At Absolute Finance we appreciate that every client is unique and complex, which has led us to develop a highly innovative approach to their protection requirements.
Bad news can impact on any one of us at any time, in the form of an illness, or sudden death. We don't like to think about it, but we do have to plan for it. So having the correct protection strategy in place will enable you to protect your family's lifestyle if your income suddenly changes due to illness or your premature death. But choosing the right options can be difficult without obtaining professional advice to ensure you protect your family from financial hardship.
This following information considers many of the different protection options, and the structures into which you could transfer your assets, which could have lasting consequences for you and your family, and sets out why it is crucial that you make the correct choices. We can ensure that you find the right solutions to protect your assets and offer your family and business lasting benefits.
Obtaining professional advice is essential to making an informed decision about the most suitable sum assured, premium, terms and payment provisions.
At Absolute Finance we work with our clients to create tailored protection strategies, that meet their financial goals and needs; and we're committed to ensuring that our clients enjoy the best financial planning service available.
As part of our service we also take the time to understand our client's unique needs and circumstances, so that we can provide them with the most suitable protection solutions in the most cost-effective way. If you would like to discuss the range of protection services we offer, please contact us for further information.
Please note that the information contained in the sections below is to help you to think about your protection needs. It is not designed to provide specific advice. If you are unsure of your financial position or about which type of financial product is right for you, please contact us for further information.
Providing a financial safety net for your loved ones
Whether you're looking to provide a financial safety net for your loved ones, moving house or a first time buyer looking to arrange your mortgage life insurance - or simply wanting to add some cover to what you've already got - you'll want to make sure you choose the right type of cover. That's why obtaining the right advice and knowing which products to choose – including the most suitable sum assured, premium, terms and payment provisions – is essential.
Life assurance helps your dependants to cope financially in the event of your premature death. When you take out life assurance, you set the amount you want the policy to pay out should you die – this is called the 'sum assured'. Even if you consider that currently you have sufficient life assurance, you'll probably need more later on if your circumstances change. If you don't update your policy as key events happen throughout your life, you may risk being seriously under-insured.
As you reach different stages in your life, the need for protection will inevitably change. These are typical events when you should review your life assurance requirements:
Buying your first home with a partner
Having other debts and dependants
Getting married or entering into a civil partnership
Starting a family
Becoming a stay-at-home parent
Having more children
Moving to a bigger property
Changing your job
Relying on someone else to support you
Personal guarantee for business loans
Your life assurance premiums will vary according to a number of different factors, including the sum assured and the length of your policy (its 'term'), plus individual lifestyle factors such as your age, occupation, state of health and whether or not you smoke.
If you have a spouse, partner or children, you should have sufficient protection to pay off your mortgage and any other liabilities. After that, you may need life assurance to replace at least some of your income. How much money a family needs will vary from household to household, so ultimately, it's up to you to decide how much money you would like to leave your family that would enable them to maintain their current standard of living.
There are two basic types of life assurance, 'term' and 'whole-of-life', but within those categories there are different variations.
The cheapest, simplest form of life assurance is term assurance. It is straightforward protection, there is no investment element and it pays out a lump sum if you die within a specified period. There are several types of term assurance.
The other type of protection available is a whole-of-life assurance policy designed to provide you with cover throughout your entire lifetime. The policy only pays out once the policyholder dies, providing the policyholder's dependants with a lump sum, usually tax-free. Depending on the individual policy, policyholders may have to continue contributing right up until they die, or they may be able to stop paying in once they reach a stated age, even though the cover continues until they die.
Although the proceeds from a life assurance policy are tax-free, they could form part of your estate and become liable to Inheritance Tax (IHT). The simple way to avoid IHT on the proceeds is to place your policy into an appropriate trust, which enables any payout to be made directly to your dependants. Certain kinds of trust allow you to control what happens to your payout after death and this could speed up a payment. However, they cannot be used for life assurance policies that are assigned to (earmarked for) your mortgage lender.
Generally speaking, the amount of life assurance you may need should provide a lump sum that is sufficient to remove the burden of any debts and, ideally, leave enough over to invest in order to provide an income to support your dependants for the required period of time.
The first consideration is to clarify what you want the life assurance to protect. If you simply want to cover your mortgage, then an amount equal to the outstanding mortgage debt can achieve that.
However, if you want to prevent your family from being financially disadvantaged by your premature death and provide enough financial support to maintain their current lifestyle, there are a few more variables you should consider:
What are your family expenses and how would they change if you died?
How much would the family expenditure increase on requirements such as childcare if you were to die?
How much would your family income drop if you were to die?
How much cover do you receive from your employer or company pension scheme and for how long?
What existing policies do you have already and how far do they go to meeting your needs?
How long would your existing savings last?
What state benefits are there that could provide extra support to meet your family's needs?
How would the return of inflation to the economy affect the amount of your cover over time?
Life assurance helps your dependants to cope financially in the event of your premature death. When you take out life assurance, you set the amount you want the policy to pay out should you die – this is called the 'sum assured'.
Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Providing financial protection with cover that lasts for the rest of your life
Whole-of-life assurance policies provide financial security for people who depend on you financially. As the name suggests, whole-of-life assurance helps you protect your loved ones financially with cover that lasts for the rest of your life. This means the insurance company will have to pay out in almost every case and premiums are therefore higher than those charged on term assurance policies.
