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2015: change in the world of family finance

As long as I have been in practice, each year has brought a new set of cases each with its own complexities which continue to make my job hugely rewarding. 2015 has been no different. As ever there have been a number of legislative changes. The Finance Act 2015 gave changes to Inheritance Tax and brought in important new pension rights. New European legislation in the form of Brussel IV, implemented in August 2015, changes succession legislation affecting UK nationals with property in the EU. Meanwhile, the international Tax Compliance Regulations 2015 are to bring in new exchange of information rules relevant to UK trusts.

There have also been some defining cases this year when the terms of a will have been challenged by disappointed would-be beneficiaries. The case of Illot v Mitson hit the headlines in July, highlighting the difficult path the Courts have to navigate when an adult child makes a claim for provision from an estranged late parent under the Inheritance ( provision for family and dependants Act ) 1975. This case neatly illustrates the difficulties we face when our right to make our own choices regarding who benefits from our will clashes with a moral obligation to provide for our family or dependents.

Our role as practitioners is to digest and apply new legislation and case law to every day practice.

On a personal note, one of the highlights for me this year was being given the opportunity to learn more about how to deal effectively with clients who are vulnerable due to early onset dementia. One in three people over 65 will die of some form of dementia. The burden on those suffering and their families and friends can be overwhelming. I am proud that our private client team have all undertaken Dementia Friend training and I would encourage anyone reading this to become a Dementia Friend.

Dementia support has been one of the key areas of focus for the government in 2015. The aim is to encourage a totally different attitude and response to dementia over the next 10 years. As officially recognised ‘Solicitors for the Elderly’, it is vital for us to be aware of and recognise the early signs of dementia in our elderly clients so as to ensure their interests are protected. The progression of the illness can be slow and it does not mean that a client can no longer give instructions to make a will or create a lasting power of attorney but the golden rule here is to appreciate when it is appropriate to work on matters with the input of that client’s GP. Early medical intervention can slow any decline. Clients with early dementia may simply lose self-confidence or have special awareness issues.

On a final note, I have been privileged to work with some fabulous colleagues in our Cheshire Offices this year. Together we have had the opportunity to take part in the sponsored Manchester Legal Walk in October to raise funds for Manchester Law Centres supporting those in need. I also had the opportunity to provide pro bono legal advice very recently to help bereaved mother Kerrie Backhouse after our senior partner Marilyn Stowe decided to help.

Read the Ilott v Mitson case here.

Jane is a solicitor in Stowe Family Law’s Hale office in Cheshire. She has over 15 years of experience in wills, tax trusts and probate law and is a fully qualified member of the Society of Trusts and Estate practitioners (STEP).

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