Helping families plan for the future

We are helping families to plan for the future by investing in the number of solicitors on our team who are STEP qualified.

STEP members are specialists in inheritance and succession planning and can draft wills and trusts, administer estates, act as trustees and advise families on how best to structure their finances to ensure compliance and preserve their assets for future generations.

We are delighted that Alexandra Chambers, a solicitor in our Wills & Trusts team, has recently qualified as a STEP practitioner.

Alexandra, who joined Cullimore Dutton in May last year, said: “The STEP diploma is highly regarded by both the profession and clients alike. My STEP qualification has enhanced my technical knowledge of Trusts and Estates and allows me to give my clients the best possible service.

“I was thrilled to be invited to the STEP annual dinner by the STEP committee as a high achiever guest for the marks achieved on my diploma.  All my hard work had paid off and I had a wonderful evening celebrating.

“I’m now looking forward to using my expertise to help provide the best possible advice to my clients.”

Alexandra is one of four fully qualified Trust & Estate practitioners at the firm.

Alex Chambers

Five reasons you should use a solicitor to write your will

If you are thinking about writing a will, you may have considered doing it yourself. However, there are significant benefits to using a solicitor along with many pitfalls which can be avoided.

In this article, we look at five reasons to use a solicitor such as ourselves to write your will.

As solicitors we know what to ask?
The benefits of instructing us begin at the outset, it is not just the drafting of the will which is important. Writing a will is part of estate planning, and while it is a crucial part, there are many practical and legal matters you may also wish to get in order. We will consider all of the property and interests that make up your estate, ensuring that nothing is forgotten about. We will work with you to create a comprehensive will that accurately reflects your estate and your wishes. Did you know that in your will you can appoint guardians for your minor children?

Your will, will be properly drafted
A will is a formal legal document and, as a result, must meet certain legal requirements. While you may have read and understood what these legal requirements are, can you be confident that you will be able to meet them? If your will is not properly drafted, even the smallest error may render it invalid or leave it open to challenge. An invalid will would result in your estate being distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy, which may not accurately reflect your wishes. This could result with people you would not wish to benefit receiving monies from your estate. You can save your loved ones difficulty later on and put your mind at ease by instructing us to draft your will properly.

As solicitors we can word the document correctly
Drafting a will is complicated. It requires careful wording and understanding to ensure that your wishes are reflected accurately. Many will disputes arise out of unclear wording, but by instructing Cullimore Dutton you can ensure that your directions are expressed clearly and not left open to interpretation.

As solicitors we understand how to draft a will for complex finances or family structures
If you have complicated finances, or you have even a slightly complex family structure, we would advise you to use a solicitor to draft your will. Drafting a will to account for stepchildren for example, can be complicated. If you prepare a DIY will, you could end up unintentionally leaving those closest to you with no inheritance. Did you know that if you are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner would not inherit from your estate unless you have a will which provides for them?

Inheritance tax planning and Powers of Attorney
As discussed above, writing a will is about more than just setting out where your property will go. With our specialist skills and knowledge you can also plan to mitigate your inheritance tax liability, allowing you to leave more behind for your loved ones. Similarly, when making a will, many people choose to make Lasting Powers of Attorney too. Lasting Powers of Attorney give you peace of mind that, should anything happen to you and you become incapable of managing your own affairs, you know your chosen attorneys will take care of your affairs as you wish.

If you would like a free initial consultation with one of our specialist Wills, Trusts & Estates team please call 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Alex Chambers

Probate: What happens to debt after someone dies?

Many people believe that when a person dies, the debt dies with them, but that is simply not the case.

Similarly, it is a widely held belief that family members are personally responsible for paying debts, but this is not always true.

In this article, we take a look at what happens to a person’s debts after they pass away.

When someone you love has passed away, the last thing you might be thinking about is debt. However, there are many misconceptions about debt and inheritance, and it is essential to understand your position.

What happens when there are debts on an estate?
If a person passes away with debt, debts will typically be paid out of their estate. The estate is made up of all of the person’s assets, including their home, cash, business interests, investments and any other property they may own. It is the role of the executor or administrator to find out what debts have been left behind and work out whether there are enough assets in the estate to cover the debts due. It is important to go through the deceased’s paperwork in detail in order to identify any debts owed and what type of debt it is. It is also important to find out whether there are any guarantors for any of the debts as the guarantor(s) may remain liable for the loan if it is not to be paid from estate monies.

When there is not enough money from available assets to cover all the debt, creditors will be paid out in a certain order until all of the money is gone.

What is the order of priority for debts on an estate? 
Before the executor pays off any debts from the estate, they are permitted to cover costs of the funeral and costs involved in administering the estate. Once they have a grant of probate, they can then begin the process of paying off the debts. Debts must be paid before any money is distributed to the beneficiaries due to inherit either by the terms of the Will or under the rules of intestacy. If there are assets such as a car or valuables, the executor may sell these to pay off debts on an estate. The order in which debts must be paid is as follows:

• Secured debts (for example, mortgage repayments)

• Priority debts (such as income tax and council tax)

• Unsecured debts (such as credit cards and utility bills)

Where there is not enough money to cover all of the debts, this hierarchy ensures the most important are paid off first.

What happens if a debt is held in joint names?
Where a debt is held in joint names, such as a mortgage, the surviving party who is named on the lending documentation will take on liability for the full outstanding amount.

Can debt pass to a spouse or civil partner?
If the deceased borrowed in their name only, the debt will not pass to a spouse, civil partner or any other person, unless they have provided a guarantee on the loan.

If you would like a free initial consultation with one of our specialist Probate team, contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.