Whole-of-life assurance policies pay a lump sum to your estate when you die. This could be used by your family in whatever way suits them best, such as providing for an inheritance, paying for funeral costs and even forming part of an Inheritance Tax planning strategy.
Some whole-of-life assurance policies require that premiums are paid all the way up to your death. Others become paid-up at a certain age and waive premiums from that point onwards.
Whole-of-life assurance policies can seem attractive because most (but not all) have an investment element and therefore a surrender value. If, however, you cancel the policy and cash it in, you will lose your cover. Where there is an investment element, your premiums are usually reviewed after ten years, and then every five years.
Whole-of-life assurance policies are also available without an investment element and with guaranteed or investment-linked premiums from some providers.
The level of protection selected will normally be guaranteed for the first ten years, at which point it will be reviewed to see how much protection can be provided in the future. If the review shows that the same level of protection can be carried on, it will be guaranteed to the next review date. If the review reveals that the same level of protection can't continue, you'll have two choices:
Increase your payments
Keep your payments the same and reduce your level of protection
Maximum cover offers a high initial level of cover for a lower premium, until the first plan review, which is normally after ten years. The low premium is achieved because very little of your premium is kept back for investment, as most of it is used to pay for the life assurance.
After a review you may have to increase your premiums significantly to keep the same level of cover, as this depends on how well the cash in the investment reserve (underlying fund) has performed.
This cover balances the level of life assurance with adequate investment to support the policy in later years. This maintains the original premium throughout the life of the policy.
However, it relies on the value of units invested in the underlying fund growing at a certain level each year. Increased charges or poor performance of the fund could mean you'll have to increase your monthly premium to keep the same level of cover.
There are different types of whole-of-life assurance policy – some offer a set payout from the outset, others are linked to investments, and the payout will depend on performance. Investment-linked policies are either unit-linked policies, linked to funds, or with-profits policies, which offer bonuses. Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
How would you pay the bills if you were sick or injured and couldn't work?
Protecting your income should be taken very seriously, given the limited government support available. How would you pay the bills if you were sick or injured and couldn't work? Income protection insurance, formerly known as 'permanent health insurance', is a financial safety net designed to help protect you, your family and your lifestyle in the event that you cannot work and cope financially due to an illness or accidental injury preventing you from working.
Without a regular income, you may find it a struggle financially, even if you were ill for only a short period, and you could end up using your savings to pay the bills. In the event that you suffered from a serious illness, medical condition or accident, you could even find that you are never able to return to work. Few of us could cope financially if we were off work for more than six to nine months. Income protection insurance provides a tax-free monthly income for as long as required, up to retirement age, should you be unable to work due to long-term sickness or injury.
By law, your employer must pay most employees statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. This will almost certainly be a lot less than your full earnings. Few employers pay for longer periods. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to return to work, your employer could even stop paying you altogether and terminate your employment. After that, you would probably have to rely on state benefits. Some employers arrange group income protection insurance for their employees, which can pay out an income after the statutory sick period.
Income protection insurance aims to put you back to the position you were in before you were unable to work. It does not allow you to make a profit out of your misfortune. So the maximum amount of income you can replace through insurance is broadly the after-tax earnings you have lost, less an adjustment for state benefits you can claim. This is usually translated into a maximum of 50 per cent to 65 per cent of your before-tax earnings.
If you are self-employed, then no work is also likely to mean no income. However, depending on what you do, you may have income coming in from earlier work, even if you are ill for several months. The self-employed can take out individual policies rather than business ones, but you need to ascertain on what basis the insurer will pay out. A typical basis for payment is your pre-tax share of the gross profit, after deduction of trading expenses, in the 12 months immediately prior to the date of your incapacity. Some policies operate an average over the last three years, as they understand that self-employed people often have a fluctuating income. The cost of your cover will depend on your occupation, age, state of health and whether or not you smoke.
The 'occupation class' is used by insurers to decide whether a policyholder is able to return to work. If a policy will pay out only if a policyholder is unable to work in 'any occupation', it might not pay benefits for long – or indeed at all. The most comprehensive definitions are 'Own Occupation' or 'Suited Occupation'. 'Own Occupation' means you can make a claim if you are unable to perform your own job; however, being covered under 'Any Occupation' means that you have to be unable to perform any job, with equivalent earnings to the job you were doing before not taken into account.
You can also usually choose for your cover to remain the same (level cover) or increase in line with inflation (inflation-linked cover):
Level cover - with this cover, if you made a claim the monthly income would be fixed at the start of your plan and does not change in the future. You should remember that this means, if inflation eventually starts to rise, that the buying power of your monthly income payments may be reduced over time.
Inflation-linked cover - with this cover, if you made a claim the monthly income would go up in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI). When you take out cover, you usually have the choice of:
Guaranteed premiums - the premiums remain the same all the way throughout the term of your plan. If you have chosen inflation-linked cover, your premiums and cover will automatically go up each year in line with RPI.
Reviewable premiums - this means the premiums you pay can increase or decrease in the future. The premiums will not typically increase or decrease for the first five years of your plan but they may do so at any time after that. If your premiums do go up, or down, they will not change again for the next 12 months.
How long you have to wait after making a claim will depend on the waiting period. You can usually choose from between 1, 2, 3, 6, 12 or 24 months. The longer the waiting period you choose, the lower the premium for your cover will be, but you'll have to wait longer after you become unable to work before the payments from the policy are paid to you. Premiums must be paid for the entire term of the plan, including the waiting period.
