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Is My Will Watertight?

The short answer is no. However, there are a range of options available in order to mitigate the risk of family members making a claim against your estate once you have passed away.

If someone tries to make a claim against your estate once you have passed, this would be governed by the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents Act) 1975. A person can only bring a claim against the estate if they are:

  • A spouse or civil partner of the deceased;
  • A former spouse or civil partner of the deceased (that has not remarried);
  • Any person whom for two years immediately prior to the death of the deceased was living with the deceased as if they were a married couple or civil partners;
  • A child of the deceased;
  • Any person (who was not a child of the deceased) but was treated by the deceased as a child of the family;
  • Any person who immediately before the death was being maintained wholly or partially by the deceased.

When considering a claim, the court will have regard to:

  • The financial resources and financial needs which the applicant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  • The financial resources and financial needs which any other applicant for an order under S.2 of the Act has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  • The financial resources and financial needs which any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
  • Any obligations and responsibilities which the deceased had towards any applicant for an order under the said S.2 or towards any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;
  • The size and nature of the estate of the deceased;
  • Any physical or mental disability of any applicant for an order under the said S.2 or any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;
  • Any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant or any other person, which in the circumstances of the case the court may consider.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to also include a letter of wishes that will record your wishes in further detail, also explaining why you have made the specific distributions to certain people or organisations. Although this is not mandatory, it will assist in providing further evidence to the court if someone were to contest your will.

There is no guarantee that a claim will not be brought against your estate when you die however a properly drafted will can reduce the grounds on which any potential claimant could make a claim and it is therefore essential that your will is drafted correctly and concisely to reflect your true wishes.

Having a will in place is a fundamental step in ensuring your assets and wealth is distributed how you would like it to be after your death. Without a will, you will run the risk of the intestacy rules dictating how your estate will pass which could result in estranged family members far down the blood-line inheriting all or part of your estate. Please see our previous blog: Intestacy (Dying Without a Will) – What Will My Spouse/Civil Partner Get? for further information about dying intestate.

If you are concerned about a family member making a claim against your estate after you die, please get in touch with Lanyon Bowdler where our dedicated team can give you specific advice regarding your circumstances.

International Epilepsy Awareness Day

February 12 marks International Epilepsy Awareness Day. This is a day dedicated to raising global awareness about epilepsy aiming to reduce stigma, deepen understanding of the condition and management and promote support for all those effected by or living with epilepsy.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can affect all ages but typically starts in childhood or in people over 60. It’s a lifelong condition that can be managed with medication to enable people to live normal lives and keep their seizures under control.

Epilepsy can also be acquired through injury to your brain from causes such as;

• a lack of oxygen during birth
• a severe head injury
• a brain infection
• a stroke
• a brain tumour

Symptoms of epilepsy

Seizures can affect people in different ways, depending on which part of the brain is involved but possible symptoms include:

• “fitting’ – that is where a person has uncontrollable jerking and shaking
• becoming stiff or rigid
• losing awareness or staring blankly into space
• odd feelings and sensations, such as a "rising" feeling in the stomach, unusual smells or tastes, or a feelings of pins and needles in the limbs
• collapsing/losing consciousness.

How to get involved?

Observing International Epilepsy Day helps bring the condition to public awareness and keeps the conversation going, contributing to meaningful discussion and helping destigmatise the condition. This is the opportunity for organisations, affected individuals, families and clinicians to come together in a meaningful way and demonstrate solidarity.

The main ways to participate are:

1. wear purple as it is the official colour observed with epilepsy awareness; and
2. share information about epilepsy, including management of seizures, condition education, signposting of symptoms and support groups will help to raise awareness and spread valuable information. There are a number of UK based support groups and associations related solely with epilepsy that have regular fundraising events to support epilepsy research, patient advocacy and specialist assistance/care programmes.
By observing International Epilepsy Day annually, we strive to keep the conversation going and help to create an inclusive and supportive society for everyone.

Can we help?

Many of our clients have had symptoms of epilepsy or diagnosis which we support them with. If you think you have suffered an injury through medical negligence, which has led to symptoms or a diagnosis of epilepsy, we may be able to assist you with a claim or sign post you to support groups. If you would like more information or wish to speak to someone in confidence, please get in touch via email: info@lblaw.co.uk

Review of World Alzheimer’s Month 2023

Defying dementia with new drugs, and neuro occupational therapy.

