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Solicitors for the Elderly – What does it mean?

Some of our literature refers to the fact that our Wills, LPAs, Tax & Trust team includes members of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) but for those of you who are perhaps not involved in the legal or financial world the organisation name itself, and more importantly the reasons for choosing SFE members for legal advice, may be largely unknown. Being part of a select group of law firms in Darlington with SFE members (only Clark Willis, Latimer Hinks and Hewitts) we think it is vitally important to explain why, for legal issues involving those in advancing years, a SFE member should be a preferable choice.

Who are Solicitors for the Elderly?

SFE was founded in 1996 and set out to be a specialist group to help, support and make a difference to older people. It has now grown into a national organisation of over 1500 lawyers all committed to its founding principles. It is a not for profit organisation to meet the needs of its members, so that they can provide good quality legal advice to older and vulnerable clients, their families and carers.

Why use a Solicitors for the Elderly member?

SFE is a national association of independent lawyers who specialise in older client law. As specialists, SFE members are also trained in older client care so that they are able to take into account any difficulties both mental and physical which can affect older and vulnerable clients and are aware of the health and social problems that people may face.

SFE members will provide independent advice, which is in the best interests of older or vulnerable clients, respecting their dignity and understand their need for a holistic approach to problem solving. All advice given is confidential. They will endeavour to follow a plain English policy ie they will always communicate in easy, understandable language and will explain any necessary legal terminology. Their wealth of experience and training will help to put people at their ease when dealing with complex, life changing issues.

Our solicitors who are members of SFE:

  • Are specialists in advising older and vulnerable clients on legal matters
  • Are fully qualified solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives who have all undertaken additional specialist training in older client law
  • Have spent a substantial amount of their time working with older and vulnerable clients
  • Have gained the Older Client Care in Practice Award which is accredited by SJF (Skills for Justice) a government body which shows that they have the required additional skills to be able to advise and support older and vulnerable people
  • Follow a strict code of practice
  • Are committed to providing affordable, good quality legal advice
  • Are regulated by their professional bodies such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • Keep their knowledge and skills up to date by undertaking regular training

What sort of legal matters do members deal with?

Solicitors who are members of SFE , including ourselves, undertake the following types of work:

  • Wills, Estate planning, tax planning, trusts and probate
  • Mental Capacity issues: Powers of attorney, Deputyships, Court of Protection
  • Advanced Directives (often known as Living Wills)
  • Care funding including asset preservation
  • Deprivation of Liberty safeguards
  • Abuse issues

How can we help?

You can be confident in speaking to our solicitors that you, or your elderly relatives, are receiving experienced advice. Often this involves working alongside your financial adviser to ensure that the relevant expertise is brought into play where necessary and a holistic approach is taken.

Our initial appointments are complimentary and our clear, fixed pricing for any legal matters you may then choose to instruct us in, means you can have peace of mind that accessing the right advice will not cost you earth and tackle the myth that taking advice from solicitors is expensive. If we can help you, your elderly relatives or someone you are perhaps a carer for, either get your affairs in order or deal with pressing issues, such as financial abuse or moving into residential care, then contact your local Clark Willis office (Darlington or Catterick Garrison)  and ask for one of our trusted team.

For more information on SFE, please visit their website.

Relax & Enjoy Your Retirement Knowing You Are Covered – Wills, LPAs, Care Fee & IHT Planning by Alex Spurr, Solicitor.

Retirement is a significant life event and often coincides with a change in your financial circumstances. Whilst sorting your legal affairs might not be the first priority on your to do list, dealing with matters at the start of retirement, or even better whilst planning your retirement with your financial adviser, means that you are free to enjoy your retirement years with peace of mind that you are protected.

Wills

The most important consideration is to make a Will. A Will is the only way of ensuring your property and affairs benefit those whom you would wish to do so. People who do not make a Will are leaving unnecessary work, possible complications and costs to their family.