Depending on your circumstances, it is possible that the payments from the plan may affect any state benefits due to you. This will depend on your individual situation and what state benefits you are claiming or intending to claim. If you are unsure whether any state benefits you are receiving will be affected, you should seek professional advice.
Income protection insurance aims to put you back to the position you were in before you were unable to work. It does not allow you to make a profit out of your misfortune. So the maximum amount of income you can replace through insurance is broadly the after-tax earnings you have lost, less an adjustment for state benefits you can claim. This is usually translated into a maximum of 50 per cent to 65 per cent of your before-tax earnings. Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Keeping pace with the growing size of an ageing population
The funding of long-term care remains one of the biggest public policy challenges facing the government. As the baby-boomer generation grows older, it is estimated that spending on social care needs to double in real terms over the next twenty years just to keep pace with the growing size of the ageing population.
In July 2010, the Commission on Funding of Care and Support was set up by the coalition to review the funding system of care and support in England. Chaired by Andrew Dilnot, it presented its findings to the government in its report 'Fairer Care Funding', published on 4 July 2011.
Among the recommendations in the report are:
Individuals' lifetime contributions towards their social care costs – which are currently potentially unlimited – should be capped. After the cap is reached, individuals would be eligible for full state support for care costs. This cap should be between £25,000 and £50,000. We consider that £35,000 is the most appropriate and fair figure.
The means-tested threshold, above which people are liable for their full care costs, should be increased from £23,250 to £100,000.
National eligibility criteria and portable assessments should be introduced to ensure greater consistency.
All those who enter adulthood with a care and support need should be eligible for free state support immediately rather than being subjected to a means test.
We may not like to think about it, but a growing number of us will need long-term care when we're older. If you've got elderly parents you may need to pay all or part of their care costs. The time when an elderly person needs to go into residential care is often a huge strain on family members. Illness or infirmity may have forced a sudden change in circumstances and time may be short.
Long-term care is care you need for the foreseeable future, maybe as a result of an illness or old age. As you get older, you might develop health problems that could make it difficult to cope with everyday tasks. So you may require help to stay in your own home or have to move into a care home.
Many elderly may be faced with the decision of having to sell their homes to pay for care and in many cases it may even come down to where they live, a postcode, with some elderly receiving better support from their local council than others.
Under the Community Care Act 1990, local councils have the right, by law, to force the sale of a family home to pay for care costs or to take a charge against a property to be repaid on the eventual sale of the home. This could result in very little being left for the surviving family.
More often than not, it is the elderly who require care over the longer term and it is typically occasioned by either increasing frailty due to ageing or the chronic aftermath of acute conditions, such as a stroke or a fall. Long-term care provision may be required if you become ill or suffer a disability that makes you unable to carry out your usual activities of daily living, with the probability that this disability will continue over a long period.
Long-term care may also be required if a person is mentally impaired. The most common form of impairment for elderly people is dementia, and a common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. A person suffering from dementia will need personal supervision and assistance to carry out their normal daily activities.
The state may provide some help towards the costs of this care, depending on your circumstances. There are other ways to help you cover the cost of care, including using savings and investments.
The care required can take many forms, from simple domestic assistance to medical interventions, and may be provided in a care home or in the person's own home. Many people would have hoped the National Health Service (NHS) would look after them. But the NHS no longer covers all the costs associated with the care of incurable conditions in old age. Instead you may be forced to buy 'insurance' to pay out if nursing or residential care at a later stage is needed.
Since the Community Care Act, that task has been transferred to local councils. The NHS will only provide and/or pay for the Nursing Care Service Component of a person's long-term care service needs. All other costs and services associated with long-term care are the care recipient's responsibility unless they qualify for local authority assistance. Although in Scotland from July 2002 Free Personal Care has been available.
Anyone currently with assets of more than £23,250 for the financial year 2011/12 (in England) will be expected to pay for their care needs. In most cases, the value of any property owned will be included within this sum.
However, there are certain circumstances in which the home is excluded. And those with the foresight to plan in advance may want to make sure they can take advantage of this, particularly if their remaining assets are less than the £23,250 limit.
A property will automatically be ignored if a surviving spouse or partner lives there. This rule extends to other relatives aged 60 or over who live in the property. So if a daughter, niece or brother has moved in as a carer, this could help reduce future care costs. More importantly, many couples don't realise that they may be able to take the home out of the care equation altogether by altering the way in which it is owned.
Most couples buying a property do so as 'joint tenants'. This ensures that on the death of either party their share is automatically transferred to the other. If this is done, and half the home is passed on to the children on the death of the first spouse or placed into a trust on their behalf, then it is possible that the whole home may be disregarded at a later stage if the surviving spouse needs nursing care. However, you need to understand the powers that local authorities have to include in the means testing assessment assets that they consider have been subject to 'deliberate deprivation'. This occurs when a resident transfers an asset out of their possession in order to achieve a better position that enables them to obtain assistance.
The home should be disregarded if the care needs are classed as 'temporary'. If the value of your assets, excluding your property, is less than £23,250, you should not have to pay for care for the first 12 weeks. Even if your assets are more than this initially but are then used up paying care home fees, you should be able to apply for this 12-week disregard once they drop below the £23,250 limit.
