Sometimes it happens. An heir can sign with two heir hunting firms for the same inheritance. Why would a beneficiary do this? It could be confusion or it could simply be to ensure they do receive their inheritance. It could even be so that the company will stop getting in touch (some heir hunting firms can be unscrupulously firm in their tactics). Or perhaps the first firm is having trouble securing the inheritance and the second firm – with additional evidence – promises they can do better.
Whatever happens, the heir is certainly due their inheritance. But does this mean that both firms are then entitled to commission from the estate?
Technically yes, both firms would be entitled to their commission since both firms have a contract with a valid signature on it. However, only one of the firms will have been able to complete the case, and therefore that is the firm that the beneficiary will be more willing to pay. It could be that they realise they should pay both, and do so, but equally, if they have already paid, and the work has been completed, they may feel that they should not have to pay anymore.
And in these cases the original firm might choose to take them to the small claims court if the amount was less than £10,000. If it was more than that, the High Court could become involved. However, unless the original firm can prove that they did the work, it is unlikely that such a case would succeed, at least in its entirety. Instead, a smaller proportion of the fee might be awarded rather than the entire amount. When court fees are added into the calculations, it isn’t always worth chasing.
Parents will, for the most part, want to name their children as a beneficiary of their estate once they have died. But what happens if that child is a minor (under 18) at that time? Are they able to inherit?
The answer is that they are not able to receive their inheritance, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t name them as a beneficiary. It may sound strange, but as long as you include a caveat within the will that states that if the child is under 18 at the time of your death then their inheritance will go into trust, then there should be no problem.
But even if you don’t specify what type of trust you wish your child’s inheritance to go into, there will be an automatic trust arranged. This trust (over which you will have no say as it won’t have been arranged in advance) means that your executor will have the responsibility of the money, property, or other assets until your child becomes an adult at the age of 18.
If you set up a trust yourself, you can choose any age (over the age of 18) for your child to receive their inheritance. This can be useful if the sums are particularly large, and you feel that you would want your child or children to inherit only when they are more financially responsible, which often comes with age.
Sometimes it can be a good idea for the trustee of your child’s trust to also be the person named as their guardian. This means that everything can be looked after in one place, and there will be no confusion. However, it is perfectly possible to name different people for each role. As long as the information is written in your will, and discussed (ideally) with the people concerned beforehand, then everyone will understand what is to happen, and how.
Heir hunting is essential when someone dies intestate (ie without a will), and there are no immediate relatives to inherit the deceased person’s estate. An heir hunter will then carry out an investigation in order to discover any distant relatives who would be able to inherit the estate. But what other reasons might an heir hunter be employed to find someone?
It could be due to health issues. Some diseases are known to be hereditary, and if someone dies from something particularly aggressive, and especially if it can be treated, then finding members of the extended family could actually save lives. And if the disease cannot be treated, it is worth letting people know this as well – so that they can decide about whether or not to have children and so on. Cancer is one such disease, as well as hereditary heart conditions and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Heir hunters can also be hired to find family members when there is no inheritance involved. This could be when people do go missing – or they have moved away and contact has been lost. It could also be used for finding biological families after an adoption. Although it is possible to do these things yourself, heir hunters have the tools and the expertise to do it much more quickly. And although you will necessarily need to pay them for their time, it could well end up costing less than if you were to try to do it yourself. Think of all the time you would need to put into the search, and how many websites or organisations you would need to sign up for – and potentially pay for – if you were to go it alone. Hiring a professional heir hunter will make things much easier.
It is said that the average ‘lifespan’ of a will is about eight years. This means that, eight years or so after you have initially written it, something within it is likely to be out of date. So although a will can generally be written and then ‘forgotten’, there are times when it is important to remember it, and update it. Otherwise, there could be serious problems and delays when it is time to execute the will and grant probate.
You should update your will if something major happens in your life. This could include a marriage. If you already have a will and then you marry, if you don’t specifically mention your marriage within the will then your will be revoked automatically. An update is also required if you divorce or separate. Unless you want your former spouse to receive part of your estate, you will need to ensure that they don’t with specific mention within your will. Or perhaps, despite a split, you still want them to inherit something. Making a will after the divorce will ensure that your family understand this is exactly what you wanted.
If you have children then you will also need to update your will, as it is likely that you will want them to inherit at least part of your estate. Once they have reached the age of 18, you will need to remove any part of your will that mentions guardianship, as they will no longer need it. Plus, once your children are 18 or over, they can be appointed as your executor, which may be something you want to do.