Each September, people unite from all corners of the world to raise awareness and to challenge the stigma that persists around Alzheimer’s disease and all types of dementia.

During World Alzheimer’s Month,  a call is sent out to everyone, from individuals to large organisations, including every Alzheimer’s and dementia association globally, to support World Alzheimer’s Month by getting involved in some way.  

Many people still wrongly believe that dementia is a part of normal ageing. This alone highlights how important public awareness campaigns, like World Alzheimer’s Month, are for changing perceptions and increasing existing public knowledge around Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  

With the number of people living with dementia set to almost triple by 2050, it has never been more important to recognise the risk factors associated with dementia and take proactive steps towards risk reduction. As such, the 2023 campaign of Alzheimer’s Disease International ‘Never too early, never too late’ centred on the key risk factors and risk reduction, aiming to emphasise their crucial role in delaying and potentially preventing the onset of dementia. This also importantly includes ongoing risk reduction for those who have already been diagnosed.

The aim of the ‘Never too early, never too late‘ campaign was to underscore the pivotal role of identifying risk factors and adopting proactive risk reduction measures to delay, and potentially even prevent, the onset of dementia. This includes ongoing risk reduction strategies for individuals who have already received a diagnosis.

There is growing awareness that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias can start many years prior to symptoms, likewise awareness of the lifelong brain health interventions and choices that can be made. There has never been a more urgent need to understand and respond to the risk factors associated with this condition.

During the September 2023 World Alzheimer's Month there was lots to celebrate in some of the latest research findings in preventing and managing Alzheimer’s disease.

Experts are calling it the beginning of ‘a new era’ of Alzheimer’s therapy as scientists move ever closer to discovering what causes this progressive neurodegenerative disease and, vitally, what cures it. Although words of caution are tempering the new findings (it’s still early days!) fresh seeds of hope have been sown.

Here are some of the latest discoveries...

Fabulous fungus

Diet is one of the most important weapons in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. There is mushrooming evidence that a healthy diet can help to manage, delay or improve some Alzheimer’s symptoms, such as memory loss or cognitive difficulties, and now the mushroom itself is under the microscope of researchers investigating the impact of early dietary interventions for the progressive disease which causes damage to brain cells.

In a study published in Foods Journal, a Chinese research team reviewed literature that explored how mushrooms' bioactive properties might help delay the onset or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

They concluded, “Mushrooms may be a promising functional food for preventing AD. Mushrooms have many bioactive compounds that have the potential to regulate AD.”

These findings are encouraging, however, a substantial amount of research is still needed to study their optimal dose, limitations, bioavailability, the differences between chemical forms, and their possible interactions with other dietary components.

Drug discoveries

Among the fresh drug findings in the Alzheimer’s field lately, two names in particular have been making headlines - Lecanemab and Donanemab.

Both drugs have been shown to slow down the loss of memory and thinking skills in patients with early Alzheimer’s symptoms. Donanemab slowed it down by over 20%, with evidence suggesting the earlier it was taken in the disease stages, the better the outcome. Lecanemab achieved a 27% slowdown, and was also found to be effective for early-stage Alzheimer’s.

However, as with all new drug discoveries, there is much more research to be done, particularly as the most recent trials of both drugs only lasted 18 months and most participants were from a white background.

Neuro OT aid for Alzheimer’s

Neuro-occupational therapists (OTs) understand how Alzheimer’s symptoms can impact life after a diagnosis – for the individual and those who care about them. They use evidence-based occupational therapy strategies and tools that can reduce the impact of the disease on activities of daily living.

Their approach includes assessing changes in the ways the body and brain function, such as:

  • Emotions, moods, and personality 
  • Memory and thinking skills
  • Planning and problem-solving
  • Behaviour and self-image
  • Language and communication

Neuro OTs also help clients to understand more about how the disease may be impacting them and the things they can do to:

  • Improve, develop, or re-learn abilities and skills
  • Maintain independence
  • Compensate for challenges
  • Modify their environment

Whilst everyone is mindful of their physical and mental health not everyone is as mindful of the issues which may arise when their health is impacted whether that be by illness or injury. We would always recommend forward planning for these events where possible such as creating lasting powers of attorney and drafting wills, however, sometimes these are only at the forefront of your mind when you have already reached an impasse. If you are supporting a loved one who lacks capacity and you need assistance please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Court of Protection Team.

