According to research by the Office of National Statistics, deaths in the UK in the last decade have risen dramatically. This is, apparently, due to a rise in dementia and Alzheimer’s related deaths, as well as flu becoming more and more virulent. This is especially true of the flu virus A(H3N2), which kills a number of older people in the UK every year. The flu vaccine is less effective every year, and with outbreaks in care homes it becomes worse all the time.
In 2015, there were 529,613 registered deaths in England and Wales, which is a 5.6% increase from 2014. Of those deaths, 86 percent occurred in people over 75.
Life expectancy is currently at 79.3 years for men and 82.9 years for women. This has fallen by 0.2 years for women and 0.3 years for men.
Most of these deaths happened in the first few months of the year, due to the weather and the fact this this is the time that the flu virus attacks most strongly. Hospital admissions are up at this time, putting a strain of the NHS’s infrastructure.
Deaths with Alzheimer’s as the underlying cause are at a 5 year high.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to write a will, and keep it as up to date as possible. With the death rate for those over 85 rising steadily, and with Alzheimer’s cases growing in number, having a will is an essential part of anyone’s life.
It is the dream of many a Brit – to retire to Spain and to live in a property bought with savings that have taken a lifetime to build. And that dream does come true for a high number of British citizens, with as many as 800,000 British ex-pats living there now.
And of course, if you don’t want the upheaval of moving to Spain but are keen to own a holiday home there, that’s another great way to enjoy the country and even make a little money from renting it out.
But Spanish law and English law don’t necessarily mix, and it is wise to seek out advice should you be planning to leave your Spanish property to your family.
Recently, a court ruling showed that millions of British holiday home owners have overpaid in inheritance tax – and they are to be reimbursed. One group has already been refunded 3.3 million euros, as they should never have been charged these fees in the first place. And there are many more who are due a refund as well. The money will all come from the Spanish tax authority (the Spanish Hacienda). Now that a precedent has been set, there is another 7 million euros of claims waiting to go through the Spanish courts.
The charges were originally made when the owner of a property died, and that property was passed on to relatives or friends. The amount of inheritance tax for non-resident homeowners was usually worked out as two thirds of the property value – and the law said that that money had to be paid within six months of inheriting the property.
The problem was that for Spanish homeowners the inheritance tax rate was far lower – meaning that in some cases a resident Spanish homeowner would be pay nothing on a house that a non-resident British person would pay two thirds on.
It was found to be basically unfair.
The refund, however, is not automatic, and those who are affected must take their claim to the Spanish courts. It is a complicated process, but the average refund is in the region of 30,000 euros.
Many wills contain charitable donations – it can be a wonderful way to give back (literally) something to a cause that has helped you or a family member, or one that you feel particularly strongly about. It can be anything from a few pounds to a large percentage of your estate. The choice is yours.
Recently, a man named Peter Gibbons, did just that. He decided to leave money in his will to Ipswich Hospital since they had treated him for heart disease, and made the last few months of his life more comfortable. Mr Gibbons was a former second hand car dealer, and he left a massive £1.5 million to the hospital.
Friends of Mr Gibbons were not surprised when they heard what he had done – he had always had good things to say about Ipswich Hospital. He had been in and out of their care many times in the six years prior to his death at age 90, and he had never had a bad experience. What Mr Gibbons’ friends were surprised about was the amount of money he had left the hospital; none of them had any idea he was worth so much. They had always considered him ‘thrifty’, and although there were rumours about how much money he had, they had never seen any evidence of it.
A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed that the £1.5 million was the biggest donation they had ever received, and that it would go on to help many thousands of people who needed the hospital’s help. Four wards are now due to be renovated – including the children’s ward – and the rest of the money will go towards various smaller projects.
On 5th December 2005, same sex civil partnerships were officially recognised (thanks to the Civil Partnership Act 2004). This means that, for the past decade, it has been entirely possible for the surviving partner of a same sex civil partnership to inherit from their deceased partner in the same was as a spouse would inherit from their deceased husband or wife.
Therefore, if there is no will then the rules of intestacy will be used in order to split the estate and any assets, assuming the civil partnership has been formally recognised. The rules of intestacy state that a spouse or civil partner is the first to be recognised when splitting the estate, and after that are any children, including those from a previous relationship.
