Private Client

Our members at Mercantile Barristers are well versed in advising discerning private clients across a whole range of personal business and private matters. We act as trusted legal advisers to individuals including professionals in Sport and in the City working in financial, investment, property development and consultancy as well as families, trusts and family/owner-run businesses both in the United Kingdom and internationally.

From time to time, our barristers are able to work in tandem with your existing professional advisors including accountants, financial advisors, private bankers and other specialist consultants to ensure you receive harmonised and strategic advice. It is our barristers’ objective to provide continuous and enduring advice that instils trust and confidence in our clients.

Mercantile Barristers’ Private client practice covers:

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Property Ownership, Acquisitions and Disposals

When it comes to property, private clients have a number of options available to them. Once property or land is acquired, clients can retain it to occupy, retain it in an investment portfolio, or sell it on. In either instance, our barristers provide sound commercial and legal advice throughout the entire process. Our barristers have a full understanding of the proprietary interests involved and can advise on practical and well-informed positions that protect and maximise the client’s commercial position.

Wills, Probate & Estate Administration

A will is a written document that specifies where and to whom you wish your property and possessions (otherwise referred to as your ‘Estate’) to be distributed in the event of your death. Although Wills have a reputation of being complex, this need not be the case. Some Wills, however, require specialist legal knowledge and advice for your specific wishes to be reflected and carried out. A skilfully drafted Will can be a solid foundation in the overall management and administration of your family wealth.

It is not unusual that professionals and executives instructing our wills and probate barristers on other matters do not have a written plan of how they wish their assets to be distributed when they die. It may be that you have not given sufficient attention to what could be done during your lifetime to ensure the most efficient transfer of wealth. This carries the significant risk of leaving your Estate, finances and assets at the mercy of UK intestacy law, which you and your family may have no control over. It is therefore vital to take timely advice and plan ahead in order to safeguard the wealth that you have worked hard to accumulate. For example, without a formal Will, an unmarried partner does not have automatic entitlement to key aspects of the Estate; assets may have to be sold; and specific family members may be disinherited inadvertently. Often beneficiaries become embroiled in entirely avoidable contentions probate litigation that has been known to bankrupt otherwise solvent Estates.

At Mercantile Barristers our members regularly advise on and draft a variety of Wills and trusts for the benefit of our clients, including but not limited to: court approved Wills for those lacking capacity to make a Will; appointment of Executors; making of cash and specific property legacies; distribution of the remainder of an estate; all available inheritance tax reliefs and exemptions; setting up trusts; and ‘Living Wills’.

At least one executor (but ideally two) must be appointed in your Will, who is responsible for managing your estate to its conclusion and must ensure its contents are followed exactly. Clients can choose who may be an executor of their will and candidates range from the legal adviser who advised and/or drafted their will, to a close family friend or relative. An executor owes a duty to all beneficiaries of the Estate to perform a variety of tasks and obligations including: administering the Estate with due diligence and in accordance with the terms of the Will; acting reasonably and prudently in relation to the estate property; distributing the proceeds of the estate to the beneficiaries; putting the interests of the beneficiaries before those of the executors; taking all proper steps to protect the assets of the decease; and in some instances selling the assets of the estate.

It is also not uncommon that after drafting a Will, your circumstances and the law in general may change. If so, it is imperative that your Will changes too and is therefore kept up to date. Our wills and probate barristers are available to advise you on the important decision of selecting your executors; the Executors themselves in making the correct decisions for the benefit of the Estate.

Our members understand the strain that comes with administering an Estate, principally if it has caused a rift within a family. It is not surprising that you may not have time to administer an entire estate yourself. Our suitably experienced barristers can offer their support or recommend equally qualified and experienced advisers and professional administrators to provide assistance on as much or as little of the estate administration as is required, from full administration to obtaining letters of administration.

