Senior associate Alexandra Mackenzie Smith reprises the John Lewis Christmas advert with the strap line: our lifelong commitment to you.
It followed a person from birth to old age showing all the wonderful ways in which John Lewis clothes and furniture can be there for you through your constantly changing life. Always a Woman to Me plays whimsically throughout.
Setting aside the cosy jumpers and the all-weather garden furniture for a moment, I’m here to talk you through how the private client team can do the same as the much loved retailer (albeit with computers rather than corner sofas) by following the protagonist in the ad…
Providing for your children through your estate planning and your will
A baby is picked up from her cot and when she is put down on the floor she is a toddler
Having children is a trigger for many to write their first will (though you can, of course, make a will from age 18). We can advise you on how to provide for children through your estate planning and your will, in a way that is tailored to your circumstances. As things change for you, so you can return to us to update our advice and your will.
A will is the deed in which you can appoint guardians for your minor children. We can help navigate this difficult decision and advise on how to pass on your wishes for your child’s upbringing.
School fees or other costs through estate planning
She sits at a school desk and stares up at a teacher
If you are grandparent you may wish to assist with school fees or other costs through estate planning. We can provide you with options on how to do this in a tax-efficient way and work with your other advisors, to put in place what is needed to achieve your plans.
Creating or untangling a family trust
She celebrates her birthday at a party in her university halls
If you have family trusts already in place and entitlement is conditional on a birthday, we can assist the trustees with their responsibilities in administering the trust, making distributions and bringing the trust to an end.
You may wish to consider putting a trust in place during your lifetime or wish to know more about trusts in a will to protect your assets and provide for beneficiaries in a particular way.
We can also help to untangle will trusts which may not have been correctly constituted, or indeed correctly terminated, so that all the necessary reporting is completed and the trustees fulfil their responsibilities.
What happens to will when you get married or form a civil partnership
She gets married
Marriage revokes a will so it is important to consider the effect on any will you already have in place when you get married or form a civil partnership. We can provide advice on jointly held assets and the effect of succession and tax on this part of an estate.
It is worth noting the Law Commission have re-opened their consultation on whether marriage/civil partnership revokes a will, in light of recent cases of predatory marriages. So automatic revocation of wills on marriage/civil partnership could change, depending on whether the law is amended following the consultation.
Again, estate planning comes into play with maximising the use of the exemptions that are available to spouses. Exemptions from inheritance tax are available on other types of beneficiaries as well as certain types of assets: it is important to understand these in order to take advantage of them.
If you have assets overseas, or indeed you were not born in the UK or no longer live here, but have assets here, we can assist with cross-border estate planning and, again, work with your advisors in other jurisdictions.
How does buying a home affect your will
She moves to a home of her own
Buying a home is another trigger for writing a will. If it is jointly owned, it is important to consider how you will hold the legal title as this affects to whom it will pass on death. Owning property jointly with others can be fraught with risk and difficulty. We can help with how to protect your position whether it is your life that is changing or the lives of your co-owners.
We can also help with the perennial question of whether passing your home to the next generation in your lifetime is a good idea for inheritance tax.
Updating your will as a result of a relationship breakdown
A family argument takes place
Relationship breakdown causes families to change. We can help with updating estate planning to reflect this and protecting assets as far as possible in future. One common example is providing for a second spouse on death whilst also ensuring that children from a first marriage benefit from an estate.
Advice on lasting powers of attorney
Older now, she plays with her grandchildren in her garden
We advise on lasting powers of attorney. Whilst it is sensible to do this as soon as you hold assets of your own, it is often something that is only considered later in life.
Help with the administration of estates
She walks off down a path away from the viewer with her elderly husband
I am going to take this as John Lewis’s subtle depiction of the end of her life. We can, of course, help with the administration of estates including applying for grants of representation, whether there is a will or not, and distributing that estate or administering an ongoing trust.
This article is centred on all the ways in which the private client team can help with the various stages of life, ultimately ending in death. It would be much longer if all Russell-Cooke departments were included but special mentions should go to our trusts and estates disputes team, our family and children team and our property law and conveyancing team who can assist and advise alongside private client lawyers in the areas explored above.
The John Lewis Christmas ad will be released in the first week of November (I looked it up so you didn’t have to). I’m not sure I’d be able to shoehorn a fire-breathing dragon, a loved-up snowman or a trampoline-bouncing dog into showing how Russell-Cooke can help with your estate planning, but I could have a jolly good go!
Private client legal news—October 2023
Read the recent updates and hot topics from across the private client team.
Get in touch
If you would like to speak with a member of the team you can contact our private client solicitors; Holborn office +44 (0)20 3826 7522; Kingston office +44 (0)20 3826 7529; Putney office +44 (0)20 3826 7515 or complete our enquiry form.