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Martin Lewis on Will writing, Powers of Attorney and Inheritance Tax

The Martin Lewis Money Show Live covering Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney and other aspects of estate planning being watched by a man on a sofa in Bristol.
SUBJECT: In the news
AUTHOR: Graham Southorn

The Martin Lewis Money Show Live on 21st November 2023 was on the topic of difficult conversations.

Covering the “3 Ds” of death, divorce and dementia, it tackled Wills, inheritance tax and Powers of Attorney, which Martin said were “more important for most adults of any age than anything else”.

You can stream the episode on ITVX, and follow their social media channel on X.

Here is my summary transcript of the show. I’ve made minor edits for brevity and context and removed references to Scottish law, which doesnt apply to my clients in Bristol.

The format of the programme consisted of Martin Lewis speaking through a series of slides, which are represented by the subheadings below. He also spoke to expert guests in the studio and live by video link.

The quotes below were audience questions, social media comments or emails read out on the programme by co-presenter Jeanette Kwakye,


Are free Wills really free, where is the best place to get one, and are they legally recognised when you pass?

Christine

Martin: Yes they are free. They are legally recognised. The issue is: will they be drafted well enough so that you don’t have problems when you pass? They can work if you’ve got very simple circumstances. There are a number of [free Wills] out there. It really does depend on how savvy you are. Personally, I think solicitor-drafted is the gold standard if you can get it and that is what you should be going for.

Cheap solicitor-drafted Wills

Ends 30th November. Firms draft Wills in return for charity donation (18+)

  • Book via WillAid.org.uk for Nov, Dec, possibly January appointments.
  • Virtual availability: across UK. In person: Scotland, Wales, NI, North West and North East of England.
  • Suggested £100 donation (£180 mirror Will) to 9 charities (including Age UK, NSPCC).

It’s not the only charity scheme

If you’ve assets, DO A WILL, so you decide where your assets go

  • Especially if just cohabiting (also consider cohabitation agreement).
  • Wills often revoked at marriage (not Scot) so redo and if circumstances change.
  • Die Will-less: State decides where assets go under intestacy rules.

Martin on WillAid: If you can’t afford it, you can donate less or nothing. But if you can afford it, don’t game it – give them the money. Of course, the solicitor may try to upsell you other products while you’re there. That’s part of it too – we all know how the world works.

Martin on cohabiting: If you’ve been living together for 30 years and you’ve got 9 children, it still means nothing in the law when it comes to a will – your partner wouldn’t get anything under the intestacy rules which are what dictates what happens when you die without a will so a will is crucially important for you. It’s also worth noting that Wills everywhere but Scotland are often revoked when you get married. So if you had a will and you got married, you no longer have a will in most cases, you need to do one again. So redo your will. It’s great that you’ve got a will from 20 years ago leaving everything to your ex husband or wife, but you might want to change it and make sure that it’s up to date.

Martin on dying Will-less: How it works if you die without a will depends on which part of the UK you’re in but In England the first £322,000 would go to your spouse – husband/wife and the rest your spouse would get half and your children would get half. It’s not necessarily what you want which is why you do a will.

If you’re married is it beneficial to make a Will? My husband thinks they’re not a good idea. We’ve got two [adult] children and I’d like to know where my assets would go with no Will.

Tracey

Martin: You’re in England so your assets would go to your husband up to £322,000 and after that would be split between your husband and your children. But is there any reason [for Tracey] to get a Will if she’s got simple circumstances, Melinda?

Melinda Giles, solicitor: Definitely, I would say you should get a will. Unfortunately, sometimes terrible things happen such as you and your husband, a husband and wife, both going out together and dying at the same. Your children are adults. But for those people with young children, it’s very important you have a provision as to who would be in charge of that money if you died.

Martin: In other words, it covers who’s going to look after the children if something happens. And is it speedier and cheaper having a will than not having one?

Melinda Giles, solicitor: In England, it’s the same process whether you have a will or not in terms of applying for a grant. So it’s no quicker to have a will or to have one when you apply for probate unless it’s uncertain who is entitled to apply.

Martin: Generally, if you want to know where your assets are going, do a Will. But there can be arguments. So my honest advice is go and do a free will if you’re not going to pay for a solicitor – it’s better than nothing but it can cause problems afterwards.

Martin: Now you might have done your Will, but make sure you look at your pension too…


Where there’s a Will, is there a way?