What happens if someone you wanted to inherit from you dies, or if you fall out with them and no longer wish them to inherit? They will need to be taken out of your will, which can have a knock-on effect on other beneficiaries.
If you receive a large amount of money, such as with an inheritance, you should have another look at your will as your estate might be subject to inheritance tax. If you are not sure, then don’t forget that you can make an appointment with a will writing expert (such as IWC) to go through everything with you, and ensure that your will is exactly as you want and need it to be.
Mention the word ‘will’ or the term ‘will writing’ and you might imagine that the majority of people would know exactly what you mean. However, you would be wrong. A survey recently carried out by Macmillan Cancer Support suggests that a huge 98 percent of people can’t actually describe what a will is really used for.
The same survey also said that although almost 70 percent of people like to plan ahead, and just under half are happy to talk about what they want to happen before, during, and after their death, still just 40 percent of the adult population of the UK have written their wills. And maybe the two things are connected – perhaps it is the misunderstanding about what a will is for that is causing people to not write one, when in reality everyone should do exactly that.
The misunderstandings that come with the idea of will writing include thinking that you have to be over a certain age (40 is the one that most cite) before you can write one. This is borne out with evidence that shows that 80 percent of 18-34 year olds don’t have a will compared to just 32 percent of those over 55. Another confusion is the cost of will writing. It is often assumed that will writing is a very expensive process, when in reality the cost of usually a lot less than people think.
But the problem comes when people think wills are solely about money. And those who have very little in savings or no assets therefore don’t think that a will is relevant to them, or their families. This is now the case, however. Wills are about more than who gets what. They can also set out what the deceased would like to have happen after their death, and this is especially important if children are involved.
If you are unsure about what a will is really for, and whether having one would benefit you or your loved ones, speak to an expert such as IWC for more information.
Contrary to what many people believe, Jersey is not actually part of the United Kingdom. This means that, when someone dies leaving behind any kind of asset in Jersey, two different sets of probate may need to be granted – one for the UK and one for Jersey. This can take a long time as not only does the executor need to attend the Jersey court in person, but they will have to wait until an appointment becomes available.
If this is not possible, or if probate needs to be sped up, then IWC can help. We offer a fast track service for Jersey probate in partnership with our trusted agents. All that is needed is for the Grant of Representation (the document that allows someone to execute an estate) to have been issued. Once this is done, an application to obtain a Greffier’s Certificate can be made. A Greffier’s Certificate is a form of grant of probate that allows a third party to attend court in the place of the executor – this is part of IWC’s Jersey fast track service.
Other documents required to obtain probate in Jersey are a sealed and certified copy of the will in question, an original death certificate, evidence of assets based in Jersey (such as a letter from the deceased’s bank or a mortgage statement), proof that all fees due have been paid to both the UK probate service and the Royal Court of Jersey, and the executor’s oath. These documents, together with the sealed and certified Grant of Representation, must be presented to the Jersey courts.
From beginning to end, the fast track Jersey probate service will take around 7 working days. Using the standard route will take considerably longer.
If you have any questions about probate in Jersey, what you need to do, or whether IWC can help with the fast track process, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Although most wills are executed without any major issues, and probate is granted, there are some circumstances in which additional delays will happen as checks will need to be carried out. One of these times is when one of the beneficiaries or the executor themselves has been declared bankrupt. There are some essential steps that will need to be carried out in order to the delays to be kept to a minimum.
The main problem is that, due to any kind of bankruptcy order, the beneficiary may not be able to receive their inheritance; it may have to go towards paying off debts or other such things. And it could also be that anyone who is bankrupt may not be able to take on the role of executor due to their bankruptcy order, and this is especially true if they need to oversee the sale of a property. Beneficiaries may also have concerns over someone who has had issues with money in the past dealing with the distribution of the estate.
Of course, the deceased may not have been aware of the bankruptcy as it is often something that people keep to themselves. This does, however, have implications later down the line. Often with an inheritance, the money would need to be paid to the ‘trustee in bankruptcy’ rather than the beneficiary instead, and if the beneficiary were paid, the trustee could sue the executor for the same amount. This is why bankruptcy checks need to be carried out on executors and beneficiaries.