King’s Prostate Diagnosis Leads to Raised Awareness

The recent revelation of King Charles' prostate enlargement diagnosis has sparked a significant increase in searches for information on the condition. NHS website traffic saw a surge of over 16,000 visits in a day, indicating a heightened interest in understanding prostate-related disease. Despite concerns, Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the King does not have cancer, easing fears and encouraging a positive dialogue around prostate health.

Health professionals and charities have praised the King's decision to share details about his prostate problem, as it may encourage men with similar symptoms to seek medical advice. Experts believe that the public acknowledgment of the King's diagnosis will lead to more men seeking help, breaking the stigma associated with prostate problems.

Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the King is suffering from a benign enlarged prostate, emphasising that it is a common issue for men over the age of 50. Ordinarily, it does not pose a serious threat but symptoms can be troublesome and lead to treatment via medication and sometimes with surgery. Symptoms include frequent urination, weak flow, delayed flow and sometimes erection and ejaculation problems.

Prostate check-ups are usually carried out by a GP and involve a physical rectal exam, which may make people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, but it is a very common procedure and usually lasts no more than a few seconds. Typically, a blood test is also carried out which tests for a specific blood marker – prostate-specific antigen (PSA). If a GP has any concerns, they will discuss them with the patient and then ensure that a referral is made to a urologist for further investigations.

Treatment for a benign enlarged prostate depends on how severe the symptoms are. In mild cases, usually lifestyle changes are recommended such as drinking less fizzy drinks, alcohol, and caffeine; exercising more; and limiting your intake of artificial sugars and sweeteners. In certain circumstances, mediation can be prescribed to reduce the size of the prostate and associated symptoms. Only in the more severe cases would surgery be recommended.

There is a myth that men are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer if they have a benign enlarged prostate. Thankfully, research has proven this to be false, and there is no greater risk for men with an enlarged prostate compared to those with a normal prostate. However, the chances of developing prostate cancer increase with age, and the symptoms can be similar. It is therefore vital that patients speak to their GP about any concerns they may have, and that regular check-ups are carried out. Earlier detection and treatment can lead to better outcomes.

However, doctors are not infallible and can make mistakes when diagnosing a prostate related condition. If you have concerns that your doctor may have delayed your prostate cancer diagnosis, or if your cancer was mistakenly diagnosed as benign, our team of specialist clinical negligence solicitors can offer advice and guidance in complete confidence. Please contact us by email: info@lblaw.co.uk

All About Apprenticeships – A Year On

It does not feel like a year ago that I was writing my “All About Apprenticeships” blog, but you blink and suddenly it’s February again. The first thing that may spring to your mind is the big V word but before we get to 14 February lets discuss National Apprenticeship Week. This takes place from 5 – 11 February 2024 and is a metaphorical gold mine for those interested in becoming an apprentice, current apprentices, or employers, wishing to expand and diversify their workforce in modern and forward thinking ways.

Rewind to 2022 and I was at the start of my apprenticeship journey. Now, almost two years later, I am approaching the end of the programme and am soon to be sitting my exams and assessments. I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss how the 18 months has gone and offer some insight for anyone considering going down the apprenticeship route.

In my previous blog, I mentioned the benefits of an apprenticeship, and what they offer compared to their university counterpart. These include gaining valuable on the job experience and earning a salary whilst you work. When looked at side-by-side with each other, the apprenticeship seems to be a bit of a no brainer.

A quick Google search shows the average debt for an undergraduate university student sits at around £45,000. The average debt for a student just finishing their Level 7 apprenticeship – which is the equivalent to a master’s degree – sits at £0.00. Unless you acquire a part-time job whilst attending university, the average salary you will earn is £0.00. The average salary for an apprentice varies, ranging anywhere from £12,000 to £23,000 depending on your employer and your qualification level (as per a Google search). In addition to all of this, a survey by Universum found that 58% of leading employers value work experience among applicants more than grades or the name of their university, with a staggering 87% of employers saying they value a positive work attitude over qualifications. Choosing an apprenticeship gives you all of these benefits plus a plethora of others.

