A lot can happen in a year!

6th January 2017

There tends to be the view that Probate law never changes. That the Will you wrote years ago will still be valid and that the plans you have made for your estate don’t need to be changed. To a certain extent, this is true. It’s difficult to argue that Probate law is constantly evolving when the act that contains the formalities for making a legally valid Will was passed into law by Queen Victoria! However, a closer look at Probate law reveals that it has changed more that you might think.

It’s easy to overlook the significance of 2016 because the seeds of change were planted in 2015. It was in 2015 that you will have heard about the introduction of the nil rate residential band for inheritance tax but it was in 2016 that it actually became law.

This means that, from 6th April 2017, if you die and leave your residential property to direct descendants, the first £100,000 of the property will pass inheritance tax free. When added to your existing nil rate band of £325,000 (which can be set against any assets) this means that £425,000 of your estate will not be subject to inheritance tax. As this new residential nil rate band is set to increase by £25,000 a year until 2020 it is likely that this will have an impact on a large number of people’s approach to inheritance tax planning.

2016 was also the year that the well-publicised Ilott v Mitson case reached the Supreme Court. This case, seen by many as an attack on a person’s right to chose who to put in their Will and who to leave out, highlighted one of many aspects of Will writing which many people overlook if they don’t seek legal advice … that leaving people out of your Will is not always as simple as not including them!

If you would like advice on how recent changes in Probate law might effect your Will and estate planning or if you would like to discuss any aspect of Probate law, contact Gilbert Stephens and arrange an appointment to speak to a member of our knowledgeable and approachable legal team.