Environmentally friendly funerals

Is it possible to have an environmentally friendly funeral?

With an increased concern (and quite rightly so!) on being environmentally friendly should we be considering how to plan an environmentally friendly funeral and is this possible?

In short…YES!

Now, to what extent you go to is entirely up to you, whether you take a few steps to be environmentally friendly or go the fully environmentally friendly.

Planning your funeral, and paying for it in advance, has so many benefits!

Not only does it mean that you get the funeral that YOU want but it also saves your loved ones a huge emotional burden as well as a financial one!

Having a funeral plan in place means that any unnecessary arguments are removed and your loved ones are content in the knowledge that they are giving you the send off that you wanted.

Here are just a few ideas for you to consider:


If you are choosing a burial, you may want to consider a coffin that is made from biodegradable materials to minimise the impact that your arrangements have on the environment.

An important consideration, if you are planning on being environmentally friendly, is the distance that your coffin has travelled and whether you want to choose a manufacturer that is local to you, to reduce this.

Some biodegradable materials that you may consider are:

    • Willow
    • Bamboo
    • Cardboard

An alternative option, if you would like a wooden coffin, is to choose a locally sourced wood such as:

  • Pine
  • Oak
  • Cherry

Another consideration may be to have no coffin at all. This (although this may be surprising to some!) is an option, if you would prefer to have a material shroud instead of a coffin, this is a great environmentally friendly alternative.

Burial or Cremation?

Burial is a more environmentally friendly choice, as opposed to cremation, as it avoids the emissions of carbon monoxide, mercury and dioxin.


Considering the travelling arrangements of those attending your funeral may be important to you. Although, you may not have control over all those that attend, you can express your wishes (such as car sharing or electric cars to be used) and could also make arrangements for an electric hearse and funeral cars.


You may want to consider asking for flowers to be locally sourced and/or handpicked and to refrain from the use of packaging (or at least packaging that is not biodegradable).

Memorial Location

Choosing a Memorial Location that is close to your loved ones could reduce travelling when your loved ones wants to visit.

Funeral Stationery

Asking that minimal funeral stationery is used and using only recyclable paper is another environmentally friendly consideration.

Carbon Offset Contribution

You may want to consider leaving a gift in your Will to the Woodland Trust or another Carbon Offset Scheme as a contribution towards offsetting your lifetime carbon footprint (this is currently estimated at £8,000). Of course, you can leave a donation of any amount that you feel is appropriate.

If you would like a FREE chat to discuss putting a
funeral plan in place, get in touch on
or 01727 865 121

Leah Waller

Have a Question or
want to book a 

FREE Consultation?

Can the Inheritance Tax process be simplified?

Can the Inheritance tax process be simplified?

The Office of Tax Simplification (YES, there is such a thing!) have published their first report on Inheritance Tax, looking at the views and experiences of over 3,500 participants.

Some key findings of the report show:

Where people were not using an Adviser to assist with the probate process, the executors were spending in excess of 50 hours on administration of the Estate.

  • Participants stated that ‘obtaining Probate’ and ‘completion of the relevant forms’ were the “most time-consuming” tasks in administering the Estate.
  • Concerns were raised over submission of Inheritance Tax forms even where no Inheritance Tax is payable.
  • 65% of participants stated that they “still had to provide significant amounts of information” in relation to the Estate regardless of whether Inheritance Tax was payable or not.

In the tax year 2015-2016, Inheritance was payable on only 24,500 Estates, however, 275,000 Inheritance Tax forms were completed and returned to HMRC. Thus showing that even where the Estate may seem small and simple, forms may still cause complications.

The key recommendation from the Office of Tax Simplification, following this report is:

“The government should implement a fully integrated digital system for Inheritance Tax, ideally including the ability to complete and submit a probate application.”

Office of Tax Simplification

This seems an ideal solution, in principle, however this is a large, not to mention expensive and time-consuming, task to achieve. A digital system for the whole process could allow for a speedier and much more simple procedure for the whole process from obtaining probate through to reporting on the Estate and payment of correct Inheritance Tax where applicable.