It is important not to fall into the trap of simply giving your home away to your children. The local authority has the right to obtain assets that have been deliberately disposed of to avoid paying fees. However, the 'tenants-in-common' ownership does not fall under these rules because the gift is made only on death.
If your care needs are overwhelmingly medical and are deemed 'complex and unstable', you may qualify for NHS-funded 'Continuing Care', which means all bills are met in full, including residential costs. However, the strict eligibility criteria mean that few people qualify, and even those who do are reassessed regularly. If their condition stabilises, their care costs will revert to local authority control, which means patients will be assessed for their ability to pay. But if a relative's condition worsens, you can ask for them to be reassessed for continuing care. If you feel that a relative has been wrongly assessed, you can also appeal to your local social services.
Even those who have to pay their own care costs should ensure they receive the correct benefits. The main one is Attendance Allowance. It is not means-tested and pays a weekly tax-free amount, depending on your level of need. If you are receiving care in a nursing home, you should also be eligible for the Registered Nursing Care Contribution, paid in England. This is paid direct to the home and offsets the cost of your care.
In Scotland, those who need nursing care will also be paid a contribution towards personal care costs. However, they do not claim Attendance Allowance as well. Many in Scotland still have to contribute substantial sums towards long-term care costs.
Many families may still have to pay the majority of the care costs. There are a variety of options to consider, and professional advice should always be taken to evaluate which best suits your circumstances. The main options are:
A deferred option scheme - if your other assets are below the means test limit, you can ask the local authority to pay care costs and they will place a charge on your property to be paid on your death. This potentially allows your estate to benefit from future property price rises, although in the current climate this may not be so relevant.
A care fees annuity - from the proceeds of the sale of the home, you can buy an annuity to provide a guaranteed income. This means that the price of care is capped and protects the remaining capital. But for the relatives of those who die shortly after going into care, it could prove a more costly option.
Investment options - many people choose to sell the home and invest the proceeds, using the income generated to help pay care fees. Alternatively, the property may be rented, with the rental income going towards care. But this means that the family has to maintain and manage the property.
You and your spouse or civil partner should each make a provision in your wills ensuring that, upon the first death, the deceased's half of the property is placed in trust for your children or other beneficiaries instead of passing directly to the survivor.
A trust keeps any designated property owned by the deceased away from the council's reach. At the same time it allows the surviving spouse or civil partner to continue benefiting from the assets, which may include the family home. On the death of the remaining member of the couple, the assets owned by the trust, together with whatever is left of the assets of the second spouse or civil partner, can be given to the surviving family.
The majority of people own their homes jointly, which means that, on first death, the survivor would then own 100 per cent of the full property value. By changing the way you own your home to what is known as 'tenants-in-common', combined with the appropriate trust planning, this could effectively ensure that your property is fully protected should either of you enter into care. In addition, by changing the way your assets are invested and held, this could ensure that your cash or liquid assets are fully protected from future long-term care costs.
A gift-and-loan trust can be used to fund long-term care, with the added benefit of reducing Inheritance Tax on your estate. You place a small amount, such as £1,000, in trust and then lend a large sum, such as £100,000, to the trustees.
You may not benefit from the trust by law but you can have the loan repaid, typically at 5 per cent annually, which can then be used to pay for care fees. The trustees can invest the capital, and the aim is that it grows in value outside of your estate.
Even with recent falls in property prices, many elderly people may have significant equity in their homes. Equity-release schemes are loans against the value of their home, with interest deferred until the property is sold, normally on death.
Most lifetime mortgage schemes allow you to borrow between 20 per cent and 45 per cent of the property's value. Unlike selling the property to raise funds for care-home fees, you will still benefit if the housing market gains value and you can also keep your house.
We may not like to think about it, but a growing number of us will need long-term care when we're older. If you've got elderly parents you may need to pay all or part of their care costs. The time when an elderly person needs to go into residential care is often a huge strain on family members. Illness or infirmity may have forced a sudden change in circumstances and time may be short. Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Don't overlook your most important assets, the people who drive your business.
Every business has key people who are driving it forward. Many businesses recognise the need to ensure their company property, equipment and fixed assets. However, they continually overlook their most important assets, the people who drive the business – a key employee, director or shareholder.
Key person insurance is designed to compensate a business for the financial loss brought about by the death or critical illness of a key employee, such as a company director. It can provide a valuable cash injection to the business to aid a potential loss of turnover and provide funds to replace the key person.
Share and partnership protection provides an agreement between shareholding directors or partners in a business, supported by life assurance to ensure that there are sufficient funds for the survivor to purchase the shares. It is designed to ensure that the control of the business is retained by the remaining partners or directors but the value of the deceased's interest in the business is passed to their chosen beneficiaries in the most tax-efficient manner possible.
If a shareholding director or partner were to die, the implications for your business could be very serious indeed. Not only would you lose their experience and expertise, but consider, too, what might happen to their shares.
The shares might pass to someone who has no knowledge or interest in your business. Or you may discover that you can't afford to buy the shareholding. It's even possible that the person to whom the shares are passed then becomes a majority shareholder and so is in a position to sell the company.
The shareholding directors or partners in a business enter into an agreement that does not create a legally binding obligation on either party to buy or sell the shares but rather gives both parties an option to buy or sell, i.e. the survivor has the option to buy the shares of the deceased shareholder and the executors of the deceased shareholder have the option to sell those shares.