One thing I have found invaluable is being able to witness and be a part of real life litigation and experiences only found within the workplace. I had been in my role just one month before my first trip to a barristers chambers and six months before my first outing to court to attend a trial. Since then, the opportunities that have been made available to me have been non-stop, opportunities that you just cannot get or replicate within the classroom or lecture hall.

At the time of writing, there is an All About Apprenticeships (Shropshire) 2024 event scheduled to take place on 6 February 2024 at Shrewsbury Town Football Club. This will run from 14:00 – 19:00 and it is free to attend. As like last year, Lanyon Bowdler will have a stand and multiple apprentices will be present throughout the day accompanied by a member of our Marketing Team, they will be happy to answer any queries you may have.

You can use the links below to find out more information regarding the event and you can access my previous blog for further information.

All About Apprenticeships (Shropshire) 2024: Eventbrite Page

My previous blog: All About Apprenticeships

Panorama- A Spotlight On Gloucestershire Maternity: What Can We Expect?

On Monday 29 January 2024, Panorama will air an episode focusing on the failings in maternity care at a Trust in Gloucestershire.

The Care Quality Commission has said that maternity services at the Trust are inadequate and Panorama has calculated that maternal deaths are almost double the national average.

A week away from broadcast, we predict that the revelations made will shake the local community, as it did in Shropshire when Panorama shone a light on heartbreakingly similar circumstances.

As the lead law firm supporting families impacted by the Shropshire maternity scandal, we know how hard it is for families to process the sheer magnitude of failings identified and to know where to turn if they think they may have fallen victim. What we have also seen with Shropshire is that the failures were longstanding, meaning that there are families who suffered decades ago who are still looking for answers, or even worse, blaming themselves.

Significant changes are needed in maternity services nationally and the NHS has already been given a blueprint for a journey towards better, safer, more compassionate maternity services. Whilst some progress has been made, not enough has been done. The litigation and police investigations that follow explosive programmes like Panorama are incredibly difficult for families.

We are proud of the work we have done to date for the Shropshire families across both our Shrewsbury and Hereford offices and will be on hand to offer free initial advice to the families impacted in Gloucestershire. Please visit lblaw.co.uk for further advice and one of our specialist solicitors will be in touch.

Private Client – Myth-busting

In many cases, clients have preconceived ideas about the law. This is especially the case when it comes to planning for the future. Some may hear a story about a friend or a family member’s situation and think the same applies to them, when this is not always the case.

Below, some of the most common misconceptions are addressed.

“If I don’t have a will, everything will pass to my spouse anyway”

If you are married (or in a civil partnership) and do not have a will, the intestacy rules dictate how your estate will pass.

If you are married and do not have any children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, your whole estate will pass to your spouse.

If you are married and do have any of the above, the first £322,000 of your estate will pass to your spouse, along with your personal possessions. If the value of your estate exceeds this amount, the rest of the estate will be divided into two. One part will pass to your spouse and the other amongst any children.

“If I need to go into a care home, the council will sell my home to pay the care fees”

In England & Wales, the local authorities are required to carry out a financial assessment to determine whether someone is eligible for support towards the payment of care fees. The assessment will consider an individual’s income and assets, which includes a share in any property or land.

In Wales, if you have capital above £50,000 you will be required to pay for all of your own care fees. In England, the cap is £23,250.

The local authority can include the value of your home as an asset when calculating your ability to pay for care. However, some exemptions apply and there may be circumstances where the property is disregarded from the financial assessment.
In circumstances when the property is included in the financial assessment and funds are required to pay for your care, the local authority would not force the home to be sold during your lifetime and can enter into a deferred payment scheme.

“If I have a will, my family will not need a grant of probate”

This is not true.

Your family will need to obtain a grant of probate if the estate includes property or land.

A grant of probate may also be required by other asset holders such as banks, building societies, share registrars and more. Whether a grant of probate is necessary depends on their requirements, which is usually linked to the value of the asset.

