Estate planning: here’s what you need to know

Streathers Solicitors, with a number of offices across north London, has a team of highly experienced solicitors who offer a range of private client services.

Here, Charlotte Baden-Powell, a solicitor at Streathers and a Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP) regulated by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, shares her knowledge.

Making a will

Even if you have engaged in financial planning, it is important to ensure that you also have a will in place as part of your estate planning. Once your will is written, it is always possible to make changes to it.

Different structures of wills achieve different objectives - your focus may be on asset protection or on tax mitigation (or both). A will leaving assets directly may meet your needs if tax planning and asset protection are not relevant for you.

A discretionary will trust may be a better option if you have children or grandchildren. This would allow for an all-important 'buffer' between your death and the point at which they would inherit - enough time, perhaps, to 'take the temperature' of their life circumstances. Remember, at the time you put a will in place, your children or grandchildren may still be very young and it may not be possible to discern how financially astute they will be in the future. Trustees looking after the assets on their behalf can make the difference between an inheritance that substantially improves their lives and one that may be damaging.

Combined structures are also useful - leaving assets directly to the surviving spouse, then into a trust on their death, may make the most sense. It may be that a life interest for the survivor is preferable, harnessing spouse exemption from inheritance tax, and ensuring your surviving spouse can still benefit from your estate while protecting the assets for the children in case of re-marriage.

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Differing domiciles for inheritance tax purposes is also crucial. Flexible will trusts can be a very useful solution, allowing your chosen trustees to navigate the tax regime effectively at the relevant time.

Charlotte from Streathers says: "Your surviving beneficiaries could save huge amounts in inheritance tax if you have a will in place that effectively plans for your tax position on death. With inheritance tax payable at 40 per cent, having the appropriate structure in place can keep your beneficiaries one step ahead just at the time they most need to be."

Setting up a trust

One of the main reasons for setting up a trust is to manage the inheritance of those who are not yet financially independent. If you want the trust to only be spent on certain things - such as a house or university fees - you can include conditions in your trust. As Charlotte says: "Advice on the appropriate trust structure and choice of trustees is important and makes all the difference to the practical consequences of putting a trust in place."

Streathers offer expert advice not only on how to create and how to terminate a trust, but also in relation to other important matters such as a trustee's duties and responsibilities.

Lasting Powers of Attorney ("LPAs")

Since 2008, there are two types of LPA: 1) Property and Financial decisions; and 2) Health and Care decisions (including end of life decisions). If practical and helpful, you can choose for the former (financial) LPA to be used even if you still possess the mental capacity to make your own decisions, but not the latter LPA, concerning health.

Streathers advise on the preparation, registration and use of both types of LPA. Charlotte says: "Meeting clients and getting to know their particular wishes and objectives comes naturally to us. We are a friendly and committed team."

To find out more about how Streathers can help you, visit or call the Hampstead office on 020 7431 8889.