However, we will wait to see for such action to be taken and for now work with the system as it is.

If you would like to have a free chat about Probate or administration of someone’s Estate, please contact us on  info@TotalLegacyCare.co.uk or 01727 865 121

Leah Waller

Got a Question or want to book a FREE Consultation?

Where should I keep my Will?

Where should I keep my Will?

So, you have taken the important step to make your Will but what should you do with it now?

Your Will is extremely important as it sets out, to those that you have left in charge (your Executors), exactly what should happen, upon your death, to your Estate – your money, property and possessions. 

If you do not have a Will then your Estate is passed on in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy, this may not be how you had intended, or would have wanted.

If your Will cannot be located upon your death then your Executors, or the Administrators of your Estate will have to deal with your Estate as though you had not made a Will.

Your original Will is the only legally binding document that will be accepted by the Probate Registry in order that your chosen Executors can distribute your Estate to those that you have chosen, in accordance with your wishes.

Many people choose to store their Will in their own home but recent research suggests that 67% of family members wouldn’t know where their relatives have stored their Will.

Storing your Will at home also has the additional worry of ensuring that it is protected against any flood or fire risk as well as being taken, among other valuable possessions, in the event of a burglary.

Storing your Will in a secure location, and advising your Executors of this, is essential – especially after going to the effort of making a Will and getting all your wishes down!

If you would like to have a chat with us about storage options, please do. These are low cost and include the option to amend your Will, at no additional cost, whilst your Will is stored with us.

If you would like to have a free chat about your existing Will, making a new Will or storage of your Will, please contact us on info@TotalLegacyCare.co.uk or 01727 865 121

Leah Waller

Got a Question or want to book a FREE Consultation?

Why invest in a Funeral Plan?

Why invest in a
Funeral Plan?

A funeral plan is not a ‘just in case’ product, it’s a ‘definitely will need’ product. As blunt as it sounds, at some point all of us will die, an uncomfortable but unavoidable fact.

Having a funeral plan will help relieve your loved ones of both the financial and emotional burden of arranging your funeral when the time comes.

Would your loved ones know what your funeral wishes are?

  • Only 1% of people organising a funeral knew all of deceased’s wishes;
  • 18% did not know any of the deceased’s wishes;
  • 46% did not know if their loved one wanted cremated or buried;
  • 64% did not know whether to hold a religious or non-religious service.

(Cost of Dying Report – 2018)


There are so many considerations when arranging a funeral, such as:

  • burial or cremation?
  • location?
  • transport?
  • viewings of the body?
  • religious service?
  • what hymns and/or songs would you like played?
  • order of service?
  • obituary / readings?
  • flowers?
  • charitable donations?

A Funeral Plan will help to set out exactly what you want for your funeral and express your preferences so that when the time comes, your loved ones have one less concern and will be safe in the knowledge that your final wishes can be carried out.

Not only will a funeral plan help release the emotional burden from your loved ones but it will also relieve the financial burden (with funeral costs having risen 122% since 2004 – Cost of Dying Report – 2018 ) as the Funeral Director services that are included within your plan will already have been paid for.

When paying for your funeral plan, you pay the cost of a funeral at today’s value. This money is then placed in the trust or with a life insurance provider (depending on plan payment type) and will cover the cost of your Funeral Director services.


If you would like more information or to discuss putting a funeral plan in place, call us on 01727 865 121 or email us at info@TotalLegacyCare.co.uk for a free discussion on how we can help

Leah Waller

Got a Question or want to book a FREE Consultation?

Will Inheritance Tax be payable on my Estate?

Will Inheritance Tax be payable on my Estate?

  • Inheritance Tax is payable at 40% upon death where an estate exceeds the Nil Rate Band (the Nil Rate Band is a personal allowance, that each individual is able to gift, upon death, without attracting any Inheritance Tax (for 2018/19 this is £325,000 per person)).

