Setting up trusts, transferring assets to children or grandchildren and gifting money to relatives can at times be utilised as effective lifetime tax planning methods to try to limit the Inheritance Tax liability of an estate when carefully explored using professional legal advisors.
But what happens when you take advice provided by a company you think is trustworthy, but you later find out that your house is charged to someone else or your life savings have disappeared? This is the reality in which many clients of Universal Wealth Preservation (UWP) have found themselves, across the country and now many clients are seeking help to try to reclaim their assets.
The Universal Group consists of a range of companies including Universal Wealth, Universal Tax Solutions, Universal Wealth Preservation Ltd, Universal Asset Protection Ltd and Universal Trustees Ltd run by Directors Steven Long and Melanie Long.
The group of companies went around England running seminars called “Keep It In the Family”, offering advice and ‘solutions’ for families to avoid paying unnecessary Inheritance Tax and estate planning advice. As part of this advice, family property trusts were often encouraged.
Property trusts can in certain circumstances be utilised as effective vehicles for estate planning purposes. Unfortunately, in the case of Universal Wealth Companies, in many cases the original owners of the property lost control of their own home after the property had been transferred into the names of trustees, which in some cases was or included the Universal Wealth Companies.
A large number of people who entrusted their money and properties to Universal Wealth believing they were protecting their assets from care fees and Inheritance Tax have now been left unable to access their money following the collapse of some of the companies. Some people have been unable to sell their homes without the consent of the Universal Wealth companies causing distress, upset and further financial loss when property sales have fallen through.
It was reported in The Times that Mr Steven Long received a prison sentence in December 2018 for 29 counts of contempt of court after failing to comply with an order to provide information to help track down an estimated missing £25 million worth of clients’ money.
If you find yourself or know someone in this situation it is essential, you seek professional advice to help navigate this extremely complex set of circumstances. Jane Whitfield and Juliette Spanner of Barrett and Co Solicitors have acted for a number of clients who have wanted to sell their property to move to a new home, only to find that they cannot sell their property without the authority from the Universal Group company directors.
At Barrett & Co Solicitors, we are already helping a number of people who have found themselves in this situation. Our experts are familiar with the structures involved and the steps that need to be taken solve the problems these have caused.
It is important to remember that Wills and trusts are legal documents. We would strongly advise you to consult a legal advisor with specific expertise in this area when making decisions about your estate, executing a trust, or writing a Will.
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Juliette Spanner is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and works in the Private Client department at Barrett & Co.
If you would like to get in touch with Juliette or have a question for her regarding her area of work, please email her at [email protected] or call her on 0118 958 9711.