For the love of legacy

For the love of legacy

Our new Solicitor Claire Ryder is passionate about helping families ensure their plans for what they leave to their loved ones are watertight

Planning the legacy we want our loved ones to benefit from when we’re no longer around is one of the hardest things most of us ever do.

Yet, while making such decisions can be a painful process, taking the time to do so is vital, because the alternative is a legacy of confusion, pain and unexpected costs for those we leave behind, at what will be a very upsetting time already.

Having an expert legal brain with a sympathetic ear in your corner when you’re deciding what to leave to who, can make all the difference – both to guide you against potential mistakes and to offer an unbiased, unemotional and experienced view in those moments when you’re too close to things to clearly see the best course of action.

All of which is what attracts our new solicitor, Claire Ryder, to the ‘private client’ legal specialism.

Claire, who has worked in law for just short of a decade, joined us in early June, keen to pursue her first love – in terms of law practice – after a number of years in residential property conveyancing. She will be working alongside our hugely experienced Senior Solicitor Chris Hutchinson, looking after clients’ Wills, powers of attorney and estate planning.

“I have always loved this field of law, but, as often happens in the world of work, I found that one area of practice naturally just took over, and I ended up focusing just on residential property law for a while, before going back to private client work over the past few months with another local solicitors firm,” explained Claire.

“When the opportunity came up to specialise in this area at James Legal, I jumped at it. I found out about the opportunity from some former colleagues of mine who’d moved across and recommended the firm to me.

“James Legal has a great reputation for being a supportive, flexible, friendly environment and looking after its clients well. However, what really attracted me to the job was the opportunity to work alongside Chris, who is so well-respected, and learn from his vast experience in this part of the industry.

“I’m already beefing up my skills, too, by undertaking the STEP Diploma in Trusts and Estates course which will widen my knowledge of aspects of estate planning, including setting up trusts for people where appropriate, and so widen the areas of guidance I am able to offer clients.”

A real people person

So, what is it Claire loves so much about the estate planning area of law?

“I really like meeting people, looking after clients – which you often don’t get as much opportunity to do now within residential conveyancing – and the challenge of drafting up often complicated legal documents in a way that’s clear and watertight,” she explained.

“Ultimately, I also really like helping people and ensuring they avoid the many potential pitfalls that surround estate planning. For example, couples buying a house together, who are not married, ideally need to know how best to ensure each of their rights are protected should one of them no longer be around, through documents like declarations of trust. Without the back-up of such a document, the surviving partner wouldn’t necessarily inherit the shared property and the deceased partner’s half could go to blood relatives instead, potentially leaving them homeless.

“To protect against this, if an unmarried couple bought a property that was to be registered in just one of their names but, with each putting in an equal amount in terms of deposit, I could draw up a declaration of trust that would protect their respective deposits but then think in terms of Wills too, because if they didn’t have Wills drawn up and the sole property owner died, the property wouldn’t necessarily go to the remaining partner. Wills can specify things like allowing the survivor that wasn’t on the title to the property the right to live in the property for a year, until they get everything sorted out or could afford to buy the other half if needs be – things people don’t necessarily think about.”

And it’s in situations like this that Claire finds her experience in property-related law is extremely beneficial.

“I think because I have a property background, I can often look at things like this more holistically and make sure absolutely every base is covered,” she said.

Helping clients avoid the pitfalls

Among the other things Claire and the rest of our private client team specialise in, is helping to ensure inheritance tax-efficiency. Without this kind of guidance at the right time, too, many people end up paying far too much in tax unnecessarily, simply because they fail to put the correct plans and documents in place.

She added: “All areas of law play an important role in people’s lives but I think proper legacy planning is particularly key at the moment. Property prices are rising fast and this is pushing more ordinary people into the inheritance tax bracket than would have been previously.

“People are generally living longer, too, which means that powers of attorney – though always important – are critical now to enable them to designate someone they trust to act on their behalf if they can’t. And with family structures becoming more and more complex, having the right vehicles and paperwork for the things we own, and designating the right process in terms of who gets what, in an environment where many people have children from previous relationships, for example, can be a minefield without the right, experienced advice.

“Figuring out how to organise their legacy can be an incredibly complex process for anyone and one of the things I enjoy most about the job is gaining people’s trust and helping them to make the right decisions at the right time, backed up by robust documentation, to protect their loved ones in the future,” concluded Claire.

“It’s a really rewarding area to work in because no two cases are exactly the same.

What other special qualities does Claire bring to the role?

“Hopefully, I’m approachable and friendly, and people feel like they can ask me questions and tell me about their family history, and share personal information about their family and their finances, to help me, help them, make the right decisions,” she said.

Off to a great start

How, then, is she enjoying it so far?

“The James Legal team are a lovely bunch and everyone – including Chris – is very supportive and happy to answer any questions I have to help me learn, so I’m really happy here,” she said.

And when she’s not helping clients pick their path through Wills and probate, Claire’s other passions in life are her partner, Stephen, and horses. In fact, she competed at a regional and national level in dressage previously.

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” she said. “Having horses is quite intensive but it’s a great wind-down from the intensity of the work I do during the day, and I love it.”

Claire’s message for any potential clients out there who are reading this article?

“Come and see me!” she said.

“And it they haven’t sorted out their estate yet, they shouldn’t leave it too late, because getting everything in order for the future is such an important step and can be a path to real peace of mind.”

James Legal MD Simon Young said of Claire’s appointment: “Because of the ways in which society is changing, we’ve seen the demand for advice from our private client team go through the roof in the past couple of years, and so we’re delighted to welcome Claire onboard.

“Her experience in both this field and property generally will really bolster our capacity and capabilities to offer people the support they need in this important area.”

If you’ve been putting off your future planning and could do with a friendly and experienced listening ear to help you get it all sorted out, you can contact Claire via email or telephone 01482 974515.

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