For more information on the Nil Rate Band and Residential Nil Rate Band, check out our article – Inheritance Tax: Record £5.2billion paid by UK in 2017/18

It is therefore important to know what your estate is, what assets form part of your estate and how your estate is valued. You can then plan accordingly to try and reduce your Inheritance Tax liability where possible and prepare for such an Inheritance tax bill if necessary.

First things first…What is your estate?

Your estate includes all of your assets, whether owned outright, solely or jointly. The combined total of this will then be used to calculate your Inheritance Tax liability.

However, any liabilities or debts that you leave will be deducted from the value of your assets before any Inheritance Tax is calculated. Any debts or liabilities owing at the time of your death are payable by your estate and so this value is reduced from the total value of your assets.

What assets are included when valuing your estate?

When calculating the value of your estate, all of your assets are valued at the date of death, and these assets will include:

          any asset which you can dispose of (sell, transfer or gift) in your Will, or which will pass by the Rules of Intestacy if you do not have a Will in place. This includes:


o   Property, Land, Buildings and any Interest in Property, Land, Buildings

including your home and any other property, land or buildings that you own or own with anyone else (including those that have a mortgage on them). This also includes any properties, land or buildings that you have an interest in.


o   Personal Items

including all household items and any items or possessions owned by you such as jewellery, clothing, glassware, silverware, china, porcelain, electrical goods, any works of art, vehicles, caravans, boats, planes and any collections (stamps/coins etc.).


o   Bank and Building Society Accounts / Savings

the money in all banks, buildings societies, saving accounts and ISAs as well as any accrued interest (whether or not credited to the account yet) at the date of death.


o   Premium Bonds / NS&I Products

savings with National Savings and Investments which may take a similar form to a bank or building society or may well be investments or premium bonds.


o   Pensions

Where pension payments continue after death they may be taken into account when valuing assets upon death, although these may well be exempt where the payments are made to a surviving spouse or civil partner.

Any lump sum payment that is made from the pension, upon death, may be liable to Inheritance Tax and form part of your estate but this will depend on the pension scheme rules and nominations.

o   Life Insurance Policies

payments from Life Insurance policies may be included within your assets unless they are written into trust for your beneficiaries. However, this will depend on the Life Insurance policy and terms of such policies.


o   Shares and Investments

including all stocks, shares and investments held either solely or jointly by you upon your death.


o   Employment Benefits

you may be entitled to outstanding payments from your employer if you die whilst still in employment, and if so, this will form part of your estate. However, if you have been paid in advance there may be a debt due from the estate to your employer. You may also be due share incentives, as part of your employment package, and this should also be considered.


o   State Benefits

your estate may be due some state benefits from the date of last receipt to the date of death. The Department for Work and Pensions should be written to in order to obtain this information.


o   Other Items


§  Lifetime Gifts that have been made within the seven years prior to your death that have reduced the value of your estate may need to be included.


§  Credit / Refunds including those that are due from utilities that have been paid in advance.


          any assets that are passed to others regardless of your Will or the Rules of Intestacy


o   this will include any property that passes because it was held by you as a joint tenant and therefore automatically passes to the other joint tenant/s upon your death.


          any assets that are included by way of legislation or statutory provisions


o   Trusts that you have a qualifying interest in (Interest in Possession, Immediate Post-Death Interest, Disabled Person’s Interest or Transitional Serial Interest).


o   Gifts with a Reservation of Benefit including any gift that is given by you but that you retained an interest in or that you continued to benefit from (such as a property that you have transferred but continue to reside in).


o   Gifts of an asset, or where you have helped to buy an asset and received a benefit from that gift or asset during your lifetime


We said earlier that your estate value is reduced by any debts and liabilities, so let’s take a look at what that could include:

  • Funeral Expenses
  • Outstanding utilities accounts such as gas, electric, water, landline, mobile phone, internet/broadband, TV, insurances etc.
  • Council Tax
  • Credit accounts such as credit cards, catalogues, standing orders, direct debits etc.
  • Overdrafts and Loans
  • TV Licence
  • Mortgage or Rent
  • Miscellaneous accounts such as a milkman, gardener, newsagent or similar.
 You may find it useful to check out our article – Inheritance Tax: What can be done to reduce your exposure?