If you do not make a Will the “Intestacy Rules” will decide which family members will receive your money and possessions after you die. Your whole estate may not automatically pass to a surviving husband, wife or civil partner as most people presume. Unmarried partners will not automatically inherit often causing financial hardship and distress. Surely it would be better to make sure that the people you wanted to benefit following your death was controlled by you?

Wills are also a useful way of including any specific funeral wishes you may have. Even a basic decision as to whether a family member wanted cremating or a burial can cause conflict or be emotionally challenging during a period of grief.

If you already have a Will it is also important to consider reviewing it. Changes in family, financial circumstances or the law may no longer reflect your current wishes or include unnecessary complications. Since 2007 there have been significant changes to inheritance tax for married couples/ civil partners and the introduction of a residential property inheritance tax allowance which may make Wills made over 5 years ago, and certainly prior to 2007, no longer appropriate for estate planning or certainly worth a review.

Lasting Power of Attorney

Have you considered what would happen if you were unable to manage your financial affairs or make decisions over your healthcare treatments due to an accident, old age or illness? This may be temporary, such as hospital stay, or permanent with an illness such as Dementia.

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allow you to appoint the person or people you would like to take those key decisions for you. Without it, a family member or friend would have to make an expensive and time consuming Court application and suffer annual administrative requirements.

You can give authority to assist you with your financial affairs, including property, and/or your health and welfare.

It is important to note that an LPA does not take away your independence or control whilst you have capacity and you can limit the decisions you may wish your Attorney(s) to take on your behalf.

An LPA can only be drawn up whilst you have mental capacity and whilst it might sound daunting, the key is to deal with it sooner rather than later whilst your health is not an issue. Think of LPAs like an insurance policy to protect you should you need it in the future.

Asset Protection & Long Term Care Costs

As a population we are living longer and an increasing number of us face the real possibility of going into residential care in the future. Most people are concerned about funding long term residential care with an average cost of £700 per week in the North East.

Currently, if your assets exceed £23,250 (including the value of your property) then you will be self-funding and have to pay for your care yourself with the exception of certain medical conditions. Life savings are being eroded and family homes intended to pass as inheritance may be utilised to fund care for those without planning in place.

As the need for residential care approaches, people may be tempted to transfer their homes into the names of children or to give away large sums of money. If you do so and the Local Authority claim you have purposely done so to avoid the asset being used to pay for care you can still be treated as owning that asset. There is also a significant risk that children may get divorced, have financial difficulties or predecease you causing someone outside the family to get an interest which ultimately could cause you to lose your own home.

It is important to take advice on what assets are considered in any funding assessment, financial options available to you and the structure of your finances to appreciate how residential care may apply to your circumstances. Steps can be taken that can preserve your assets from funding long term care but these have to be considered based on your planning as a whole and reviewed whilst you are in good health. It is essential to take expert legal advice to fully understand your options as early as possible.

Inheritance Tax Planning

In 2018/2019 tax year, the money received by HMRC through Inheritance tax (IHT) was £5.4bn, a staggering level considering it is often termed a voluntary tax as with correct planning the amount of tax payable can be significantly reduced.

The basic principal is that each individual has a tax free estate of £325,000 with additional allowances (currently up to £150,000) being available if residential property is left to direct descendants.

People wrongly assume that tax planning is complicated and whilst it can be for very significant estates, it is often very straight forward with a strategy of steps to achieving tax mitigation. This may include working with financial advisers on arranging your wealth, looking at lifetime gifts or the beneficiaries of your estate to maximise exemptions and reliefs available with the combined aim of minimising the tax bill whilst achieving your succession aims.

Your Next Steps

The Private Client team at Clark Willis not only have a wealth of experience in these matters but also include members of Solicitors for the Elderly and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (www.step.org) so you can have peace of mind that your retirement plans are in safe hands. Take the first steps to your peace of mind by contacting our team today on 01325 281111.