Beware, you CAN’T leave private or company pension in a Will.

  • Died and not taken pension? Provider/trustee decides what to do
  • Do an “Expression of Wishes’ / Nomination Form’

Store your Will safely

Many solicitors store for free. If not, keep in safe and accessible place.

Think about digital legacy too.com (online photos, blog, docs, social media)

  • List and include digital assets in your will (beneficiaries and social media executor)
  • Back up your most important things (preferably on external hard drive)
  • Record decisions via DigitalLegacyAssociation.org template
  • Note ‘executor’ on platforms that allow (apple, Facebook, Google to an extent)

Martin on pension nomination: It’s called either an Expression of Wishes or a Nomination Form. Ensure you’ve filled it in and make sure it’s kept up to date even if you’ve done it before, especially if you’ve had a change of circumstance. It’s not in your Will so make sure you look at your pension.

I had a case where a colleague’s ex-husband was still on her nomination form. Family had to contest. A nightmare for all involved.

Maria

Martin on Will storage: If you’re using WillAid or another charity scheme, ask if they will do that [store your Will]. If you’ve got it locked away where only you know [where it is], it’s not much point once you’ve passed away so you have to think where you’ll keep it.

I live with my partner – we’re not married – and our house is in joint names. Would either of us be liable for inheritance tax? I’m aware that the threshold is £325,000 but does that apply to both of us?

Karen

Martin: Yes it’s 325,000 each and separately. Most people needn’t worry about inheritance tax.

Most needn’t worry about inheritance tax

Only 4% of estates actually pay it, here’s my 5 simple need-to-knows…

  1. Anything left to a married/civil partner is EXEMPT
  2. You don’t pay inheritance tax on first £350,000 left to others
  3. That’s boosted to £500,000 if main residence left to offspring – ie biological/foster/step/adpted children and grandchildren (not if £2m+)
  4. You can pass on your unused allowance to your spouse… e.g. leave ‘em everything and they can leave £1m including home to children
  5. If it’s likely you’ll be taxed, gifting rules can help, either from annual income/allowances or if you live long enough after.

Any amount not exempt is taxed at 40%.

Martin on inheritance tax: The big picture is you die and you leave everything to your spouse. Your spouse can now leave everything £1m including the house to your children because they’ve got their £500,000 and your £500,000 combined. So in many cases it’s £1m that you can pass on. If it’s likely that you’ve exceeded that and be taxed, there are gifting rules that can help, either from your annual income (you can always give money away from your annual income if you can afford it without it being inheritance taxed).

There are certain gifts and other rules and wedding rules and if you live 7 years after you’ve given something away then it’s not due for inheritance tax anyway. Any amount that is due to be taxed for inheritance tax is taxed up to 40%. The best thing Karen can do to avoid inheritance tax is to get married. I’m not saying you should or it’s right, but that and marriage tax allowance are the two big tax allowances in our tax system.


Martin: I think Power of Attorney is more important than a Will. A will decides what happens to your assts if you die – power of attorney what happens to your assets if you lose your facilities and you’re still alive and you may have your own care and family. You need to look after but you’re no longer capable of doing it yourself. It’s called a Lasting Power of Attorney now, it used to be Enduring Power of Attorney.

Lasting Power of Attorney: More important than Wills

Nominate friend/relative to take over finances if you lose faculties.

  • Doesn’t mean you lose control now.
  • There are NOT just for elderly (accidents, stroke, early dementia)

Without a LPA, sorting finances – if needed – is harder

  • Don’t assume family can access your funds (even for your care/mortgage)
  • They need to apply via Court of Protection or equivalent

Apply via gov.uk it costs £82 per LPA in England

  • Solicitors charge £200 – £500 (or partial help from Which? Wills £99)
  • LPAs aren’t perfect, nor quick, they’re better than not though.

There’s also a separate Health and Welfare Power of Attorney.

Martin on the fear of someone misusing your money: There are safeguards in place. You nominate other people to check whether it’s right that you’ve lost your facilities or not.

