or have become a Trustee, you have responsibilities that require exceptionally careful consideration. 

Whatever your needs, McMillan Williams can advise you on how a Trust works and the tax implications of setting one up.  We can also review an existing Trust and give you a clear understanding of your legal duties and responsibilities. 

You can talk to us in the strictest confidence and we will work with you to achieve the best results.

What is a Trust?

A Trust can be used to pass on your assets in the way you want.    Trusts can be set up in your lifetime or can be included in your Will.  Different types of Trusts are used depending on what you want to do and the circumstances.  Trusts can be used for a variety of reasons some of which include:

  • to hold assets for beneficiaries who are under 18 until they reach a particular age

  • for a disabled beneficiary

  • to provide for a second spouse whilst protecting capital for children

  • to protect for a child who is financially irresponsible or getting divorced

  • mitigation of care fees

  • to hold the proceeds of a personal injury award

  • for tax reasons

If you propose to purchase a property we can also prepare Declarations of Trust which involve negotiating the terms of the parties’ shares and resolving any possible disputes that may arise where different parties have contributed to the purchase.

We Can Help

Setting up a Trust is complicated and McMillan Williams can provide the expert advice that you need.   We are able to provide our services as Professional Trustees for your Trusts if required to administer them on your behalf.   Also, we are able to help with recommending financial advice for the investments within the Trust.

Whether you are buying a property and wish to protect the money invested, or you wish to protect some assets for your family, our specialist team can help you in every element to do with Trust Law.  Call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk

 

Most people will need some legal help and advice at some point in their life and our lawyers are here to help.  All of our lawyers are experienced in advising the elderly and several are accredited members of Solicitors for the Elderly, an independent, national organisation of lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers.

Whether you need help with making a Will, setting up Lasting Powers of Attorney, advice on what steps can be taken to protect the home and other assets from care home fees or help and advice in managing your affairs, our specialist lawyers are here to help.

At MW, our mission is "to make quality legal services accessible to everyone" and we can help with applications to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy and give help and advice in managing your affairs if this becomes necessary. 

Wills

Having a will is the surest way of knowing that your estate will pass to whoever you decide should receive it.

When drafted professionally by a solicitor, a Will can give you the security of knowing that you have chosen who will administer your estate and make sure that any debts you have will be paid from your estate and that your funeral wishes will be carried out.  During the process of having a Will prepared you have the opportunity to consider the value of your estate and address any concerns you have about the potential inheritance tax liability your beneficiaries may face.  Wills are legal documents and small errors can cause huge problems, and mistakes can make it easier for someone to challenge your Will.

There are various legal formalities that need to be followed and if these are not followed correctly then your will may be invalid. Our solicitors offer expert advice and will guide you through the process of preparing your will from start to finish. Your Will can then be securely stored with us for no extra charge.

You can find more information on our Wills page or if you would like to speak to one of our specialist lawyers call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

Lasting Powers of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that appoints a trusted friend, relative or professional (known as an attorney) to help manage your financial affairs and/or make decisions about your health and welfare.  This will give you peace of mind and avoid unnecessary cost, time and stress for your loved ones later on.  If you do not have an LPA, someone may need to apply to the Court of Protection to be able to manage your affairs.

This can be a costly and lengthy process and can be very stressful for those involved. You will not have control over who applies to the court and this could mean that someone who you would not necessarily have chosen will be able to make decisions on your behalf.  You can read more information about this on our Powers of Attorney page or if you would like to speak to one of our specialist lawyers call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

Court of Protection and Statutory Wills

Sometimes people do not have sufficient mental capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney and it becomes necessary for their family to make an application to the Court of Protection to appoint a “Deputy”.  A Deputy will have the power to manage the financial affairs of the person who lacks capacity, although this can be limited by the Court and there are strict rules on how the Deputy can act and the types of decisions that they can make.  Our specialist lawyers will be able to assist with the application and advise Deputies on their roles and responsibilities.

Similarly, when a person lacks the mental capacity to prepare a Will for themselves, it is possible to make an application to the Court of Protection to get a Will put in place.  This is known as a Statutory Will and our specialist lawyers can assist in all matters relating to such Wills.

If you would like to talk to one of our specialist solicitors regarding a Court of Protection application or a Statutory Will call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

Care Home Planning

It is estimated that one in four of us will be living in a care home during the final years of our life.  The current average cost of care home provision is £36,000 per year and if you own your own property or have savings you may find that these are eroded away on care home costs and will not pass to your loved ones as you had hoped.

