Day in the life of a trainee: Stevens & Bolton

I am a third seat trainee at Stevens & Bolton, sitting in the Tax & Trusts team, and this article gives an insight into what a usual day looks like for me.

My day starts with checking emails to see if anything urgent has come in overnight and reviewing my to do list (I tend to write this the day before). Today is our biweekly ‘KnowHow’ meeting which follows our usual team catch up. Today we are discussing Family Investment Companies – something that I have not come across before. Tax & Trusts is an extremely technical area so as a junior these meetings are invaluable for my learning and development.

After my meeting, I continue drafting a Will and Letter of Wishes for a client. The Wills I have drafted during my seat have varied in complexity. This can be because of a client’s assets, how they would like to divide their estate, the types of trusts involved or whether there are any jurisdictional issues to consider. At the start of my seat, four months ago, the Wills I drafted were more basic in nature. These Wills would usually be for clients who wanted to leave their smaller sized estates to their spouse outright in the first instance, and then on the death of the surviving spouse their estate would pass on to a discretionary trust. Incorporating a discretionary trust into a Will affords trustees maximum flexibility to respond to the circumstances existing at the date of death. It is common to have a Letter of Wishes alongside Wills with discretionary trusts as this gives the trustees guidance on how the deceased would like them to exercise their powers and discretions. We always remind clients that a Letter of Wishes is not legally binding, however you would still expect your trustees to follow your wishes if they are individuals you have entrusted to deal with your estate.

A more complex Will, like the one I am drafting now, can include useful Business Property Relief (“BPR”) planning techniques. BPR is a relief from inheritance tax (“IHT”) for certain assets (for example shares in a trading business). The type of business asset will determine the rate of BPR available. It is a complicated relief to get your head around, so it has been rewarding (from a personal development perspective) to see how far I have come since the beginning of my seat.

Once I have finished drafting and reviewing the Will and Letter of Wishes, I continue researching Stamp Duty Land Tax (“SDLT”) for an advice paper I am drafting for a new client. Understanding SDLT and its implications requires in-depth reading of legislation (here, the Finance Act 2003), so I continue to read the relevant sections and schedules within the Act before I put together the paper.

I finish the day by checking my inbox to see if I have received any outstanding information on a probate matter I am assisting with. It is imperative with probate instructions that you stay organised and take note of the various letters received and conversations had throughout the estate administration. Sometimes providers are slow to respond to us, so it is our job to keep progressing things as much as we can. I always put reminders in my calendar and keep our working spreadsheet detailing the deceased’s assets and liabilities updated, as this serves to capture any missing information. As this probate matter is fairly complex, we still have a while to go before we are in a position to complete and submit the IHT return, however being involved with this matter from the outset, has been very beneficial from a training perspective as I have seen how these types of instructions evolve.

At the end of the day, I help other juniors in my team set up for a networking event we are hosting at our office. As I am still new to the team and this area of law, networking has enabled me to speak to others in the industry (not just lawyers) to see how our work interconnects with various businesses and intermediaries.

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