Tony Crocker

Tony Crocker is Director of IWC Estate Planning & Management Ltd. With over 15 years’ experience, he is knowledgeable and proficient in all matters regarding Probate, Will writing, Estate Planning and Inheritance tax avoidance. In addition, he has a wealth of experience in dealing with estate settlements and issues with the capital taxes office in the event of bereavement. As a member of the Society of Will Writers & Estate Planning Practitioners, he is widely respected within the field, having helped many people at difficult points in their lives through complex probate and tax issues. Tony Crocker

Arguments after death

A somewhat distasteful case was heard recently in the High Court, concerning a high profile Philippine figure and two women in his life.
 
The argument began when Congressman Arroyo, who was domiciled in the Philippines, was visiting London, where he was seeking medical treatment for an illness.
 
Unfortunately, the gentleman died during his stay in London. At that time, his marriage to his second wife, which had broken down, had still to be annulled, despite the long term relationship he had enjoyed with another woman.
 
Luckily, both women were in agreement that the wishes for his funeral, which he had detailed in his Will, should be carried out. However, neither could agree with the other, whether to hold the wake at his recent family home, or his original matrimonial home which he had shared with his wife – therefore assuming that his partner would be unable to attend.
 
After holding several hearings, the High Court Chancery Division decided that, in the absence of the deceased’s estranged wife, his partner should be considered next of kin and she won the case.

Check out our Genealogy Research Store

If you’re looking to find your family tree, check out our genealogy research store. We supply a fantastic selection of tried and tested genealogy books, software and research materials. 
 
This includes well-known titles like Who Do You Think You Are? The Encyclopaedia of Genealogy and the ‘for Dummies’ series. As well as lesser known gems such as The Really, Really, Really Easy Step-by-step Guide to Creating Your Family Tree Using Your Computer By Gavin Hoole. 
 
There are glossaries, step by step guides, tips, techniques and much more. Here’s our guide to some of the best:

Genealogy for beginners

Internet research
 
When you hit a dead end
 
Publishing your family history

Software
 
While some people find genealogical research an exciting hobby, others become impatient and want to reach the end-goal at a faster pace. If you’re not enjoying the genealogy journey and would prefer to have a professional do the work on your behalf, IWC offer complete genealogical record packages from just £220. 
 
Rather than spending money on resources and research guides, you can purchase a research package containing all Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates. You’re then free to take a more in-depth look and delve into the past of certain family members or branches. 
 
If you’re conducting research to give to someone as a gift or mark a milestone, you may run into difficulty or find you can’t spare the time. Our packages make perfect presents – supplied in an A4 presentation pack with pedigree charts and relationship reports. 
 
All you need to do is enter as much information as you can into our online form. Or call and speak to a professional researcher on 0800 612 6105.

Should I enter in a caveat probate?

Whether or not to enter in a caveat to prevent a grant of probate from being issued is a major decision. It is often the first step taken in the process of contesting a will.
 
It is described by HM Courts & Tribunals service as used to create ‘breathing space.’ It allows someone the chance to seek legal advice and decide their next course of action. This could be to:
  • Find out whether there are grounds to dispute the validity of a will
  • Investigate concerns that undue influence or fraud may have occurred
  • Resolve disputes between executors or beneficiaries
How it works?
A caveat is a legal document, lodged at the probate registry that prevents probate being granted. Anyone can enter in a caveat; all you need is the full name and last permanent address of the deceased and the date of death. You do not need a death certificate and do not need to be an executor or beneficiary.
 
When someone tries to apply to probate, they will be informed of the situation, given your details and urged to reach an agreement if possible.  The person applying for probate will have the opportunity to issue a ‘Warning’ to the caveator who will then have 8 days to respond. The response is known as an ‘Appearance’ and details the grounds as to why the Caveat has been issued. Failure to issue an appearance means the personal representative can apply to have the caveat removed.
 
Once in force, it is valid for 6 months and can be removed if parties reach an agreement but only if no ’Appearance’ has been entered in. In this case, the caveat may only be withdrawn by order of a Registrar. If no agreement is reached in the 6 months, it can be renewed. 

When it is appropriate?
Wherever necessary, it is always best to try to resolve minor disputes before entering in a caveat. If your concerns are of a serious nature, for example you have reason to believe the executor is not going to distribute the estate in accordance with the will; a caveat is your only course of action. It should be done immediately before the probate application has been submitted.
 

What can probate records tell me about my ancestry?

Probate records are valuable historical documents that can offer a wealth of exciting information to genealogy researchers. This is because they contain a copy of the Last Will and Testament of your ancestor. 
 
Wills contain a whole host of information that you cannot glean from looking at birth, death and marriage certificates. Some of this information is quite personal too, what kind of funeral they want, who they decide to leave their most treasured possessions to and who they trust to act as executors.   
 