Making a will means that, assuming it is a valid will, there will be no need to employ intestacy rules – this can save time and a messy legal situation which can be upsetting for everyone at an already difficult time. A civil partnership will is really no different to any other will; it is a reflection of why you want to happen to your money, property, assets and possessions after you die. Therefore there is no reason why someone in a civil partnership shouldn’t write a will; it makes it easier on everyone involved.
For same sex couples who have not had a formally recognised civil partnership ceremony, a will is the only way to ensure that their surviving partner will inherit anything. The rules of intestacy do not cover ‘unpartnered survivors’. It doesn’t matter if the couple have been together for decades, nor how happy they may have been – if there is no will then the rules of intestacy dictate that, since there is no spouse, the children are next in line to inherit. If there are no children, it is the deceased’s parents, grandparents, siblings and so on. But a partner is not mentioned at all. This can be challenged using the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1974, but it can take a long time and be very expensive. It is better all round if a will is made in the first place.
What is the "Residential Nil Rate Band" and will it affect me?
Have you heard about the impending Residential Nil Rate Band? Last year, the government announced that starting from April 2017, some homeowners with estates valued at less than £2 million will benefit not only from the current Nil Rate Band of £325,000 per person, but an additional Residence Nil Rate Band of £100,000 per person, (rising to £175,000 by April 2020), on their death. For a married couple or those in a civil partnership, this means that up to £1 million of their estate can be passed on, without attracting any inheritance tax fees.
There are conditions, however. For the Residence Nil Rate Band to take effect, the property in question must be passed on to either a child or a grandchild of the deceased. In addition, the property must also have actually been the deceased's main residence at some point, even if they subsequently moved to a smaller house or into a care home.
As with the existing Nil Rate Band, the Residence Nil Rate Band can be passed to the surviving partner if not used on the death of the first, making a possible maximum total of £1 million.
Where estates are valued over £2 million, the Residence Nil Rate Band will decrease by £1 for every £2 over this value.
Although this is great news for most of us, those who have set up a discretionary trust in the past should be careful. A discretionary trust was initially a useful way of passing on a person's Nil Rate Band to their children or grandchildren, before the law changed in 2007. For those with estates valued under £2 million, this clause could interfere with the application of the new Residence Nil Rate Band. However, for those with estates valued over this amount, a discretionary trust may remain the sensible financial option.
Celebrities may have a completely different life to the ‘normal people’ who look up to them – they may have more money, go to more parties, win more awards… but when it comes to writing a will, they are just as forgetful as the rest of us. And yet, due to the huge fortunes that many of these well known people amass, they are in just as much need of writing a will as anyone else. Otherwise what will happen to the money, the property, the cars and jets and businesses?
It’s a lesson that Prince should have thought about. However, the 57 year old singer’s unexpected death on 21st April 2016 has revealed that the icon never actually made a will, despite his assets being worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The final figure is yet to be established as there are so many different revenue streams to tie up.
Due to the fact that Prince had no will, his estate has been found to be intestate. There are specific rules that need to be followed to work out who would inherit and how much, and because Prince was not married, had no surviving children, and his parents were both deceased, the bulk of the estate will most likely fall to his six siblings equally. However, since there was no will probate will take much longer and cost much more than it otherwise would have done.
Not only that, but there is no executor for the estate, and therefore Prince’s bank has been named as the ‘special administrator’ in order to try to straighten things out.
One of Prince's assets is his home and recording studio, Paisley Park.
And there is one more potential issue. A woman named Darcell Gresham Johnson has stepped forward to claim that she is another of Prince’s siblings. She says that she and the singer-songwriter had the same mother, and she is petitioning to receive a portion of Prince’s estate.
This declaration will add another layer of confusion to a messy estate and asset list, and will also add more time to the case as steps are taken to prove Johnson’s story.
For some, genealogy is life changing. From something that for others is a hobby, for those who really want to look deeper into it, it is something that can become not only an obsession, but a job. There are many professional genealogists who specialise in creating family trees for other people, or hunting heirs who might be due an inheritance.