If you would like to have a free chat about your Inheritance Tax liability and planning for the future, please contact us on  
or 01727 865 121


Leah Waller

Got a Question or want to book a FREE Consultation?

How I chose the guardians for my children…

How I chose the guardians for my children...

When choosing to put guardians in your Will what should you consider?

Often, when we are taking instructions from our clients, the conversation around putting guardians in place is one of the toughest.

For many, the main reason for getting their Will sorted is heavily influenced by who should look after their children if the worst happened. As a parent, it is especially hard to imagine someone else bringing up your children, nobody wants to think about what will happen if they are not around, but it is always worthwhile planning for and having measures in place should the tragic situation arise.

So, who is best to choose as guardians, what should you consider and how is best to tackle this difficult consideration and the conversation with your proposed guardians?

Using my own circumstances as an example, when I put my Will in place, I had to consider all of the following:


1)     Where would my children like to be (who with and location) if both of their parents were no longer around to look after them?


2)     Friends; I thought that during this tricky time of grief, my children would need to remain with as close to a normal routine as possible. Location was key to this so they can keep contact with friends, remain at a school they are familiar with, have family close to them and continue with clubs and activities they are used to and enjoy. This is not possible for everyone but was a consideration for me.


3)     Stability; choosing guardians that are able to look after my children until they are 18 and/or no longer need guardians was extremely important. Faced with the loss of their parents and moving in with guardians once is traumatic and I wouldn’t want this to happen again should their chosen guardians not be around until they reached an age they could live independently.


4)     The age of my proposed guardians; if the worst should happen now, it may be ok for my parents to cope with looking after my children, but what happens in 10 years’ time, will my parents be too old to cope or will it be too much for them?


5)     Am I burdening someone with the challenge of bringing up two (possibly additional) children?


6)     How will I finance my children through schooling and further education if I no longer had a regular wage coming in, I couldn’t expect someone to take on the responsibility of looking after my children and the added financial burden too?


All of these thoughts and worries ran through my head and I have always been a believer in the phrase “never ask someone to do something for you that you wouldn’t do in return for them”.

After careful consideration with my wife, we decided that the best person to be guardian of our children, should the circumstances occur, was my sister.

I wanted to have the conversation with my sister to ensure she was okay with this decision and once I had that conversation she was honoured and relieved that I had asked and had said that it was something that had been playing on her mind for a while but didn’t want to address it.

My sister also asked if I would be guardian to her children and this prompted her to put her Will in place soon after.

It was important to me to consider location; if my sister was a hundred miles away or even in a different country, would I have made the same decision? Probably not. Would I have wanted to put the burden on my parents? Would I look to a friend to be guardians of my children? There is a lot to consider all whilst bearing in mind what is best for my children. Then I had to consider reserve guardians, what if my sister was not willing to act if the time came, or she was no longer around. I went through the same considerations when putting my reserve guardians in place to cover this eventuality. 

One thing playing on my mind when I first began planning my Will and who I would appoint as guardians was, if I don’t plan, prepare and choose guardians, who will?

In circumstances where guardians have not been named in a Will, and no provision has been made for the children, the responsibility falls to the Local Authority to place children with guardians. The Local Authority have a duty to take care of the children’s best interests whilst making their decision, but this could take time and there is a possibility of being placed in temporary care whilst this process takes place. A harrowing thought that urged me to get my wishes written in my Will.

Like most of our clients, when I finally signed my Will, I felt a relief that despite what the future holds for me, I have taken the precautionary measures to ensure my children are looked after by the right people.