“I don’t need a lasting power of attorney, my spouse or children can look after my affairs if I lose capacity”

Unfortunately, our loved ones do not have an immediate right to deal with our affairs on our behalf if we are unable to deal with them ourselves.

Having a lasting power of attorney for both property & financial affairs and health & welfare is therefore very important. In the absence of such documents, many decisions relating to your finances and health could be delayed until the court have approved them as an appropriate person to deal with your affairs.

For more information please contact one of the experts in our Private Client Team.

Santa Claus Isn’t Coming to Town: A Cardiac Cautionary Tale

Introduction

Now that Christmas has come, it is that time where people come together, share stories old and new, and enjoy food and drink together. It is, however, a time where hospitals come under increasing pressure due to many a familiar festive illness and injury. It is now well accepted that there is an increase in death rates the colder it gets. Respiratory diseases flare up and, for the purposes of this blog, cardiovascular admission rates increase over the festive period.

To outline the issues around this time of year is with a tale. A cardiac cautionary tale. A story of the big man in red himself, Mr Santa Claus.

The facts

On 24 December, Mr Claus was travelling on his sleigh, making stops at every single house to drop gifts for all and to fill up on his pre-requisites of milk, cookies, and brandy. By 3am, he has visited many houses and gorged on many a festive treat. After stopping off at the next house on the list, this time to leave a lump of coal, he starts to fall ill. Not wanting to risk it, he decides to take a detour to the local hospital, Winter Wonderland Hospital. On admission to the hospital, Mr Claus is taken to Accident & Emergency. A past medical history notes the following:

1. A high BMI and poorly controlled diet characterised by copious amounts of milk, brandy, and cookies,

2. Profuse sweating,

3. Long periods of remaining stationary as a result of extended travelling on his sleigh,

4. A previous resolving chest pain in the last 12 hours.

The decision is made that his symptoms are just aches and pains. No urgent follow up or investigations are required. This was a fatal error. Mr Claus is triaged back to Accident & Emergency. He does not receive an ECG or blood tests. Three hours later, another patient notices Mr Claus slumped to the side. He has suffered a totally avoidable heart attack.

What is a myocardial infarction?

A myocardial infarction (MI) is more commonly known as a heart attack. This is where plaque inside one of the coronary arteries builds up which can lead to the cessation of blood flow to the myocardium. This can have grave, and often fatal, consequences if left untreated.

What are the guidelines?

The NICE Guidelines (GC95) make clear that in the presence of previous chest pain, initial assessment should include considering the following points:

1. Whether there was current or previous chest pain in the last 12 hours,

2. The history of that chest pain,

3. The presence of cardiovascular risk factors,

4. Any history of heart disease,

5. Previous investigations.

In particular, pain in the chest and or other areas lasting longer than 15 minutes is considered to be a concern. There may also be nausea, vomiting, sweating, and breathlessness. If, following such an examination, an MI is expected then this must be treated as an emergency. Pain relief should be offered as soon as possible, particularly if a MI is suspected. A single loading does of 300mg of aspirin should be given as soon as possible unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.

The usual diagnostic pathway for a suspected MI or other acute coronary conditions is to take a 12-lead ECG and a blood test. The ECG will look for features that indicate an MI including changes to particular waves on the ECG. The blood test is intended to indicate any biochemical markers that are suggestive of an MI such as a raised troponin level. Troponin is one of the regulatory proteins that is released into the blood stream in the event of an MI.

If an MI is expected, there are two options for treating the symptoms. First, medical management by providing either aspirin and/or clopidogrel. Second, reperfusion therapy which is where the blood flow is restored through a combination of drugs, thrombolytics, and/or surgery. The most common procedure is called a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) where a catheter is used to place a stent to open up the vessel narrowed by the plaque.

What makes Mr Claus’ cardiology treatment negligent?

A common failure is the failure to diagnose an MI in spite of clear warning signs. In Mr Claus’ case, the poor diet and BMI are considered to be risk factors that increase the possibility of plaque build-up in the arteries pumping blood to the heart. Chest pain is the classic sign of an MI as well as profuse sweating. Even if an ECG was performed, there are still risks of a failure to correctly interpret the ECG.

