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2017: A Reflection
The area of Private Client law does not often go through a period of prolonged change. However, as I reflect upon the year it seems that 2017 has seen a number of development and proposals affecting our day to day work.
Earlier in the year there was the much publicised fiasco in relation to potential increases for probate court fees. Fees were going to increase from approximately £160 to up to £20,000 for the most valuable estates. There seemed to be no legitimate basis for introducing these increases, and they were challenged in the courts with some success. In the end the government backed down because of the snap election, but it remains to be seen whether or not this is something introduced at a future date.
We also had the ongoing saga, and eventual resolution of the Ilott v Mitson case relating to the claim by the deceased’s daughter against the various charities, for greater provision under the terms of her mother’s Will. The end result, thankfully, was to bring matters back to where we all believed them to be in the first place, namely that adult children who are financially independent will rarely have a strong claim against an estate. More importantly, an individual still enjoys the benefit of freedom of testamentary disposition in the UK.
Neither of the two Budgets held during the course of the year introduced any real change, so far as Inheritance Tax, or the taxation of trusts, are concerned. I still believe that there are some areas that the government and HMRC could look at, and may do so in the future.
Looking forward to 2018 the Law Commission has indicated that it is going to make recommendations to amend the law relating to trusts in England and Wales, with a view to making the UK more competitive. The Trustee Act 1925, as amended, sets out the principle framework that governs the laws of trusts in the UK. There are many jurisdictions overseas that have a much more modern and agile framework, and the Commission has indicated that they will be investigating the possibilities of reform with a view to modernising current legislation.
The Commission has also indicated that it will look at the issue of funeral wishes, which can cause difficulties when there are family disputes about funerals. At present, setting out one’s wishes within your own Will is not a legally binding instruction, it is only guidance to the Executors. It is possible that the Commission may recommend that it should be possible for the individual to control and be able to enforce his or her own wishes.
No doubt there will be other areas of change during 2018, as the one constant in life seems to be change!
Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances. Longmores Solicitors LLP are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and are not authorized to provide any form of financial advice.