In either case it is the exercise of the option that creates a binding contract; there is no binding contract beforehand. This type of agreement is generally called a 'cross-option' agreement or a 'double option' agreement.
These are essential areas for partnerships or directors of private limited companies to explore.
Different forms of protection
Key person insurance - compensates your business up to a pre-agreed limit for the loss or unavoidable absence of crucial personnel, including the owner-manager. It is especially appropriate if your business depends on a few employees.
Critical illness cover - pays a sum of money to specific employees or the business owner in the event of a serious illness, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Income protection insurance – protects individuals by paying their salaries while they're unable to work.
Private health insurance - funds private healthcare for specific employees. As well as being an extra benefit of employment, it could help them to return to work more quickly after an illness by paying for rehabilitation treatment.
Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
With the abundance of choice, we can help you make the right decisions
With so many different protection options available, making the right decision to protect your personal and financial situation can seem overwhelming. There is a plethora of protection solutions which could help ensure that a lump sum, or a replacement income, becomes available to you in the event that it is needed.
We can make sure that you are able to take the right decisions to deliver peace of mind for you and your family in the event of death, if you are too ill to work, require care or if you are diagnosed with a critical illness.
All these protection options also apply to your spouse and to those who are in civil partnerships. Choosing the right mix of financial protection for your particular situation is essential to ensure that your specific requirements are fully covered.
Provides a guaranteed lump sum paid to your estate in the event of your premature death. To avoid Inheritance Tax and probate delays, policies should be set up under an appropriate trust.
Provides a lump sum for your beneficiaries in the event of your death over a specified term. You choose the sum insured and the policy term which is guaranteed at the outset and remains unchanged throughout the term.
Family income benefit
Provides a replacement income for beneficiaries on your premature death. In the event of a claim, income can be paid monthly, quarterly or annually and under current rules the income is tax-free.
Provides a lump sum in the event of your premature death to cover a reducing liability for a fixed period, such as a repayment mortgage.
Provides a tax-free lump sum if you are diagnosed with suffering from one of a number of specified 'critical' illnesses during the term. Some life assurance companies offer to cover you for both death and critical illness and will pay out the guaranteed benefit on the first event to occur.
Insurance that provides a percentage of your lost income caused by an illness, accident or disability. Rates vary according to the dangers associated with your occupation, age, and state of health.
Insurance to cover the costs of care. This can be either immediate care, provided when you actually need care, or pre-funded care, which is provided in advance in case you need care in the future.
All these protection options also apply to your spouse and to those who are in civil partnerships. Choosing the right mix of financial protection for your particular situation is essential to ensure that your specific requirements are fully covered. Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Making a will
No one likes to think about it but death is the one certainty that we all face. Planning ahead can give you the peace of mind that your loved ones can cope financially without you and, at a difficult time, helps remove the stress that monetary worries can bring.
Planning your finances in advance should help you to ensure that, when you die, everything you own goes where you want it to. Making a will is the first step in ensuring that your estate is shared out exactly as you want it to be.
If you don't make a will, there are rules for sharing out your estate called the Law of Intestacy, which could mean your money going to family members who may not need it, or your unmarried partner or a partner with whom you are not in a civil partnership receiving nothing at all.
If you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner there'll be no Inheritance Tax to pay, because they are classed as an exempt beneficiary. Or you may decide to use your tax-free allowance to give some of your estate to someone else or to a family trust. Scottish law on inheritance differs from English law.
Good reasons to make a will
A will sets out who is to benefit from your property and possessions (your estate) after your death. There are many good reasons to make a will:
you can decide how your assets are shared – if you don't have a will, the law says who gets what
if you're an unmarried couple (whether or not it's a same-sex relationship), you can make sure your partner is provided for
if you're divorced, you can decide whether to leave anything to your former partner
you can make sure you don't pay more Inheritance Tax than necessary. Before you write your will, it's a good idea to think about what you want included in it. You should consider:
how much money and what property and possessions you have
who you want to benefit from your will
who should look after any children under 18 years of age
who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)
Passing on your estate
An executor is the person responsible for passing on your estate. You can appoint an executor by naming them in your will. The courts can also appoint other people to be responsible for doing this job.
Once you've made your will, it is important to keep it in a safe place and tell your executor, close friend or relative where it is.
It is advisable to review your will every five years and after any major change in your life, such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child or moving house. Any change must be by 'codicil' (an addition, amendment or supplement to a will) or by making a new will.
If you don't have a will there are rules for deciding who inherits your assets, depending on your personal circumstances. The following rules are for deaths on or after 1 July 2009 in England and Wales; the law differs if you die intestate (without a will) in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The rates that applied before that date are shown in brackets.
If you're married or in a civil partnership and there are no children
The husband, wife or civil partner won't automatically get everything, although they will receive:
personal items, such as household articles and cars, but nothing used for business purposes
£400,000 (£200,000) free of tax – or the whole estate if it was less than £400,000 (£200,000)
half of the rest of the estate The other half of the rest of the estate will be shared by the following:
if there are no surviving parents, any brothers and sisters (who shared the same two parents as the deceased) will get a share (or their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
if the deceased has none of the above, the husband, wife or registered civil partner will get everything
If you're married or in a civil partnership and there were children
Your husband, wife or civil partner won't automatically get everything, although they will receive:
personal items, such as household articles and cars, but nothing used for business purposes
£250,000 (£125,000) free of tax, or the whole of the estate if it was less than £250,000 (£125,000)
a life interest in half of the rest of the estate (on his or her death this will pass to the children) The rest of the estate will be shared by the children.
