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Ask The Legal Expert - How Do I Divide My Farm Up Fairly?

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In this week’s Ask The Legal Expert blog, we get the latest specialist advice from our Rural Practice Team. Associate Solicitor Beverley Bowen, based in our Carmarthen office, addresses a very common legal question asked by our farming clients:

My husband and I own a farm and we have no idea how to divide it up fairly when it comes to our son and daughter’s inheritance. The problem is keeping us awake at night. What do you suggest?

Many families face this dilemma and you will have seen recent reports in the newspapers about families facing unpleasant and knotty disputes when it comes to inheriting farms and associated property after parents have passed away – particularly if one sibling has been working on the farm and another is away earning a living elsewhere.

You are doing the right thing by thinking about the issue ahead of time. An alarming 6 out of 10 people in Britain die without making a will, often thinking there will be an automatic legal process which will settle things simply, but that isn't necessarily the case. I specialise in succession planning and I have experience in preparing various types of Wills and Trusts, as well as conducting the administration of estates and trusts for our farming clients.

I hear your words echoed by many of my clients, some of whom have put off making a will because they see this as a problem that is insurmountable, but in my experience there is always a solution. It is part of my job to help advise and to guide clients out of the woods.

When I meet with a client to listen to their concerns and when I share some of the options available to them, I can see the weight being lifted from their shoulders. Once a will has been settled upon and signed it is something you don't have to worry about any longer.

One of the most important steps you can take is to talk openly, if possible, with your family. That way you can include them in the process if you want to. Sometimes parents can make assumptions that a member of the family might want to inherit a property when actually it would suit them better to inherit cash, for instance. (And making a Will can help you to minimise inheritance tax).

Whoever first said ‘it’s good to talk’ was right. By that token, because JCP’s Rural Practice Team is all together in one location we have the great advantage of being able to talk to each other so we can approach a scenario from all legal angles. For instance, I deal with succession planning and my colleague Richard Howells deals with litigation arising from inheritance disputes. So it is very easy for me to put a scenario to Richard, and to talk to him about the best way of dealing with things that would help prevent the kind of disputes he handles.

For specialist legal advice, call Beverley Bowen at JCP Solicitors Rural Practice Team in Carmarthen on: 01267 266944 or email beverley.bowen@jcpsolicitors.co.uk.

Beverley qualified in September 2008 and is now an associate solicitor in the Rural Practice team.  She is a valued team dealing with complex tax advice as well as estate and succession planning issues. Beverley has extensive experience in preparing various types of Wills and trusts and conducting the administration of estates and trusts for our farming clients.

Beverley has been admitted as a full member of STEP (Society for Trust and Estate Practioners).  STEP is a leading worldwide professional body for practioners in the fields of trusts, estates and related issues.  STEP members provide expert advice on how to comply with the often complex law and tax rules surrounding trusts, estates and inheritance and are the most experienced in those fields.  Beverley passed all 4 modules of STEP – the Administration of Estates, Administration of Trusts, Estate and Trust taxation and Trust and Estate Accounting with a distinction.

Beverley was awarded the STEP Excellence Award for the highest mark in the Administration of Estates November 2010 examination paper for England and Wales.  Studying for STEP whilst working full time was a big commitment on Beverley’s behalf however Beverley has always enjoyed a challenge and has found it enjoyable to be able to apply the knowledge gained in assisting her clients.

*The question posed in this blog is based on a hypothetical situation.

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