Oxford Probate & Wills Solicitors
Experienced Private Client & Estate Administration Solicitors
If someone has passed away, our Oxford Wills, trusts and probate solicitors can help you. We can assist in the administration of estates of all sizes, including those with more difficult elements, such as ambiguous Wills, foreign assets, business or agricultural assets or disagreements between beneficiaries. Our Oxford lawyers’ lawyers’ technical expertise also means we can advise you on lifetime inheritance tax planning, including trusts and other structures, such as family investment companies. You can rely on Oxford‘s Private Client team to be sensitive yet pragmatic.
If you want to make a trust, we also offer a full trust service, from setting up a trust, managing a trust (including ensuring all compliance requirements are met, such as helping with FATCA, the Common Reporting Standard (‘CRS’), anti-money laundering regulations and the trust registration requirements), advising trustees on the options available to them, drafting trust accounts, making distributions from a trust and dealing with all the necessary tax reporting along the way, from annual trust tax returns to inheritance tax reporting on a trust ending.
Freeths’ dedicated wills, trusts and probate solicitors in Oxford will support you in organising, managing and safeguarding your interests. Our Oxford solicitors can help you make a will to fit your personal circumstances whatever they may be. We also have an award-winning Private Litigation team who can assist with contentious work and wills, trusts and probate disputes. You can rely on us to offer peace of mind.
Whether you’re an executor, trustee or beneficiary, call us on 0186 578 1000 to find out more.
Why should I make a Will?
One in three people die without making a Will and this often causes problems and creates uncertainty for those you leave behind.
A Will comes into effect on your death, and governs the distribution of your estate.
Your Will is likely to govern the largest gift you ever make, so it is important that you have a Will in place and keep it updated, so that you determine who your assets pass to. A Will allows you to leave your assets to anyone you choose. Assets could include savings, personal effects, any businesses, houses, among other things.
A Will also appoints executors (those responsible for dealing with the administration of your estate), and can name guardians for any minor children and appoint trustees to look after the money for them.
If you do not leave a Will, the law decides who will inherit your property. This may not be what you want and may not provide adequately for your family.
A Will can be particularly important where there are children of more than one relationship, you are caring for an elderly person or disabled child or other relative or if you are living with your unmarried partner.
If you wish to leave a gift to charity, this can only be provided for in a Will.
When making a Will, it is essential to consider your financial affairs. Your Will can help reduce any tax that may be payable, for example by ensuring that you use the available nil rate bands effectively. The nil rate band is the amount which you are able to give away before inheritance tax becomes payable on your estate. The current basic limit is £325,000 but it may also be possible to use any unused nil rate band from a spouse who has already died, and there are special rules where property is left to children.
A Will is an important legal document and with careful planning and drafting it can help you secure the future for those you leave behind. There are many factors to consider and we will guide you through these. Your professionally drafted Will can provide reassurance for you and help reduce any risks and pitfalls that may arise in the future.
What is a trust?
In its most basic form, a trust arises when a person (known as the settlor) gives assets to another person (known as the trustee) to hold in their name but on behalf of someone else (known as the beneficiary). The trustee owns the assets and makes sure the terms of the trust are complied with. The beneficiary is the person entitled to benefit from the trust assets.
There are lots of different types of trusts that can be created, depending on the individual circumstances and what the settlor wants to achieve. For example, trusts are often used where there are vulnerable beneficiaries that cannot manage the trust assets themselves, allowing assets to be protected. This could be because of the beneficiary’s age or a disability.
Trusts can also be used to provide flexibility over the assets or supervision for the beneficiaries, particularly if the trust assets are substantial and the settlor wishes to retain a greater element of control than an absolute gift would allow. Trusts can also be extremely useful in protecting assets for future generations; they can be set up to allow a spouse or partner to benefit from assets during their lifetime while ensuring the assets ultimately pass down to the next generation. These trusts are very common where there are children from previous relationships.
The tax treatment of trusts is complex, because different trusts are subject to different tax regimes. As such, it is very important that trusts are carefully drafted and appropriate advice taken.
How can I save inheritance tax?
Nobody wants to pay more inheritance tax than they have to.
One way to reduce inheritance tax is to make lifetime gifts – any gift to an individual will be outside the scope of inheritance tax after seven years have passed, provided the person making the gift hasn’t subsequently benefited in any way from the gift made (with some limited exceptions). There are also various exemptions available which make gifts tax free without the seven year waiting period – such as regular gifts from excess income. Gifts into trusts allow the tax benefit of making a gift without having to worry that the beneficiary will mismanage the funds or waste them, allowing the funds gifted greater protection from divorce or bankruptcy, although lifetime inheritance tax charges can arise if the amount given exceeds the available allowance.
Another way to mitigate inheritance tax is to invest in assets which obtain relief, such as business or agricultural assets, provided the relevant qualifying criteria are met.
It is also important to consider Wills in this context, to ensure that all available exemptions and reliefs are utilised. For example, the new residential nil rate band is a very valuable extra tax free allowance which can be claimed when certain criteria are met but could be easily lost if a Will is not drafted appropriately.
Here in Oxford, we can not only advise you about lifetime planning and opportunities, but also ensure that when the time comes, we assist your executors in making all the available claims for reliefs and exemptions.
What are Executors and Trustees?
An Executor is the person or persons who has been appointed by the deceased (also known as the testator) to ensure that the terms of their Will are implemented and to administer the deceased’s estate. An executor is also known as a personal representative.
The personal representative’s duty to administer the deceased’s affairs includes:
- Ascertaining the value of the deceased’s estate which may include property, bank accounts, investments and business assets including identifying any liabilities outstanding at the date of death.
