A summary of legal updates for the Private Client industry over the past week is as follows. 

Remote witnessing of Wills

On 11 January, the government announced it is extending the statutory concession which allows Wills to be remotely witnessed, so that this expires on 31 January 2024 and not 31 January 2022. The extension is due to the Omicron variant and the possibility of vulnerable people needing to self-isolate, or the government introducing Covid-19 restrictions, causing Will-making (which otherwise requires witnesses to be physically present) to be more difficult. A recent Law Society survey on the take-up of the remote witnessing option during the pandemic found that 14% of respondents had made use of the rules; however, the rules have been widely cautioned against throughout the profession because of heightened risks of fraud and undue influence. STEP has welcomed the extension but emphasises that video-technology should remain a "last resort". Remote witnessing in England and Wales extended for further two years | STEP

Self-assessment tax returns – extension of time

On 6 January 2022, HMRC published a press release announcing it will not impose penalties for late filing of online self-assessment tax returns provided these are filed by 28 February 2022. Late payment penalties will not be imposed provided the tax is paid by 1 April 2022, however interest will continue to accrue from 1 February 2022 meaning that there remains an incentive for tax to be paid by the end of January as normal. Although the penalty waiver extends to form SA900s (trust and estate tax returns) filed online, if these returns are filed on paper, a late filing penalty will be charged in the normal way. Late filing and late payment penalties will not apply if self-assessment returns are submitted online by 28 February 2022 and tax paid by 1 April 2022 respectively | Practical Law (thomsonreuters.com)

Trust Register deadlines 

Legislation has now been issued to formalise HMRC's announcements on the Trust Register last year, including that: i) the main deadline for registration of trusts on the UK Trust Register is extended to 1 September 2022 (from 10 March 2022); and ii) the deadline for registering trusts after 1 September 2022 is extended to 90 days from the date the trust becomes registrable (from 30 days).  The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2022 are scheduled to come into force on 9 March 2022. Trust Registration Service: draft regulations to effect extensions to deadlines and amend rules on trusts excluded from requirement to register | Practical Law (thomsonreuters.com)

Probate fees

The increase in probate application fees to £273 for both professional and personal applications will come into force on 26 January 2022 under an amendment to the Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2004 published in December 2021. The government first announced its intention to equalise fees for all applicants in July 2021. England and Wales probate fee increases to take effect in three weeks | STEP

Excepted estates

HMCTS has updated the probate application forms PA1P (where the deceased left a Will) and PA1A (where the deceased died intestate) to reflect the amended excepted estates rules for deaths on or after 1 January 2022. Practitioners can now use form PA1P/ PA1A instead of completing form IHT205. In respect of online probate applications, the HMCTS system is being updated from 1 January to 21 January 2022 and HMCTS has asked users to avoid submitting online grant applications for affected excepted estates during this period. https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/yPfTC3lVJtXYyVzSqaj5v?domain=uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com

Gift of property by LPA attorney

In Chandler v Lombardi [2022] EWHC 22 (Ch) (10 January 2022), a transfer by an attorney (acting under an LPA) of the donor's property into the joint names of the donor and the attorney (in effect, a gift of a half-share in the property to the attorney) was declared void. The High Court concluded the transfer did not fall within one of the exemptions to the general prohibition on attorneys making gifts in s.12(1) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It was irrelevant that the attorney had been unaware of the rules because she should have taken greater care to inform herself. The conveyancing solicitor had also failed to bring the gifting rules to the attorney's attention. The case highlights: i) for conveyancing practitioners, the importance of checking that attorneys have authority to make a transfer of a donor's property; and ii) for Private Client practitioners, the importance of ensuring, on creation of an LPA, that the attorneys are aware of the restrictions on them making gifts. High Court considers whether gift of property by LPA attorney was void or voidable | Practical Law (thomsonreuters.com)