In law, the test for determining whether there has been failure is whether the actions of the hospital when triaging a patient fell below the standard considered by a reasonable body of medical opinion. If the failure on triage was considered to be a breach of duty, the next step is to consider whether the mistake caused the injury sustained. For example, if Mr Claus had received either the medical treatment or the surgical treatment, such as the PCI, the outcome would have been prevented. Only with both the breach of duty and the thereafter flowing causation can there be a case. Whilst of course, the tragedy of Mr Claus is fictitious in this scenario, it is crucial for anyone who suspects their cardiology treatment was wrong to contact a medical negligence specialist for advice.

What If Father Christmas Lost Capacity To Manage His Property and Affairs?

It’s that time of year where festivities are in full flow both at home and work. People are busy preparing for gatherings with their loved ones over the Christmas break, but no one is busier at this time of year than Father Christmas and his wife Mrs Christmas.

Whilst capacity is an issue most would not wish to have to deal with at any time of year, any capacity issues may be at the forefront for some this Christmas.

I will set the scene.

It’s the week before Christmas and Father Christmas and Mrs Christmas have been busy finalising their Christmas Eve plans, but Mrs Christmas notes that throughout the year Father Christmas has been having some problems making financial decisions and ensuring the bills are all paid. They have both been so busy, they’ve not had chance to seek advice and have just kept going as best they can.

Christmas Eve comes and goes and the presents have all been delivered although Mrs Christmas has had to do much of the planning this year, ensuring all the finances are in order to make sure they can provide gifts for the children next year. They sit down on Christmas day with their family and Mrs Christmas is pulled aside later by her children who are a bit worried about their father and his ability to make financial decisions. Father Christmas has loudly proclaimed through lunch how he wishes to give the children even more expensive gifts next year and isn’t worried if they don’t have the funds to fuel the workshop or pay the elves.

Mrs Christmas explains that Father Christmas has had some difficulties throughout the year and she has had to take over organising their finances. She had been so busy that it had slipped to the back of her mind, however, she feels that they cannot continue ignoring this, in fact she is concerned they have not prepared a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and therefore she simply isn’t sure what can be done.

What happens if someone lacks capacity to manage their property and affairs?

Most people will be aware of Lasting Powers of Attorney but they will not be familiar with deputyships. If someone is suspected to lack capacity to manage their property and affairs the first step is for their capacity to be assessed.

Once a capacity assessment has been completed if that person is deemed to lack capacity to manage their property and affairs then a deputyship application would need to be made to the Court of Protection. If the capacity assessment determines a person does have capacity to manage their property and affairs, it would also need to be considered whether they have capacity to create a LPA.

When deciding who should be deputy, loved ones would need to consider whether this is something they would be able to manage on top of their own financial affairs, or whether it would be a better option for a professional deputy to be appointed. We offer advice on the merits of both lay applications (applications where a family member or members apply to be appointed) and a professional application, where members of the firm apply to be appointed. This advice is tailored to each client on an individual basis. We understand that a one size fits all approach does not work for people; we always ensure any advice is tailored to your specific circumstances.

If you would like more information regarding LPAs or deputyship applications please do not hesitate to contact us on 01743 280280 or at info@lblaw.co.uk.

The Abolishment of IHT That Never Was...

The slashing of Inheritance Tax (IHT) in the 2023 Autumn Budget failed to materialise as anticipated by the media. It had been suggested that the Chancellor either intended to cut the 40% rate or raise the Inheritance Tax threshold.

It is widely believed that Jeremy Hunt made this U-turn due to the IHT levy set to raise nearly £10 billion a year by the end of the decade. The Office for Budget Responsibility revealed that the £7.1 billion tax levy in 2022-23 is forecast to hit £9.8 billion by 2028-29, a 38% increase.

What is IHT?

In very simple and basic terms, IHT is a tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of someone who has died.

There is normally no IHT to pay if either:

• The value of your estate is below the £325,000 threshold, or

• You leave everything above the £325,000 threshold to your spouse, civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club

You may still need to report the estate’s value even if it’s below the threshold.

If you gift your home (via your will) to your children (including adopted, foster or stepchildren) or grandchildren, your threshold can increase to £500,000 (if certain criteria are met).

If you’re married or in a civil partnership and your estate is worth less than your threshold, any unused threshold can be added to your partner’s threshold when you die.

