Refund from the Office of the Public Guardian

To all my clients who registered their Lasting Power of Attorney with us between 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2017, you may be entitled to claim a part refund from the Office of the Public Guardian, to see if you are entitled to a refund, please complete the online claim form which can be found on the following link:-

https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 OFFICE OPENING TIMES OVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD


We would like to wish everyone a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Our offices will officially close at 12pm on Friday 20th December 2013 and re-open on Monday 6th January 2014 at 9am.  However various staff members will be checking e-mails over the Christmas break so if you need anything urgently please e-mail us on enquiries@jmwillsandlegalservices.co.uk or use the contact section of our website or call us on 07954379603 where one of our team will be happy to help you.

Councils spy on parents who sign over their house to their children to avoid care home fees

Daily Mail printed the following article on Saturday morning.. Councils are spying on parents who sign over their homes to their children to avoid care home fees. Local authority inspectors are rifling through residents’ financial records to see if they deliberately tried to conceal their property wealth.

If they uncover evidence that parents gave their home away as a ploy to escape care bills, they can use little-known powers to force the family to sell the property and pay up. One council, Buckinghamshire, confirmed its inspectors were making such investigations. Leading charity Age UK is so concerned at the number of families trying to avoid care fees it has published guidelines warning of the pitfalls in signing over property. It warns that families may be embarking on a risky act, saying that budget-conscious councils are ‘likely to look at cases’ where they think ‘deprivation of assets may have taken place’.

Last night campaigners for the elderly said the ‘grey area’ of the law meant many families could be vulnerable to losing homes already signed over. The warning has been issued because increasing numbers of parents in their 60s and 70s are handing the deeds to their home to their children to stop it being included for means-testing. This allows them to live in their home but no longer be its legal owners.

Many solicitors offer to help, at a cost of several hundred pounds, and claim on their websites that this tactic is a way to avoid such care bills. Councils now employee avoidance inspectors to probe a family’s financial affairs if they suspect they deliberately tried to shelter their home from them. To hunt for evidence, officers can demand to see notes from meetings with financial advisers as well as any legal documents signed with solicitors.

If they decide they have enough proof that a family set out to deliberately hide the property from the council, they can reverse the transfer of ownership. This means the home is switched back to the parents – and will be included in the test for funding. If a parent does it shortly before going into care – despite being in good health – they are more likely to be investigated. Anyone who passes over the deeds but then has to go into care within six months will almost certainly be liable for care home bills.

But if the switch is made two or more years before the parent goes in to care, council officials are less likely to pry. However, if they have reason to believe it was done deliberately, there is no limit to how long they can go back. The council can’t force the sale of the house, but it can demand the money be paid from somewhere, leaving those who have moved into the house either having to foot the bill out of their own savings or apply for a deferment – but then having to sell the house when their relative dies. Alternatively, they may have to sell up immediately and use the cash for the care bill. ‘Anyone who tries to shield their home from local authorities is stepping into a minefield,’ said Janet Davies, of Symponia, a professional body for care home fee advisers.

‘Most people who try to do it don’t realise what they are getting themselves into. By doing what they think is best for themselves and their children; they can end up in the worst possible position. ’Stephen Lowe, a spokesman for Age UK, said: ‘We’re seeing a lot of families concerned about trying to protect their homes from inclusion for care home fees. ‘The problem is that it’s such a grey legal area for people to get involved in – and that it’s down to councils to work out what they think was deliberate deprivation.’ Many families try to defend their actions as a legitimate effort to avoid inheritance tax.

However, unless a family has assets of more than £650,000 (the inheritance tax threshold for a couple), the argument usually won’t wash. The spiraling cost of long-term care fees has triggered fears that it will destroy the wealth families have built up over decades. Weekly bills for a room in a care home average £532, or £750 for nursing as well. With the average length of stay at 66 weeks, the bill can be anything up to £50,000.

For more information on this please feel free to use the contact us tab on our website or comment on our Facebook page which can be found at www.facebook.com/jmwillsandlegal

Trusted Trader Approved!

Good news J M Wills and Legal Services are now a member of the Trusted Trader Scheme provided by the Derbyshire County Council, this means that we are an approved and reliable company to work with.

For more details please see the Trusted Trader Link under our useful links page.

Regulation on the Will Writing Industry

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is this week recommending to the Lord Chancellor that will-writing activities should be made subject to regulation, so that the significant risks consumers currently face when using these critical services are reduced.

This recommendation concludes a two year investigation by the LSB. The investigation, under sections 24 and 26 of the Legal Services Act 2007, also considered the regulation of estate administration and probate activities.

The LSB’s main conclusions are:

Will-writing activities

The LSB found comprehensive evidence that the market is not working efficiently – to the detriment of consumers and providers alike. Alternatives to statutory regulation have been tried but have not been successful. The LSB’s recommendation, if accepted, will:

  • give consumers better protection and consistent access to redress by allowing access to the Legal Ombudsman for consumers of all will-writing providers;
  • increase competition by creating a level-playing field between traditional law firms and new forms of service provider, making both subject to equivalent regulation;
  • require regulators to develop proportionate and targeted approaches to supervising providers by identifying and targeting risks and taking swift enforcement action if things go wrong.

Estate administration activities

The LSB considered carefully the reported risk of fraud in estate administration but has concluded based on the available evidence that statutory regulation would not be effective in preventing what amounts to criminal behavior. The LSB is instead recommending a range of policy initiatives to raise standards and help the market work well for consumers including:

  • major providers working together to produce voluntary schemes to promote standards and provide minimum protections for consumers;
  • improving the information available to consumers when they purchase these services to help them choose with confidence and understand potential risks.

Probate activities

Probate activities are currently subject to regulation and the LSB has concluded that no additional evidence has been presented to us to warrant changing this.