Martin on new parents: The other day I was talking to a young couple who were expecting their first child and they were talking about how they were helping their elderly relatives to Power of Attorney. I said have you done one. In the pause that followed, I said this is what I want you to think of. Heaven forbid one of you were to have an accident and you lost your faculties. Are your finances such that only you individually can access your finances? And they both nodded yes. And in that case if you were to lose your faculties and the other was locked out, what would the financial consequences be to the other partner? They both said it would be terrible. You either need a Power of Attorney or you need to fundamentally reorganise the way that you do your finances. Power of Attorney is not just for the elderly. Everyone in this room should be considering one. I‘ve had one for a decade now and I have no foreseeability of losing my faculties.

I did a Power of Attorney. The. Next week I ended up in hospital after a car crash, my attorney could deal with everything. They were amazing and it was worth every penny.

Fraser

Martin on a partner being unable to access finances: Without a power of attorney sorting your finances it is generally much harder. Do not assume your family can access your funds even to pay for your mortgage or your care if you need it. They’d need to apply by the court of protection or the equivalent in other countries and I just get swamped with how long it takes, how expensive and how stressful it is.

When my wife was 33 she suffered severe brain injury had no and no lasting power of attorney. We had no wills and no lasting/enduring power of attorney. I had to go to the court of protection with the help of a very expensive solicitor and take deputyship. It is a nightmare costs a LOT of money. I wish we had done this before it was too late.

Alex

Martin: It’s really difficult he’s having to deal with that at the same time his wife had had a brain injury.

Power of Attorney is important. To get one, you apply via gov.uk it costs £82 in England and Wales. You can do it yourself if you’re good and you have simple circumstances. If you really want to make sure you do it right and if you can afford it, I would suggest you do, solicitors charge normally £200 to £500. You can get partial help so you do it and they have legally qualified people who overlook it, from WhichWills, which is £99 but from websites you can get that for a little bit cheaper.

Powers of Attorney aren’t perfect, they’re not quick but they are better than having nothing at all. I am, of course, talking about the financial Power of Attorney. There’s one where you make health and welfare decisions too. Obviously that’s not my bag but it’s still important to look at.

What about people worried about getting Power of Attorney in case someone’s trying to diddle them? What protections are in place for me from somebody trying to defraud me if they’re my attorney – they’re using my money in a way I wouldn’t want it to be.

Melinda Giles, solicitor: You can notify people when you are making a Power of Attorney so those people will be aware of who your attorney is and can check out what’s going on. If you have concerns about the way about the way someone is managing that money you can make a report to the OPG. Anybody concerned about the way someone’s money is being dealt with can make that concern known.

Power of Attorney: once it’s active

Once acting as Attorney, register with banks/services ASAP

Don’t wait until you need to use it as it takes time

How you use the LPA depends on when it was registered

  • Registered 2016-2020: set up account on gov.uk to get code (England and Wales)
  • Registered after: activation key on registration letter (or go to gov.uk)
  • Registered before (or Scot/NI): need paper certificate
  • Give banks ‘certified copies not originals (signed by solicitor or signed by the relevant office) (when you\re going to get those, get them en masse for ease)
  • If going into branch, book appointment, allow time or ask if dedicated phone line

Martin: Thankfully, banks seem to be getting better at dealing with it. I’m really pleased that the way they deal with Power of Attorney has improved a lot in recently years.

I did a survey last year of 12,000 people who’ve got Powers of Attorney:

  • 60%+ of people said they were great: Lloyds, Halifax, TSB. Survey last year of 12,000 LPA users
  • 50%+ of people said they were great: First Direct, Santander, Nationwide, NatWest

What is the difference between power of attorney and/or executor of a Will? Who has the power over a will if there are two people with the different responsibilities mentioned here?

James

Martin: Forgive me for being blunt James, but Power of Attorney is when you’re alive and executor is when you’re dead! We asked the audience [before the show] how many of them had Power of Attorney – about five did. The rest didn’t but everyone is considering getting one now. My work is done!

I’m the breadwinner. I work on average around 60 hours a week but my wages is OUR money. Wifey is great at keeping us going and I’d be lost without her.

Alan

I do it all. Husband wouldn’t have a clue if I died. I keep saying I’m going to do a death book for him.

Pam

Who is in charge of sorting the finances in your home? Is there a chief family finance do-er?

Results from 17,103 votes:

  • Not in (such a) couple: 10%
  • Split roughly evenly: 17%
  • One does most, not all: 34%
  • One partner does it all: 39%

Martin: The most dangerous is when one partner does it all. I did a talk and three women came up to me afterwards – all in their 40s and 50s – it could have been men in the same circumstance. All 3 had just lost their husbands. All 3 asked me the same question. They all said “I’m lost, I don’t understand the finances, I’ve never done it before and I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to do – where am I going to start?