Here’s just some of the information you can expect to see in a will:
  • Whether the deceased was married
  • The name of their spouse
  • The names of children
  • Names of grandchildren
  • Address when the will was made
  • Where they were laid to rest
  • Who they wished to bequeath their fortune to
  • Relationships between family members
  • Personal preferences concerning funeral arrangements
  • The religion of the deceased
  • Their job or occupation
  • Where descendants lived
  • Insight into the lifestyle of the deceased
  • Whether or they owned property
  • Personal belongings and items owned
  • Your ancestors signature
Even if your ancestor died intestate (without a will), at the very least probate records contain important names, addresses, dates and sometimes the occupation of the administrators. They also include the value of the estate, so you can find out how wealthy your distant relatives were.
 
Find a will now – and get amazing insight into the life of your ancestor, as well as a historical snapshot of what it was like to live in that period. 
 
Charles Dickens for example, died in 1870 – his role states that mourners “who attend my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hatband, or other such revolting absurdity.”
 
Thomas Jefferson’s will created a trust for his daughter and provided for the freedom of several of his slaves. “I give to my good, affectionate, and faithful servant Burwell his freedom, and the sum of three hundred Dollars.”
 
William Shakespeare left his wife his 2nd best bed “I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture.” This has caused much speculation as to whether the bard did in fact loathe his wife. Although some maintain it was an ordinary custom, in fact beds of prosperous citizens were worth a small fortune in Elizabethan times.

Make a will online today

Around 70% of UK adults do not have a will, that’s approximately 30 million people. The most common reason people give for failing to do so is that they believe their loved ones will automatically inherit in the event of their death. In some cases, this is indeed the case but it’s never quite as simple as that. 
 
What happens when you die without a will
In today’s society, many complex family situations exist but inheritance law hasn’t evolved to cater to this. For example, ‘common law’ partners are not entitled to inherit anything. If you are married, with children from a previous relationship; your spouse will inherit up to £250,000 of your estate and your children will not receive anything.
 
Aside from avoiding your estate being distributed in accordance with intestacy law, not making a will leads to more disputes and family rifts. Without having your last wishes recorded, your loved ones will be left to guess, or make assumptions as to what you would have wanted. This can lead to arguments over funeral arrangements and chattels.
 
What about the cost involved
Another objection to making a will is that people are concerned it will be expensive, involving hours of a solicitors time. This is not true, the fact is, you can make a will online today from just £25.
 
This involves completing our data encrypted online form. The Last Will and Testament will be drawn up by our specialist in house legal team and either emailed to you in PDF format or supplied to you by post in document form. It’s quick, easy and doesn’t cost the earth. You can even make a joint will with your spouse by completing the same steps.
 
Are online wills suitable for everyone?
No, online wills are not suitable for every individual. If you have a complex family situation, with many assets in different forms, or property abroad, it is advisable to seek professional assistance. 
 
Call our free helpline on 0800 612 6105, tell us you’re circumstances and we’ll let you know whether an online will is adequate. Or, take a quick look at our online will form, here you’ll be able to see whether it will be comprehensive enough to cater to your situation.

Complete DIY Probate Kits to Download Now

Last year, for the first time since records began, more people applied for probate independently rather than using a solicitor. In response to these trends, IWC have created complete DIY probate kits to assist people who want to go it alone. 
 
Available to download immediately, straight from our website, the kits contain everything you need to complete probate. We include our list of executor’s duties, as well as a full guide to the probate process. It’s convenient, easy to use and all the forms you’ll need are contained within the download.
 
You can choose our small estate pack at £4.99, or our complex estate pack at £6.99, used when inheritance tax is owed. 
 
Alternatively, our comprehensive DIY probate kit at £99, includes sample letters, valuation information and inheritance tax guidance. It comes with a guarantee that, if you struggle to complete the probate process and need to appoint our services, we’ll refund the money you paid. 
 
This is ideal for those who have never had to handle probate before, are unsure about their duties as executor and what the process entails. If you decide you’d prefer to get professional help, you haven’t lost anything. We can handle your case for a low cost, fixed fee that can be paid from the estate later.
 
You can use the kits whether the case is testate or intestate; forms included are relevant whether you need to apply for a grant of probate or letters of administration.
 
If you’re not yet sure about whether DIY probate is for you, we’ve written extensively about the subject on our blog to help you make the right decision. Here’s some links to further information:
 
 

Probate property valuations challenged by HMRC

It was revealed last week that HMRC has increased its Inheritance Tax (IHT) revenue by 26%, simply by successfully challenging probate property valuations.
 
The current threshold for paying IHT is £325,000. Above this, an estate will be taxed at 40%. This means of course that for valuation purposes, it is better for the beneficiaries if a probate property is valued as low as possible, to try and avoid paying any IHT at all.
 
The recession has struck hard however, and HMRC is now querying many valuations which, it feels, may be inaccurate or misleading.
 
In 2011-2012, HMRC gained an additional £88m in revenue, simply by adjusting submitted probate property valuations. Whilst most valuations are carried out by chartered surveyors or other probate property experts, HMRC has gone on to argue in some cases that various aspects have been overlooked – in particular, the “potential” of a property. All of which of course, will add to its value.
 