If you are partners but aren't married or in a civil partnership
If you aren't married or registered civil partners, you won't automatically get a share of your partner's estate if they die without making a will. If they haven't provided for you in some other way, your only option is to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
If there is no surviving spouse/civil partner
The estate is distributed as follows:
to surviving children in equal shares (or to their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
if there are no children, to parents (equally, if both alive)
if there are no surviving parents, to brothers and sisters (who shared the same two parents as the deceased), or to their children if they died while the deceased was still alive
if there are no brothers or sisters, then to half brothers or sisters (or to their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
if none of the above, then to grandparents (equally if more than one)
if there are no grandparents, then to aunts and uncles (or their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
if none of the above, then to half uncles or aunts (or their children if they died while the deceased was still alive)
to the Crown if there are none of the above.
It'll take longer to sort out your affairs if you don't have a will. This could mean extra distress for your relatives and dependants until they can draw money from your estate.
If you feel that you have not received reasonable financial provision from the estate, you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, applicable in England and Wales. To make a claim you must have a particular type of relationship with the deceased, such as child, spouse, civil partner, dependant or cohabite.
Bear in mind that if you were living with the deceased as a partner but weren't married or in a civil partnership, you'll need to show that you've been 'maintained either wholly or partly by the deceased.' This can be difficult to prove if you've both contributed to your life together. You need to make a claim within six months of the date of the Grant of Letters of Administration.
Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Without proper tax planning, could you end up leaving a huge tax liability?
In order to protect family and loved ones, it is essential to have provisions in place after you're gone. The easiest way to prevent unnecessary tax payments such as Inheritance Tax is to organise your tax affairs by obtaining professional advice and having a valid will in place to ensure that your legacy does not involve just leaving a large Inheritance Tax bill for your loved ones.
Effective Inheritance Tax planning could save your beneficiaries thousands of pounds, maybe even hundreds of thousands depending on the size of your estate. At its simplest, Inheritance Tax is the tax payable on your estate when you die if the value of your estate exceeds a certain amount. It's also sometimes payable on assets you may have given away during your lifetime, including property, possessions, money and investments.
Inheritance Tax is currently paid on amounts above £325,000 (£650,000 for married couples and registered civil partnerships) threshold for the current tax year & frozen until 2017/18 tax year, at a rate of 40 per cent. If the value of your estate, including your home and certain gifts made in the previous seven years, exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold, tax will be due on the balance at 40 per cent.
Without proper planning, many people could end up leaving a substantial tax liability on their death, considerably reducing the value of the estate passing to their chosen beneficiaries.
Your estate includes everything owned in your name, the share of anything owned jointly, gifts from which you keep back some benefit (such as a home given to a son or daughter but in which you still live) and assets held in some trusts from which you receive an income.
Against this total value is set everything that you owed, such as any outstanding mortgages or loans, unpaid bills and costs incurred during your lifetime for which bills have not been received, as well as funeral expenses. Any amount of money given away outright to an individual is not counted for tax if the person making the gift survives for seven years. These gifts are called 'potentially exempt transfers' and are useful for tax planning.
Money put into a 'bare' trust (a trust where the beneficiary is entitled to the trust fund at age 18) counts as a potentially exempt transfer, so it is possible to put money into a trust to prevent grandchildren, for example, from having access to it until they are 18.
However, gifts to most other types of trust will be treated as chargeable lifetime transfers. Chargeable lifetime transfers up to the threshold are not subject to tax but amounts over this are taxed at 20 per cent, with a further 20 per cent payable if the person making the gift dies within seven years.
Some cash gifts are exempt from tax regardless of the seven-year rule. Regular gifts from after-tax income, such as a monthly payment to a family member, are also exempt as long as you still have sufficient income to maintain your standard of living.
Any gifts between husbands and wives, or registered civil partners, are exempt from Inheritance Tax whether they were made while both partners were still alive or left to the survivor on the death of the first. Tax will be due eventually when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies if the value of their estate is more than the combined tax threshold, currently £650,000.
If gifts are made that affect the liability to Inheritance Tax and the giver dies less than seven years later, a special relief known as 'taper relief' may be available. The relief reduces the amount of tax payable on a gift.
In most cases, Inheritance Tax must be paid within six months from the end of the month in which the death occurs. If not, interest is charged on the unpaid amount. Tax on some assets, including land and buildings, can be deferred and paid in instalments over ten years. However, if the asset is sold before all the instalments have been paid, the outstanding amount must be paid. The Inheritance Tax threshold in force at the time of death is used to calculate how much tax should be paid.
Inheritance Tax can be a complicated area with a variety of solutions available and, without proper tax planning; many people could end up leaving a huge tax liability on their death, considerably reducing the value of the estate passing to chosen beneficiaries. So without Inheritance Tax planning, your family could be faced with a large tax liability when you die. To ensure that your family benefits rather than the government, it pays to plan ahead.
As with most financial planning, early consideration and planning is essential. Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is also essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Do you have control over what happens to your estate, both immediately after your death and for generations to come?