One of them could not pay their mortgage because she could not access his money. That’s the problem. You may think you are being generous and kind by doing all the finances in your family but if you’re not also doing communication and making sure the other person is enabled to be financially enabled in the event of the 3 Ds: death, divorce, dementia you are not being as kind as you think you are being hurtful.

Jeanette Kwakye: I do it all in my house – there are so many conversations you have to have around it. We haven’t had them.

Martin: There are three things I’d like you to do…

Are you the family finance chief?

What you’re doing can feel generous but it can be dangerous.

What would happen if your family were hit by one of the 3 Ds?

  1. Beginner’s briefing of the family finances
  2. Create a financial fact sheet
  3. Quarterly kitchen briefing

Martin: First, note down everything, spend an hour, sit down and talk them through every product, every decision you ‘ve made, that’s everything going on in the house. If they don’t understand it now, think what would happen if you weren’t there so you need to make sure they do understand what’s going on.

Second, create a financial factsheet – list every single product and relationship you have, whether it’s your breakdown cover, who your solicitor, bank accounts, savings, credit cards and debt – enough information that the other person can take over, but it needs to be in an accessible place so not enough that somebody else could pick it up and go and rob your money.

Third, have a quarterly kitchen briefing. Once every few months, just keep up to date and also before any big decisions. One of the biggest causes of relationship breakdown is finance. We need to manage the finance within our relationships, communicate about our finances and make sure person who isn’t the chief family finance do-er is empowered to take over if one of the 3 Ds they have to be.

After your show earlier in the year, my husband and I went through all our paperwork. He sadly passed away very suddenly on 7th April. Grief is one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to deal but it could have been so much harder if we hadn’t had this conversation.

Danielle

Martin: I’m sorry to hear that Danielle but I’m glad we managed to alleviate one element of the pain, we’re never going to able to alleviate the rest.

I would appreciate tips on how to start a conversation with my mum regarding Will and funeral arrangements. She has mild dementia. I know it will upset her but feel we need to get things done now before dementia takes over.

Sarah

Victoria Lyons, senior consultant Admiral Nurse, Dementia UK: It’s great you’re starting to think about this now because when someone’s got dementia the sooner the better. I have three bits of advice.

One, speak to siblings and other people of importance to mum about the fact that you’re having this conversation, normalise the conversation and the topic – this is sensible adulting after all.

Martin: But (imagining that we are siblings), if siblings talk about it behind your back and then approach you together, does it not feel almost like we’ve been sneaky. Is that not a concern?

Victoria Lyons: It’s about having a united front and all being on the same page. This is sensible adulting – we should all have wills in place, lasting power of attorney for our health and finances and plans in place for our funerals so having these conversations in an open and honest way with your siblings and including the person with dementia is really important as well. Think about the time you’re going to have this conversation Don’t do it when you’re rushing or hurrying somewhere, when you’ve got other stuff that you really need to do. Think about the time of day – is there a time that’s good for mum, a time that’s going work better for her and willing to abandon the conversation if you need to.

Martin: I presume that’s because some people with dementia are better at some parts of the day than others?

Victoria Lyons: Absolutely, if the conversation isn’t going well or mum’s being distressed by it, be willing to walk away and try again another time. Finally, think about the impact this is potentially going to have you. It’s a difficult conversation that you are going to have with mum and she may say things you’re not prepared for or ready to think about. So if you need to, speak to an Admiral Nurse like myself and get support. We’ve got a free helpline that people can call us or book appointments via our website so reach out and get some support about how to have these types of conversations.

Martin: One of my tips would be, instead of saying mum, you need to get a Power of Attorney, why not say we – all the siblings – we’re all agreed we are all going to get Power of Attorney let us do one for you at the same time. This is normal and we all need to do it at any age. Power of Attorney is really important for someone who is going to have dementia but you may also get someone who says absolutely not, I don’t accept that. I won’t do it. What do you do then, where do you go?

Victoria: You want to get that in place because you don’t want to be in a situation where you’ve got the courts intervening and you’re going down a very difficult and complicated route with somebody. You also want to try and do it before someone loses capacity to make those decisions and appoint somebody. Do persevere, try different times, different techniques, try cushioning the conversation into things the person is going to enjoy. It’s worth it because it’s so difficult when people come towards the end of life and they haven’t got these things in place.