In particular, executors should be wary of submitting an exceptionally low valuation in comparison to surrounding properties. If a value stands out, HMRC will check sale prices for neighbouring houses to ensure that it is accurate. If not, executors could be liable to a fine of up to 100% of the additional value. 
 
Should the property be overvalued however, IHT can be claimed back if it is sold for less than the probate valuation price, within four years of the owner’s death.

The cost of dying falls

 

First the bad news – recent figures show that the basic cost of a funeral has risen for the ninth year in a row, now coming in at around £3,284.  This figure incorporates burial costs, cremation costs and funeral director fees.
 
The good news however, is that all other costs for funerals, such as the cost of probate services, headstones and flowers, have all fallen, taking the overall cost of dying to just over £7000.
 
Although this is excellent news for cash strapped families who are often left to foot the bill; for many, the need to find several thousand pounds is simply unrealistic and the government’s Social Fund is vital in these circumstances. However, with so many making demands upon this fund, it is debatable whether it will continue to be available without enforcing stricter criteria.
 
So what is the answer? Adults are being advised to take out a funeral plan now, to ensure that money will be available to fund their funeral when the inevitable happens, rather than placing their loved ones under further financial stress. Funeral plans should always be discussed when planning your estate.

5 Myths about Making a Will Explained

Today marks the start of Will Aid month, so we’d thought we’d help raise awareness by explaining a few legal myths.
 
My spouse will get everything if I die
Your spouse or civil partner is only entitled to inherit your entire estate if there are no other living blood relatives. If you have children – your spouse will inherit the first £250,000 of your estate and retain life interest in half of anything that exceeds this, the remaining half will be divided between your children. If you don’t have any children your spouse inherits the first £450,000 and the same rules apply to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. 
 
If I live with someone, they’re my ‘common law’ spouse so will be entitled to inherit my estate
Common law doesn’t exist when it comes to inheritance law. Partners who live together have no rights, cannot inherit and cannot act as personal representative. If you are not married and have children, your estate will be equally divided between them. The worst scenario is if you are still married to your ex-partner, he or she will inherit the first £250,000, the remainder will be split between your children. 
 
My children will automatically inherit my estate
Only if you are not married. This can leave children in a vulnerable position. For example, say you have children from a first marriage – your current spouse will inherit your entire estate, including chattels if valued at less than £250,000. Worse than this – if your spouse remarries, in the event of their deaths, the wealth could be passed to the family of your spouse’s new partner. 
 
You can change intestacy so what’s the point in making a will
Yes, you can change intestacy law with a document called a Deed of Variation. The problem with this is that to do so, everyone affected must agree. Plus, if beneficiaries are children under 18, they cannot legally give their consent and the Courts must give their approval, making it very costly.
 
Drawing up a will is really expensive
This is not the case. Many people have visions of a solicitor painstakingly drafting the document with a quill and ink, while the clock is ticking…thus costing hundreds of pounds. These days, you can quickly and easier make a will online. Of course, if your situation is complex and you have many assets this is not recommended so will inevitably cost more. See our pricing guide and find out the cost of making a will.

Do you need a probate genealogist?

A probate genealogist or researcher is a professional who specialises in tracing missing heirs and proving their claim to the deceased estate. Also known as heir hunters, they have extensive knowledge about inheritance law and who is entitled to inherit in cases of intestacy.
 
Probate genealogists are appointed by solicitors, executors and personal representatives to find in the blanks and allow the estate to be officially wound up, even when there is no known next of kin. This includes:
  • Finding missing executors named in a will
  • Tracing heirs named in a will
  • Tracing next of kin in intestate cases
  • Finding rightful heirs according to intestacy law
  • Finding missing documents, wills, assets and insurance policies
  • Proving a blood relationships
  • Verifying family trees
  • Claiming the proceeds of the estate on behalf of heirs when it has been passed to the Treasurer
  • Handling probate and estate administration
A probate researcher will have access to historical records, databases and search tools enabling them to find missing heirs quickly and efficiently. This may involve checking:
  • Census data
  • Electoral registers
  • Births, marriages, deaths
  • Probate documents
  • Military or employment records
  • Historical archives
  • Overseas records
Searches can be lengthy and time consuming for those who don’t have the resources or experience. Often, solicitors give up and pass the estate to the Treasurer to be entered onto the Bona Vacantia. If it is not claimed within a certain time frame, the proceeds of the estate then pass to the Government.
 
With the help of a professional, some cases can be solved within days. The probate process can move forward and the assets of the estate can be distributed to the rightful heirs. 
 
If you’re an executor or administrator and cannot locate relatives or trace rightful beneficiaries of the estate, a probate genealogist can give you swift resolution. It will save you the time, hassle and frustration of trying to conduct specialised research alone. You’ll also be more likely to succeed in your search.

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