In her third installment, Anisa Khan gives the lowdown on the Wills and Estates department and the sort of work she gets involved with.
This month, we had the pleasure of having work experience students join us at Thompson Smith and Puxon. I could tell from the outset these fresh faced, intelligent and friendly students would do well, and that they reminded me of, well, myself at that age, wide-eyed taking in my first legal work experience. Although it feels like a long time since I was in their shoes, it really hasn’t been that long, I am the same generation as them after all, as one of them jovially reminded me, when I made the mistaken distinction between us, when discussing what the workplace would look like when her generation enters into it. Before they know it they’ll be in my shoes and reminiscing back to their work experience placements fondly (I hope) and feeling quite frankly, old.
So what can they expect when they are, inevitably in my shoes as a trainee in their first seat?
Firstly, your days at TSP will start off by being greeted by smiles and well wishes, the benefit of an open plan office is that we are able to interact with everyone with ease. The glass wall to Fiona’s office makes it easy to spot her flashing a smile at you as you get seated at your desk. The office at this time, before the work day begins is buzzing with tea, chatter, smiles and laughter.
Depending on the week, the day or even the hour, you may start your day off in Fiona’s office, on a home visit, in a meeting or at your desk with a to do list full of exciting and juicy items to get your teeth stuck into or you may find yourself plowing through that one legal or drafting point that you just can’t seem to get the hang of, any of these days are just as important as one another.
Wills and Estates is an interesting department to work in, on the face of it many people attribute all the work in this area to dealing with ‘death and the elderly’, which may be true for some elements of work but it truly is so much more than this, which you will find out in this seat. Estate planning work ties into so many different areas, such as commercial property, company commercial, agricultural farming, residential property and family, to name a few. This is because Wills and Estates deals with the entirety of someone’s life and their legacies.
Key areas of work include;
Estate Planning: This is where as a solicitor, you would be looking at the entirety of a client’s assets and advising them on the best options for them, namely, for example; is there a tax efficient way for them to have their will? Are there any applicable tax reliefs or life time gifts they could make? Do they have a cash balance which will assist them should they need to go into care? Is there something in their companies’ articles of association stopping them from leaving their share in a specific way in their will? Will the title of the property need to be severed? Are they planning on excluding anyone within their will? We also relay any potential claim on the estate back to them.
Vulnerable Clients (Loss of Capacity): This includes Court of Protection applications, for which the day to day management of deputyship and attorney files is managed by the dedicated sub team headed by @Georgia Bolton and @Emma Cherry as Court of Protection Assistant. Deputyships are something which I was unfamiliar with before starting in the workplace, but they are arguably now my favourite area within Private Client alongside Trust work. A Deputyship Application is sought where the patient does not have capacity and has never had Lasting Powers of Attorney put in place. This type of work is usually a result of a birth injury, mental health diagnosis or general personal injury claim.
Deprivation of Assets Rules: This is something that crops up a lot within discussions with clients, wanting to know if there is any way to protect their assets from care fees. The answer is no, so ensuring the client is aware of these rules and that they have made provision to allow for care fees in advance if possible is important and also making them aware of the threshold for funding and when an application is to be made to the local authority for the same.
Probate: Otherwise known as Estate Administration, this can vary from a complex to a simple Estate depending on the assets held or whether the individual died testate or intestate. This includes visiting the deceased’s property to secure assets, identifying the location of any specific gifts left in the will, going through bank statements to ascertain any gifts within the seven years prior to death and attending the occasional funeral on behalf of the firm.
Trusts: Trust work ranges from trust accounts, drafting deeds of appointments, ensuring the team is compliant with HMRC’s Trust Registration Service requirements, facilitating tax returns and ensuring accurate records are held. Trustee Meetings are structured in a particular way and everything refers back to the Trust document and minutes again are created in a slightly different way from other attendance notes.
Tax: Tax itself is applicable to all areas of private client work, whether it is inheritance tax considerations, individual tax returns or looking at any reliefs.
Sitting within the Private Client Team at TSP will give you exposure to all of these different elements of the work carried out, whether that’s in Colchester or Clacton. The friendly faces in our team are always happy to help and are honestly just a call or a team’s message away. It’s difficult to quantify what a typical day in the team looks like, because work is so varied and every day is different for everyone within the team, let alone as a trainee who is learning. What I do know is that the support is always there and readily available and the team truly are a lovely bunch.