Tony: we sent our application for probate at the beginning of March after the death of our mother. Still not received the grant, that’s 30 weeks it shouldn’t take more than 16, no response from the probate office – what’s going on?

Tony

Melinda Giles: I know it’s a very common problem, whether it’s the applications by solicitors or by individuals – it’s digitalising, it’s changing their system, it’s too much work and not enough people processing it.

We need to update our Wills but we have one son, our youngest, who has a learning disability and one who is very able. If we leave money to our youngest in a trust fund, will it all be taken care of for his care?

Jeanette

Melinda Giles: That’s the best way to make their wills. A trust will keep the money safe so that their son can’t be exploited but it’s also not actually his so it won’t be taken into account for means-tested benefits which would pay for care. Do not leave your older son to informally manage the money for the younger son. That way, it belongs to him if it’s not in a trust. If he dies, marries, or doesn’t do it properly, it’s risky.

Martin: Priorities change, you never know what’s going to happen. There are so many people with a will who have children or stechildren. Assuming that your spouse who is maybe the stepparent is going to look after your children afterwards rather than thinking about dictating in a will what you want to happen to your money. I’ll just say that circumstances change in life and people’s priorities change so making those decisions yourself can be very valid.

Austin Lafferty: Also change your Will from time to time. You make a Will but as circumstances change you can update that Will, you should look at it every so often.

What if you’re single, childless and no family who get your house?

Elizabeth

Austin Lafferty, solicitor: Parents and siblings get it. If you don’t make a Will and you don’t have parents or siblings then it’s cousins and nephews and people you haven’t seen for a million years and don’t care about you. And If there’s none of them, who gets it? The Government!

Martin: So give it to charity if nothing else!


My review of the Martin Lewis Money Show Live

The show packed a huge amount of information into just 35 minutes of air time, as you can probably tell from the transcript. It’s a credit to Martin Lewis that he manages not just to pack so much in but keep it clear as well. That said, there was so much here that I’m sure people who are completely new to it all will find it a bit bamboozling. But at least there is the catchup service on ITVX to watch it again.

I don’t think they could have crammed any more into this episode. But if they were covering these topics again, I’d suggest they talk more about the basic Wills that Martin said were only good for simple circumstances.

Because it’s not just free Wills that are very limited. You can pay for basic Wills and still have the same problem. The issue is that basic Wills tend to pass everything to the other partner when one dies. If the survivor later remarries or changes their Will, which they’re perfectly entitled to do, the next generation is at risk of losing out.

This is a particular issue for blended families. It’s a big issue too – many websites suggest that as many as one-third of families in the UK are blended families, with children from different relationships. I’ve not been able to find the source of that figure but suffice it to say that it’s pretty high.

The problem this can cause is that in blended families, your partner’s children are not your children, and vice versa. So the order of death really matters. It’s horrible to think about this, but the order of death could determine who gains and who loses out if you have basic Wills.

A good solution is a simple trust that gives the survivor the right to use a house or money, or both, until that person dies. The assets can then be split fairly between both sides of the family. Download my factsheets below to find out more about these kinds of simple trusts.

The point the programme made about Will storage was a good one too. If nobody can find your Will, it’s the same result as not having a Will at all. Wills are paper documents so you absolutely have to keep them safe.

But whilst free storage sounds like a good deal, it’s not necessarily the best thing. Why? Because your family will have to talk to the solicitor storing it before they can retrieve it. This could be a bit awkward if they then choose not to use that solicitor to carry out the probate. The solicitor is going to tell you their prices whether you like it or not!

It’s a minor issue in the scheme of things and everyone will have a different point of view on it. In my business, I offer secure storage for a low monthly fee with a national storage company. Loved ones can then retrieve the Will and get quotes from various solicitors to compare prices with no pressure on them.

On the whole, I’d say the Martin Lewis Money Show Live was an excellent whistle-stop tour of all things connected with estate planning. I hope he covers the topic again before too long.

For further information, download free factsheets on Wills, Trusts, Inheritance Tax, Lasting Power of Attorney and more.

A fan of covers of factsheets on Wills, Lasting Power of Attorney, Trusts and more.

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