Inheritance tax rates

The standard IHT rate is 40%. This is only charged on the part of your estate that is above the threshold.

Example

Your estate (which does not include a property) is worth £400,000 and your tax-free threshold is £325,000. The IHT charged will be 40% of £75,000 (£400,000 minus £325,000).

The estate can pay IHT at a reduced 36% rate on some assets if you leave 10% or more of the ‘net value’ to charity in your will. (The net value is the estate’s total value minus any debts.)

Reliefs and exemptions

Some gifts you make while you are alive may be taxed after your death. Depending on when you gave the gift, ‘taper relief’ might mean the IHT charged on the gift is less than 40%.

Other reliefs, such as Business Property Relief and Agricultural Property Relief allow some assets to be passed on free of IHT or with a reduced bill. 

Who pays the tax to HMRC?

Funds from your estate are used to pay IHT to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This is done by the person dealing with the estate (called the ‘executor’, if there is a will).

Your beneficiaries (the people who inherit your estate) do not normally pay tax on their inheritance. They may have related taxes to pay, for example if they get rental income from a house left to them in a will.

People you give gifts to might have to pay IHT, but only if you give away more than £325,000 and die within seven years of those gifts.

How could the burden of IHT be eased in the future by a Government?

Reduce the rate of IHT from 40% to 20%. It has been estimated this could save the taxpayer £15.4 billion over the next three years.

The current IHT threshold has not been increased since 2009 when inflation was considerably lower. The IHT threshold could be increased to £500,000 for every individual rather than simply increasing the threshold for those leaving their home to their children. Raising the threshold would mean than an estimated 12,500 estates would not be liable to IHT.

What can I do in the meantime?

Lanyon Bowdler recommend reviewing your will at least every three to five years to ensure that it still caters for your needs and wishes.

Our Private Client Team is highly experienced and ranked as Tier Two in The Legal 500 and Band One in Chambers UK HNW guide. With extensive experience in tax planning and wealth preservation we can ensure that your will is prepared in the most tax efficient manner taking the ever changing tax laws, including IHT, into consideration.

Gender Pain Bias: What a Pain In The Lass!

‘Gender pain bias’ refers to the phenomenon in which a woman’s pain is poorly understood and often underestimated and mistreated in comparison to men’s pain, due to gender stereotypes and biases. These gender stereotypes expose a significant gender bias, leading to disparities in medical treatment and intervention.

Despite one in six women experiencing severe pain every day, they can often be perceived by doctors to be oversensitive to pain and exaggerate their symptoms. This belief not only can lead to under-treatment but also illnesses and diseases being misdiagnosed or even missed entirely.

There is a false belief that women have a lower pain threshold than men and based on this belief, men are more likely to be taken seriously when reporting pain to their doctor. This can have a devastating impact for women if a medical professional shuts-down their symptoms and perception of pain.

Statistically, women are more likely than men to report their pain to a doctor, which begs the question: why does society encourage men to speak to someone but then downplay women when they do the same? In the UK, a survey of 5,100 women and men revealed that 56% of women feel their pain is ignored or dismissed by medical professionals. Studies have shown that this is often because women are perceived as being more expressive, such that their pain is often discounted (in a ‘the boy who cried wolf’ type of way). In contrast, men can be perceived to be more stoic when suffering pain, therefore there can be an assumption that they must be in absolute agony to have finally reported it.

A prime example of this bias is when women report issues with their menstrual cycle to their GP – a common issue and yet one that is commonly misunderstood. Perhaps a young girl is having excruciating pain and is unable to attend school or can’t come to work because she can’t stand up without crying and the only thing that helps her is a boiling hot water bottle which leaves a heat rash on her belly. Despite clearly being in pain and suffering, a GP may not offer a sympathetic ear as ‘every girl gets a period’ and recommend taking pain-killers and told to “get on with it’ because ‘periods are meant to hurt’. But what happens if there is actually something sinister going on? What if, by dismissing those concerns, a completely treatable disease becomes significantly worse, or even incurable?