- Reporting the estate to H M Revenue and Customs and paying any inheritance tax due.
- Applying to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Representation.
- Adequately protecting the estate’s assets during the administration period.
- Collecting in the assets of the estate and paying any liabilities, which may include the sale or transfer of property and the sale and transfer of shareholdings.
- Distributing the estate in accordance with the Will or intestacy rules.
Dependent upon the terms of a Will, a personal representative may also have an ongoing responsibility in the capacity of Trustee. For example, a Trustee may have to hold and administer assets within a Trust until a beneficiary reaches a certain age. In a Will Executors and Trustees can be the same or different people, dependent upon the terms of the appointment.
For more information about trusts please see our trust page.
The roles of an Executor and Trustee can be time consuming and onerous and may bring with them personal liability. Freeths’ experienced team can provide advice and assistance with this. Please contact us for an initial consultation about an Executor and Trustees responsibilities and the ways in which Freeths can help.
When preparing a Will, careful consideration should be given to the appointment of Executors and Trustees. Those appointed should be trustworthy, dependable and prepared to take on what can be an onerous role. In some cases, the appointment of a professional may be appropriate, or the appointment of a dedicated Trust Corporation. This can provide an efficient service with the added advantage of providing continuity through what can be a lengthy process. Please ask for more information about Freeths Trustees Ltd, our dedicated Trust Corporation.
What is a grant of probate and do I need one?
A Grant of Probate is a legal document which names the executors (or personal representatives) dealing with the administration of a deceased’s estate. Dependent upon the circumstances the document can be known as a Grant of Administration. The Grant gives those named the authority to deal with the administration, which includes collecting in the assets, paying any liabilities and distributing the estate in accordance with any Will or the Intestacy Rules.
A Grant of Probate is issued by the Probate Registry following an application by the personal representatives.
A Grant is required to deal with certain assets such as shareholdings and bank accounts and is normally required to sell or transfer the deceased’s property.
There are certain circumstances in which a Grant will not be required and Freeths can advise on those circumstances, help with the Grant application if necessary, and the administration of the estate.
Our Oxford Wills, trusts and probate solicitors will clearly explain this complex area of law. Whether you are creating a trust, need advice on managing wealth, or seek guidance on Wills and probate, we can help. We also seek to offer fixed fees for Wills and Trusts where possible, and will always agree our costs with you in advance, so there are no nasty surprises later.
If you require Oxford’s Contentious Trusts and Probate team, please contact Sarah Foster. They are experts in acting for individuals in inheritance tax, probate, trust and Wills disputes.
Why Choose our Oxford Wills, Trusts & Probate Solicitors
- Freeths’ Oxford office is located just a short drive away from Oxford city centre, being just inside the ring road with ease of parking
- Our private client lawyers are friendly and approachable, helping to reduce stress at what can be a difficult time
- We have a national reputation for advising executors, trustees and beneficiaries; all the lawyers in the private client team are members of the Society for Estate Practitioners, or working toward that qualification
- Our top dispute resolution team are on hand to advise on family disagreements or when matters turn contentious
- You can trust our lawyers’ credentials – many are top rated by the legal directories
Louise Lewis and Lisa Mark-Bell – Private Client Solicitors based in Oxford
Louise Lewis is listed as a Recommended Lawyer in the Legal 500 (2021 edition) and advises many high net worth individuals on estate planning to protect wealth through the generations. She acts as an executor and trustee of estates and trusts, and can advise on inheritance tax.
Lisa Mark-Bell is recognised as a Rising Star by the Legal 500 (2022 edition). Lisa is dual qualified as a solicitor and chartered tax adviser and her speciality is tax and trust planning, trust management and complex estate administrations. She is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and lectures widely on tax and trust matters.
Louise, Lisa and their teams advise owners and trustees of landed estates, trustees of foreign trusts and cases involving trust litigation. They act as Independent Administrators and Trustees and as Judicial Trustees.
Examples of wills, trusts and probate cases in Oxford
- Assisting clients with estate planning, very often in an international context.
- Drafting Wills to include trusts to provide provision for the testator’s spouse (allowing the spouse the use of the assets in his or her lifetime), while still ensuring the assets are ultimately inherited by the testator’s children and are protected for the next generation.
- Supporting inter-generational family trusts, acting as a trustee and also advising trustees of their responsibilities.
- Managing the administration of a disputed intestate estate by Court appointment, the estate not having been properly administered over several decades. We worked with the Contentious Probate and Trusts team to take court proceedings against the former administrators for the recovery of assets belonging to the estate.
- Estate planning for a landed family, including protection of agricultural value for inheritance tax purposes. This involved the creation of trusts of non-agricultural assets and preparation of complex Wills to preserve the estate for future generations.
For further information about our Oxford Wills, trusts and probate solicitors, call us on 0186 578 1000 to speak to a solicitor in the team or submit a secure enquiry form.
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“Nigel Roots is ‘technically experienced, professional and competent. I would recommend Nigel, he was perfectly good at explaining the law, he was really on top of the details,’ comments another interviewee, with another adding Roots is ‘well respected’ throughout the private client field.” (Chambers & Partners)
“Jane Maitland is highly regarded for her private client expertise and her client manner. ‘She’s very accessible,’ says a source, ‘I’ve never found anybody quite so easy to work with. If you don’t understand, she’ll start again from a different angle. She is very patient and thorough. I really found her so good and was happy to work with her and discuss quite personal things.’”
‘Doing the right thing’ is at the heart of Freeths. Find out more about our excellent client service and the strong set of values that guide the way we work.
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Freeths are a leading national law firm with 13 offices across the UK. If you have a query about our services or just want to find out more, why not give us a call?
Contact: 03301 001 014