Following the changes introduced by the Finance Act 2006 trusts still remains an important estate planning mechanism. A trust arrangement can ensure that your wealth is properly managed and distributed after your death, so that it provides for the people who depend on you and is enjoyed by your heirs in the way you intend.
A trust is often the best way to achieve flexibility in the way you pass on your wealth to future generations. You may decide to use a trust to pass assets to beneficiaries, particularly those who aren't immediately able to look after their own affairs. If you do use a trust to give something away, this removes it from your estate provided you don't use it or get any benefit from it. But bear in mind that gifts into trust may be liable to Inheritance Tax.
Trusts offer a means of holding and managing money or property for people who may not be ready or able to manage it for themselves. Used in conjunction with a will, they can also help ensure that your assets are passed on in accordance with your wishes after you die. Here we take a look at the main types of UK family trust.
When writing a will, there are several kinds of trust that can be used to help minimise an Inheritance tax liability. On 22 March 2006 the government changed some of the rules regarding trusts and introduced some transitional rules for trusts set up before this date.
A trust might be created in various circumstances, for example:
when someone is too young to handle their affairs
when someone can't handle their affairs because they're incapacitated
to pass on money or property while you're still alive
under the terms of a will
when someone dies without leaving a will (England and Wales only)
What is a trust?
A trust is an obligation binding a person called a trustee to deal with property in a particular way for the benefit of one or more 'beneficiaries'.
The settlor creates the trust and puts property into it at the start, often adding more later. The settlor says in the trust deed how the trust's property and income should be used.
Trustees are the 'legal owners' of the trust property and must deal with it in the way set out in the trust deed. They also administer the trust. There can be one or more trustees.
This is anyone who benefits from the property held in the trust. The trust deed may name the beneficiaries individually or define a class of beneficiary, such as the settlor's family.
This is the property (or 'capital') that is put into the trust by the settlor. It can be anything, including:
land or buildings
antiques or other valuable property
The main types of private UK trust
In a bare trust, the property is held in the trustee's name but the beneficiary can take actual possession of both the income and trust property whenever they want. The beneficiaries are named and cannot be changed.
You can gift assets to a child via a bare trust while you are alive, which will be treated as a Potentially Exempt Transfer (PET) until the child reaches age 18 (the age of majority in England and Wales), when the child can legally demand his or her share of the trust fund from the trustees.
All income arising within a bare trust in excess of £100 per annum will be treated as belonging to the parents (assuming that the gift was made by the parents). But providing the settlor survives seven years from the date of placing the assets in the trust, the assets can pass Inheritance Tax free to a child at age 18.
Life interest or interest in possession trust
In an interest in possession trust, the beneficiary has a legal right to all the trust's income (after tax and expenses) but not to the property of the trust.
These trusts are typically used to leave income arising from a trust to a second surviving spouse for the rest of their life. On their death, the trust property reverts to other beneficiaries (known as the remaindermen), who are often the children from the first marriage.
You can, for example, set up an interest in possession trust in your will. You might then leave the income from the trust property to your spouse for life and the trust property itself to your children when your spouse dies.
With a life interest trust, the trustees often have a 'power of appointment', which means they can appoint capital to the beneficiaries (who can be from within a widely defined class, such as the settlor's extended family) when they see fit.
Where an interest in possession trust was in existence before 22 March 2006, the underlying capital is treated as belonging to the beneficiary or beneficiaries for Inheritance Tax purposes, for example, it has to be included as part of their estate.
Transfers into interest in possession trusts after 22 March 2006 are taxable as follows:
20 per cent tax payable based on the amount gifted into the trust at the outset, which is in excess of the prevailing nil rate band
Ten years after the trust was created, and on each subsequent ten-year anniversary, a periodic charge, currently 6 per cent, is applied to the portion of the trust assets that is in excess of the prevailing nil rate band
The value of the available nil rate band on each ten-year anniversary may be reduced, for instance, by the initial amount of any new gifts put into the trust within seven years of its creation
There is also an exit charge on any distribution of trust assets between each ten-year anniversary.
The trustees of a discretionary trust decide how much income or capital, if any, to pay to each of the beneficiaries but none has an automatic right to either. The trust can have a widely defined class of beneficiaries, typically the settlor's extended family. Discretionary trusts are a useful way to pass on property while the settlor is still alive and allows the settlor to keep some control over it through the terms of the trust deed.
Discretionary trusts are often used to gift assets to grandchildren, as the flexible nature of these trusts allows the settler to wait and see how they turn out before making outright gifts.
Discretionary trusts also allow for changes in circumstances, such as divorce, re-marriage and the arrival of children and stepchildren after the establishment of the trust.
When any discretionary trust is wound up, an exit charge is payable of up to 6 per cent of the value of the remaining assets in the trust, subject to the reliefs for business and agricultural property.
Accumulation and maintenance trust
An accumulation and maintenance trust is used to provide money to look after children during the age of minority. Any income that isn't spent is added to the trust property, all of which later passes to the children.
In England and Wales the beneficiaries become entitled to the trust property when they reach the age of 18. At that point the trust turns into an 'interest in possession' trust. The position is different in Scotland, as, once a beneficiary reaches the age of 16, they could require the trustees to hand over the trust property.
Accumulation and maintenance trusts that were already established before 22 March 2006, and where the child is not entitled to access the trust property until an age up to 25, could be liable to an Inheritance Tax charge of up to 4.2 per cent of the value of the trust assets.