It may be that you want to contest the validity of a Will because you do not agree with an Executor’s decision, which may be contrary to the deceased’s wishes. Our barristers are used to advising on Wills in Solemn Form; Rectification of Wills; Professional negligence claims relating to Wills, Trusts and Estates; the interpretation of Wills; Invalid Wills and letters of wishes (e.g. undue influence, lack of capacity); invalid execution of Wills; and forged or fraudulent Wills.

Our barristers can also provide expert advice if there have been alleged breaches of an Executor’s duties. This may lead to applications to remove or replace an Executor, an order that they make good any losses suffered by the estate, or an order that they must take a specific action in relation to the estate. At Mercantile Barristers our member have and continue to act on behalf of beneficiaries, family members, step children, common law spouses, executors and administrators, and always seek to resolve matters out of court where appropriate. If court action is necessary, we are suitably equipped to receive instructions on contentious probate claims regarding, undue influence, lack of capacity, or the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

Trusts

Trusts are usually set up by clients as a means of managing their assets, to pass them on while they are alive and to ensure that specific people benefit from those assets upon their death. They are sometimes regarded as being complex, however they are vital instruments to assist with the controlled administration of wealth. For example, trusts can control the distribution of assets over time; defer children’s inheritance until a specified age; assist in making charitable donations; protect a family business; or reduce tax liabilities.

Where property assets and interests are already in your possession and the objective is to either hold and/or transfer these from one generation to another; or between parties in a safe, secure and tax efficient manner, our members at Mercantile Barristers can design creative estate management and trust structures that meet and often exceed your expectations.

Upon creation, trusts must be correctly and diligently monitored and administered. Settlors of trusts appoint trustees to manage the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Our barristers can offer advice on: the administration of trusts; applications to vary trusts (if, for example, it is no longer possible to carry out the settlor’s wishes); asset recovery, tracing claims for trustees and if necessary, obtaining freezing injunctions; breach of trust claims; duties of trustees; misappropriation of Trust or Estate property; removal of trustees; restitution of Trust funds; and Sham Trusts.

Private Client Disputes

In contentious circumstances, our barristers adopt a strategic approach in resolving disputes, whilst recognising the necessity to preserve pre-existing relationships. Whether litigation is avoidable, or inevitable, our barristers will adopt a firm and forceful approach in litigating through all tribunals as well as in the High Court and the Appellate Courts.

Tax and Estate Planning

Our barristers are familiar with advising clients on tax efficiency, especially within Trusts and Wills. Our barristers can provide expert advice to you and your family based on your personal and financial needs going forward and how you may be affected legally. Our advice covers: Capital Gains Tax from the sale of investments and properties; Income Tax; Inheritance Tax; Stamp Duty Land Tax; Tax planning for succession to business assets and other similar taxes.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a document that allows a person to delegate decision making to a person or persons chosen by them. Should such a need arise our barristers are adept at drafting ordinary powers of attorney regarding your property and financial affairs. In circumstances where the client lacks mental capacity, then a Lasting Power of Attorney (“LPA”) dealing with Property and Financial Affairs and/or Personal Health and Welfare may be more appropriate.

A Property and Finance LPA allows an appointed attorney to make financial decisions, including management of a person’s property, bills and pension, whilst a Health and Welfare LPA allows an appointed attorney to make choices about medical care and care arrangements. It is also common for couples or relatives to create Mirror LPAs’, where two parties appoint each other for their LPA.

If, however capacity to make decisions has been lost before a Power of Attorney has been granted, then an application to the Court of Protection for a Deputy to be appointed, who can take appropriate decisions instead would become necessary. Our barristers are capable of advising on the submission necessary for a successful application to the Court of Protection.

Commissioners of Oaths

A Commissioner of Oaths is one who is duly authorised and entrusted with the ability to witness the signing and swearing of documents and to verify legal documents and/or affidavits (a written statement confirmed by oath) for use as evidence in court. Our barristers have these powers but are restricted from using them in proceedings in which they are acting on behalf of any of the parties. Our barristers are available to advise on and draft change of name deed polls, affidavits, statutory declarations, or powers of attorney; and certify copy documentation (including passports) as and when necessary, for individual clients and companies.

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