However, what can be done if the beneficiaries are living abroad? It is no longer a question of a straightforward search with the Land Charges Register. The Land Charges Register will only show bankruptcies that have occurred in England and Wales, not any further abroad.
In order to find out whether a beneficiary living abroad has been declared bankrupt and has a bankruptcy order on them, you should contact an expert who can carry out the necessary searches for you. IWC can offer this service, meaning that delays are kept to a minimum and probate can be granted quickly.
Resealing probate is a strange term, and not one that many people are too familiar with. After all, why should they be when probate itself is such a rare thing for them to need to be involved with? But it is an important thing to understand if you are dealing with the estate of someone who died in a Commonwealth country, including Australia.
Probate will need to be resealed if someone has died in a Commonwealth country yet still has some assets (perhaps property, which is common) in the UK, or if they died in the UK but have assets overseas. Resealing probate is the process by which property and possessions are released into probate in a different jurisdiction. It means, to put it simply, that probate happens once (and a Grant of Probate is released), and then it needs to happen again in the second country to ensure that each branch of the deceased person’s life is covered. In this way nothing is left out of probate that could have a serious impact on the contents of the entire estate, and what the beneficiaries receive.
Australian probate resealing can take some time, as it is all dependent on the Australian court system and what is happening there. Trying to work out the ins and outs of obtaining resealed probate can be problematic and time consuming, which is why it is a service the IWC offers. We simply need to know the value of the Australian estate, and we need an original copy of the England Grant of Probate (or Letter of Administration) for the initial probate work. As well as this, we need a copy of the original death certificate, the ID for the estate’s executor. We will then be able to offer you a fixed fee quotation.
Just call us and we can start the process of resealing probate in Australia. Leave it to us.
The Medallion Guarantee, the Medallion Stamp, Gold Medallion, Medallion Signature… With so many names for one document, it’s little wonder that people can become confused about what it is, why they need it, and how to get it. At IWC we can answer all of these questions and more.
The Medallion Guarantee (one name amongst many) is required before beneficiaries can sell or transfer any shares or funds that come from Canada or America.
In order to increase security after 9/11, the Medallion Guarantee – a bar coded document – was introduced. Its main purpose is to prevent cross-border fraud, as it allows the issuing financial institution to confirm that the shares are genuine and, if a forgery is committed, they are the ones who will accept liability.
So why would someone want to transfer these funds? There are a number of reasons, but one – one that happens more and more frequently – is that, although when the shares were bought the company they relate to was an English or British company, that company was subsequently bought out by an American or Canadian company. That means that the shares are now held in a foreign company. If you want to sell these shares after someone has died, or transfer them into another name, the Medallion Guarantee is crucial; without it, the transfer or sale cannot happen.
The Medallion Guarantee is not the only document that will be required when transferring US shares after someone has died. There are many others documents, as well as numerous forms to complete – it is, we know, an arduous task. Just some of the documentation required includes the transfer of stock ownership form, a copy of the relevant death certificate, a copy of the grant of probate, the original stock certificates (this can often cause problems), an inheritance tax waiver, an affidavit to prove that the deceased was not an American citizen (or resident), and of course the Medallion Guarantee.
However, IWC can work with you, and with the American or Canadian authorities, to make this part of probate much easier and quicker. Call us on Freephone 0800 612 6105 to discuss how we can help you.
Family disputes over wills may now incur costs
With family disputes over wills on the rise, claimants should ensure that they have strong grounds for contesting a will, after one judge ruled that a failed claimant should pay costs of over £65,000.
In this groundbreaking case, millionaire Ken Jordan died, leaving his entire estate to his partner, Ms Elliott. However, his illegitimate daughter did not agree with the contents of the will and promptly entered a caveat against the estate, thereby effectively preventing Ms Elliott from obtaining a grant of probate. Despite this, she did not subsequently make a claim against the will, forcing Ms Elliott to eventually issue proceedings to prove the will, in 2014.
The daughter, Ms Simmons, argued that the will was in fact invalid, due to lack of capacity, knowledge and approval and undue influence. The case eventually went to trial in December last year, where it was found that there were no grounds for suspecting that the will was not valid. Ms Simmons had no firm evidence to support her claims, and the fact that she never actually raised a challenge to the will, meant that her argument was rejected.
In addition, Deputy Judge Murray recognised that Ms Elliott had been forced to accrue substantial legal costs and declared that the defendant should be responsible for meeting these costs, to the tune of over £65,000.