It has not been possible to create accumulation and maintenance trusts since 22 March 2006 for Inheritance Tax purposes. Instead, they are taxed for Inheritance Tax as discretionary trusts.
A mixed trust may come about when one beneficiary of an accumulation and maintenance trust reaches 18 and others are still minors. Part of the trust then becomes an interest in possession trust.
Trusts for vulnerable persons
These are special trusts, often discretionary trusts, arranged for a beneficiary who is mentally or physically disabled. They do not suffer from the Inheritance Tax rules applicable to standard discretionary trusts and can be used without affecting entitlement to state benefits; however, strict rules apply.
Tax on income from UK trusts
Trusts are taxed as entities in their own right. The beneficiaries pay tax separately on income they receive from the trust at their usual tax rates, after allowances.
Taxation of property settled on trusts
How a particular type of trust is charged to tax will depend upon the nature of that trust and how it falls within the taxing legislation. For example, a charge to Inheritance Tax may arise when putting property into some trusts, and on other chargeable occasions – for instance, when further property is added to the trust, on distributions of capital from the trust or on the ten-yearly anniversary of the trust.
By using trusts, you have control over what happens to your estate, both immediately after your death and for generations to come. Placing assets in trust also ensures that they will pass smoothly to your heirs without the delays, costs and publicity often associated with probate. That's because the assets in a trust are legally owned by the trustees, not the settlor. Trusts are very complicated, and you may have to pay Inheritance Tax and /or Capital Gains Tax when putting property into the trust. If you want to create a trust you should seek professional ad vice. As with most financial planning, early consideration and planning is essential. Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is also essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
Choosing the right cover can help ease your financial pressures
You really need to find the right peace of mind when faced with the difficulty of dealing with a critical illness. Critical illness cover is a long-term insurance policy designed to pay you a tax-free lump sum on the diagnosis of certain life-threatening or debilitating (but not necessarily fatal) conditions, such as a heart attack, stroke, certain types/ stages of cancer and multiple sclerosis.
A more comprehensive policy will cover many more serious conditions, including loss of sight, permanent loss of hearing and a total and permanent disability that stops you from working. Some policies also provide cover against the loss of limbs.
It's almost impossible to predict certain events that may occur within our lives, so taking out critical illness cover for you and your family, or if you run a business or company, offers protection when you may need it more than anything else. But not all conditions are necessarily covered, which is why you should always obtain professional advice. In May 2003, insurers adopted new rules set by the Association of British Insurers that tightened the conditions under which you could claim on critical Illness insurance policies.
If you are single with no dependants, critical illness cover can be used to pay off your mortgage, which means that you would have fewer bills or a lump sum to use if you became very unwell. And if you are part of a couple, it can provide much-needed financial support at a time of emotional stress.
The illnesses covered are specified in the policy along with any exclusions and limitations, which may differ between insurers. Critical illness policies usually only pay out once, so are not a replacement for income. Some policies offer combined life and critical illness cover. These pay out if you are diagnosed with a critical illness, or you die, whichever happens first.
If you already have an existing critical illness policy, you might find that by replacing a policy you would lose some of the benefits if you have developed any illnesses since you took out the first policy. It is important to seek professional advice before considering replacing or switching your policy, as pre-existing conditions may not be covered under a new policy.
Some policies allow you to increase your cover, particularly after lifestyle changes such as marriage, moving home or having children. If you cannot increase the cover under your existing policy, you could consider taking out a new policy just to 'top up' your existing cover.
A policy will provide cover only for conditions defined in the policy document. For a condition to be covered, your condition must meet the policy definition exactly. This can mean that some conditions, such as some forms of cancer, won't be covered if deemed insufficiently severe.
Similarly, some conditions will not be covered if you suffer from them after reaching a certain age, for example, many policies will not cover Alzheimer's disease if diagnosed after the age of 60.
Very few policies will pay out as soon as you receive diagnosis of any of the conditions listed in the policy and most pay out only after a 'survival period', which is typically 28 days. This means that if you die within 28 days of meeting the definition of the critical illness given in the policy, the cover would not pay out.
How much you pay for critical illness cover will depend on a range of factors including what sort of policy you have chosen, your age, the amount you want the policy to pay out and whether or not you smoke.
Permanent, total disability is usually included in the policy. Some insurers define 'permanent total disability' as being unable to work as you normally would as a result of sickness, while others see it as being unable to independently perform three or more 'Activities of Daily Living' as a result of sickness or accident. Activities of daily living include:
Dressing and undressing
Transferring from bed to chair and back again
The good news is that medical advances mean more people than ever are surviving conditions that might have killed earlier generations. Critical illness cover can provide cash to allow you to pursue a less stressful lifestyle while you recover from illness, or you can use it for any other purpose. Don't leave it to chance – make sure you're fully covered.
It's almost impossible to predict certain events that may occur within our lives, so taking out critical illness cover for you and your family, or if you run a business or company, offers protection when you may need it more than anything else. As with most financial planning, early consideration and planning is essential. Receiving reliable and professional financial advice is also essential – please contact us to discuss your particular situation.
All of the content of the articles above is for your general information and use only, and is not intended to address your particular requirements. They should not be relied upon in their entirety and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, advice. although endeavours have been made to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No individual or company should act upon such information without receiving appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of their particular situation. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of any articles. Thresholds, percentage rates and tax legislation may change in subsequent Finance Acts.
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