It might sound like I am being cynical but sadly I have personal experience of my pain symptoms not being properly understood. I suffered with excruciating pain for a long time, leading to my inability to attend work, social events or having to skip commuting to college and university because I simply could not stand up. I attended my local GP over a long time and was constantly met with glazed over eyes just waiting for me to stop complaining, swiftly followed by that same discouraging phrase every time, ‘we will monitor your symptoms and see how you get on’. After many (very many) months of ‘monitoring my symptoms’ I put my foot down and was finally referred to a specialist.

Luckily (or perhaps unluckily) the specialist explained that she saw this all the time. A mildly reassuring, yet frightening phrase - one that made me feel like I was finally in the right hands, yet at the same time angry that this happens to women all the time. So when I was asked to write this blog post, I immediately knew this was the topic I wanted to write about.

I had always known that the pain I was in was not, in fact, normal. I finally felt calm and reassured that someone was actually listening to me and that my pain was real. Following my consultation with the specialist, I underwent surgery, and I’m pleased to say this has brought me relief from my symptoms.

But, I did have to ask myself – why did no one believe just how much pain I was really in? Why did I have to demand to be taken seriously? Unfortunately, this is the case for many women up and down the country. It may be uncomfortable for a patient to challenge a doctor, but they should feel empowered to say something when they know something is not right.

Can I Sue if I Signed? - Waivers, Personal Injury Claims and Extreme Sports

Have you been known to engage in extreme sports or adventure activities? If so, you would be forgiven if you thought that signing a waiver or consent form before-hand discharges your host from responsibility for any injuries you sustain in the course of the activity. However, in the wake of two former trampoline park bosses being charged with health & safety offences it is important to understand that signing a waiver does not prevent a person from claiming compensation where the venue or event holders are found to have been negligent.

What is a waiver?

Many will be familiar with being asked to sign a waiver or consent form prior to being able to, for example, taking part in a sporting event or adventure activity, or having a day out at an adventure park. The purpose of this document is to make sure you understand and acknowledge that there are risks of injury associated with the activity, which you may not have already appreciated as an inherent risk of sports or physical activity. However, a waiver does not remove an individual or business’s duty of care to ensure that you are not unnecessarily exposed to risks that might harm you.

Why do they ask me to sign it then?

There is an inherent risk in any sporting or physical activity and not all times you suffer injury will it be someone else’s fault. By way of example, if you attend a trampoline or adventure park and exercise beyond your capability causing muscle strain, you likely have acknowledged the risk of this injury as part and parcel of the experience under the waiver and as such will probably not be able to claim against the park for this, provided the injury was not their fault. However, if the trampoline park is over-crowded and unsupervised, the equipment faulty, and staff have no health and safety training, and you sustain an injury because of any one of these things, the park may have breached its duty of care and could still be found negligent, regardless of whether a waiver has been signed or not.

One of the main reasons why you are often asked to sign a waiver prior to completing an activity is for confusion and prevention, as most people think that once they sign the waiver they cannot bring a claim. However, any terms within the waiver or contract attempting to exclude liability for personal injury or death resulting from negligence are in fact unenforceable. If you are in doubt about whether an individual or business is at fault, you should speak with a personal injury lawyer.

What is the law about waivers?

Under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (“UCTA”), you cannot by reference to any contract term or to a notice given, either generally or otherwise, exclude or restrict liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence. It should be noted that an individual or business must have caused you injury as a result of their negligence in order to bring a successful claim, but this will come as a surprise to many. The Act applies to both individual persons and businesses and will, for the most part, render any such term void. Further, a person who has agreed to this exclusion cannot, by reason of their agreement alone, be said to have knowingly and voluntarily assumed risk.

What now?

Following an investigation of 270 incidents over a seven week period, the former bosses of Flip Out Chester have pleaded guilty to health and safety offences. This illustrates that, whilst places of high intensity activity are never going to be completely risk-free, this does not absolve venues of their duty to ensure risks are mitigated and their customers protected.

If you or a loved one have sustained an injury in circumstances like these, we understand what a difficult time this must be for you and how the prospect of claiming against large organisations can be intimidating. Should you wish to discuss an injury you think may have been sustained through negligence, please contact our experienced team for more information.

You can read more about the Flip Out cases here and here.

For more information about trampolining injuries, please see our previous blog: What Goes Up Must Come Down: The Reality of Trampolining Incidents.

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