We can provide you with advice on how you may be able to prevent your assets being lost to pay your care home fees.  You should always take legal advice before transferring assets to ensure they do not fall foul of the rules for deprivation of assets.

We Can Help

If you are thinking about or are worried about the costs of moving into a care home you can speak to one of our specialist solicitors call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk.

 

Inheritance tax can be traced back as far as the year 1694 and a single estate duty was introduced in 1894. 


Laurence Ferguson
Laurence Ferguson
Associate Solicitor

This led, for the first time, to the breaking up of large estates, which was the very purpose of inheritance tax so that the wealthy could not retain all of their assets and the tax could be used to provide for the poor and needy.

Inheritance Tax Thresholds

In 1972, when the spouse exemption was introduced, the inheritance tax threshold was just £15,000 and the average house price was £7,000.  Today the inheritance tax threshold is £325,000 per person and the average house price in the UK is £288,000.  This means that between 1972 and 2015, UK house prices have gone up by £6,535 per year and the inheritance tax threshold has actually increased more at £7,209 per year.

Whilst the National Average may paint a rosy picture, the regional variations can be entirely different. In 2015 the average house price in London rose to a staggering £514,097, which is considerably more than the current inheritance tax threshold and many more families with quite modest estates.

Inheritance Tax not Just for the Super Rich

In reality inheritance tax no longer only applies to the "Super Rich" and many people worry that their modest estate will suffer a punitive inheritance tax charge because of the value of their home. They also worry that their beneficiaries will not be able to pay the inheritance tax, as the tax rate is high at 40%, and this will lead to the family home having to be sold.

However, inheritance tax can be limited. The spouse exemption still exists, and the government has also introduced the combining of the inheritance tax threshold for married couple and civil partners. This means that if a husband leaves his entire estate to his wife then her inheritance tax allowance will actually, under current figures, be £650,000.

Family Home Allowance

The family home allowance will also be introduced in 2017, and this will effectively take the inheritance tax threshold to £1,000,000 for married couples and civil partners by 2020.

Understanding how much inheritance tax your estate may pay is crucial, especially when you are considering how you want your estate to be distributed. Looking at what assets and liabilities you have and how you will provide for your own future financial needs are all important considerations.

Restructuring your Estate

Some simple restructuring of how your assets are held and some gifting may, potentially, reduce your inheritance tax liability without considerably reducing the value of your estate.  There are also some trusts that can be set up to carry assets to the ultimate beneficiaries of your estate  without them suffering an inheritance tax charge. If an inheritance tax charge is unavoidable then planning as to how it can be paid will give you the reassurance that your beneficiaries will be able to retain the assets that you want them to keep.

We Can Help

At MW, Our Mission is to make quality legal services accessible to everyone including those caught in the trap of regional house price inflation.  Our specialist solicitors can help advise on the best way to restructure your estate to make sure your beneficiaries pay the right amount of inheritance tax.  If you are concerned about your estate provision and would like to speak to one of our experts call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors.co.uk

A Notary, or Notary Public, can authenticate or witness most documents on behalf of an individual or a company. 

What does a Notary do?


Mark Stubberfield
Mark Stubberfield
Regional Partner, Head of Court of Protection

Foreign documents often need to be notarised so that the foreign jurisdiction can be sure that it is an original document (if they need a copy) and it acts as confirmation of your identity and that you signed the document personally (if needed).  We can arrange legalisation and consular verification where appropriate.   

The most frequent documents needing to be notarised on behalf of companies and individuals are Powers of Attorney; closely followed by making certified copies of various certificates such as

  • A certified copy of a passport
  • Certified copies of academic certificates, or Company documentation.

What is an Apostille?

An Apostille is a certificate that is attached to the notarised document by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  This acts as confirmation that the Notary is a fully qualified Notary and allows the person/organisation who received the document to check the authority of the Notary.

Some countries require additional steps to be taken once the Apostille is issued.  The document may also need to be sent to the Consulate for that country for further legalisation.  We can assist in these steps if required.

Appointments

It is useful for the Notary to see any documentation in advance so they can check to see what steps need to be taken and to ensure that there are no mistakes or information missing in the document.

Whilst we try to ensure that matters are dealt with as quickly as possible, it is not always possible to arrange same day appointments although we try our best to do this where possible.  If an Apostille is needed, this can take 3 – 5 business days to be processed, although a next day service is available.

Our Notary Services 

McMillan Williams has a number of offices through London and the South and We offer a full range notary services by prior appointment at the following offices:

Call us today on 0203 551 8500 or email us at enquiries@mwsolicitors to arrange an appointment

Contact Us

Telephone 020 3551 8500
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