The lesson I learnt when dealing with this was that it’s always best to have these conversations and speak openly about your concerns. We managed to resolve two issues in one; guardians for both my children and my nephews.

I’m not saying that this is the solution for everyone and other family dynamics are different but, having these conversations are always worthwhile and ensuring that those people that you would like as your guardians understand the responsibility and are happy with the decision. 

 If you would like to discuss your Will and potential Guardians, call us on 01727 865 121 or email us at info@TotalLegacyCare.co.uk for a free discussion on how we can help.


Neil Barras-Smith

Got a Question or want to book a FREE Consultation?

I have been appointed as an Executor, what now?

I have been appointed as an Executor, what next?

Being appointed as an Executor can be seen as a privilege or a curse, but worse of all is when it comes as a surprise!

If you are asked to be an Executor, many questions will be raised including the following:

          What is an Executor?

          What does an Executor do and is there a specific process to follow?

          Does being an Executor cost me anything?

So, let’s have a look at some of those questions…

An Executor is appointed by someone in a Will, so that when that person passes away the Executor can collect and protect the estate, property and assets of the deceased and carry out the distribution of such items in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.

If you are appointed as an Executor, although this can involve a considerable amount of work, it is a privilege. By being appointed as an Executor, the person appointing you has put their ultimate trust in you to carry out their final wishes to collect in and distribute their estate and possessions as they wanted.

Some of the initial steps to take upon becoming an Executor are:

          Ensuring that a Death Certificate is obtained

As the Executor you will be responsible for notifying certain people, companies and authorities of the death and so the Death Certificate will be required. It is possible to obtain more than one copy of this and so it may be wise to do so.

          Finding the Will

As the Executor you will need the Will in order to apply for Probate.


          Consider whether you require help

As the Executor you do not have to carry out all of the administration of the estate by yourself, you can ask for professional help from solicitors, probate specialists and/or tax advisers.

If the estate is relatively small and doesn’t have any complexities, the Executor may well decide that they can carry out the process by themselves and this is also fine.


          Applying for the Grant of Probate

This is the official document giving you authority to administer the estate of the deceased, collect in and deal with their assets and then distribute them accordingly.


          Collecting in the Assets

The Will and any accompanying documents that the deceased may have left may well give specific instructions as to what the deceased has and, importantly, where it can be located, however such specifics may not be given.

As the Executor you will need to ensure that you collect in and account for all of the deceased’s assets including property, stocks, shares, bank accounts, ISAs, personal items etc. The Executor will also be responsible for ensuring that relevant insurance is in place for the assets until they can be distributed in accordance with the Will.

          Paying the estate debts and any taxes

The estate is responsible for paying the funeral costs and any taxes due in relation to the deceased and the estate. The Executor is not responsible for paying these personally however, the Executor is responsible for ensuring that these are paid from the estate. The Executor should also put a notice to debtors in the London Gazette.


The Executor will then be responsible for distributing the estate assets, following the payment of all debts and taxes, in accordance with the deceased wishes as set out in their Will. A detailed record of this, and all the steps taken by the Executor, should be kept throughout the process.

Remember, if you are putting your Will in place, have a chat with your proposed Executors and let them know that you trust them implicitly and so that is why you would love them to be an Executor. Having the conversation may well be difficult but it will save, what can be a shocking, surprise should anything happen to you and they are required to act.

An Executor has the right to refuse to act, if they are unwilling do so and so discussions at the time that a Will is put in place are important to overcome this. An Executor may be unable to act, through incapacity or if their death occurs before yours, however having conversations with your proposed Executors, when putting your Will in place, should prevent any surprises and limit the risk of them renouncing their obligations when the time comes.

We are always happy to have a chat with you about who you may want to appoint as your Executors and even help with the discussion with Executors and answer any questions that they may have.


If you would like to have a free chat about your Will, please contact us on  info@TotalLegacyCare.co.uk or 01727 865 121

Leah Waller

Got a Question or want to book a FREE Consultation?