But why is it so important?
There are, of course, important reasons for wanting to find missing family members or ancestors. Some of them could be health issues. If there is a history of a particular disease in the family, it can help doctors to diagnose it more quickly. This can save lives as in some cases.
Stories are also important. People like – and need – to know where they have come from, and the stories about the past can help them connect not only to their ancestors but also to themselves. These stories can also determine more information about historical events and put them into perspective.
Genetics doesn’t have to be about health issues. It can be about something as simple as finding out whether you look like something related to someone in the past. This is another way of finding out where you come from and how you fit into the extended family tree.
For those who have been adopted genealogy might be the only way of finding out more about the birth family. The same is true for a birth family searching for an adopted child. Tracing a family tree can bring the answers that would otherwise have been missing forever.
You might have family letters, Bibles with names written in them, you might be named after someone and you want more information about them…
Families can be very complicated things. Genealogy can help to simplify it.
Writing a will is so important – imagine what would happen to your loved one – and your property – after you have died if you haven’t written a will. We’ve put together some tips on writing the perfect will to make it easier on everyone after you have passed on.
1. Choose reliable executors
The job of executor is an important one, and one that has a lot of responsibility behind it. Choosing someone to take on the role is a decision that should be carefully thought about. It should be someone who is organised, reliable, able to deal with money (large or small sums), and who is able to follow your instructions well. Make sure they are happy to take on the role before you commit their name to paper.
2. Appoint guardians
Another potentially difficult yet essential decision is that of who would be your children’s legal guardian after you die. If you child or children are under 18 and you haven’t appointed a guardian then the courts will appoint one for you, and that person might not be the best person to care for your children.
3. Be specific
When writing your legacies, be specific in what you want to be left to whom. If anything is unclear it could lead to problems in probate and a lengthy court case.
4. Make sure there is money left over
No matter what you want to leave to people, you must make sure that there is money put aside to pay off the estate.
5. Make sure everything is accounted for
It is also important to ensure that everything you own is accounted for. If not, your will and estate could become subject to partial intestacy which could cause problems further down the line.
6. Finish up
Once you have written your will make sure that it is signed by you, and by two witnesses. Once it is complete, your will should be stored somewhere safe that is easy to find and access in the event of your death.
The executor of someone’s will has many duties, and one of them – the first one – is to value the estate of the deceased. This job can wait until the grant of probate has been received, but once that is done it really must be the first thing that is done. Without a proper valuation, it is impossible to divide the estate up as it should be.
The value of the estate impacts on everything that is written in the will, especially if the deceased has included percentages rather than actual figures (ie a beneficiary should receive 10 percent of the estate, for example) as without knowing the value of the entire estate the actual legacies cannot be worked out.
The estate’s value is also needed to work out how much inheritance tax is owed.
But despite – or because of – its importance, the idea of valuing an estate can often be a daunting prospect to any executor.
In order to carry out the valuation, certain things must be included. These things are property, assets (including businesses, partnerships, and business assets), any possessions, stocks and shares, and money including any savings. Money also includes pensions that are paid in a lump sum after death and life insurances, and can even include trusts if there are any that come to maturity.
Despite their name, gifts also need to be included in the value of an estate if they are ‘gifts with reservation of benefit’. An example of this is a house that was given away but the deceased continued to live in (without paying any rent). Some gifts, however, are exempt and include gifts given to spouses or partners, wedding gifts, gifts that were given more than seven years before the death, and any maintenance payments.
Since it is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (and the 452nd anniversary of his birth, if records can be believed), it seemed appropriate to write about Shakespeare’s Will. But this is not the famous (infamous?) will in which he left only his second best bed to his wife, Anne Hathaway.
This is Shakespeare’s Will, a play by Vern Thiessen, a Canadian writer who created it in 2004 at the behest of Geoffrey Brumlik, who was, at the time the artistic direction of the River City Shakespeare Festival. It premiered in February 2005 at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.
This play has been regularly revived since then due not only to its incredible popularity but also its enduring themes of love, life and language.
Shakepeare’s Will is performed by just one woman since the story and plot revolve around Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife) rather than the playwright himself. The action of the play takes place on the day of Shakespeare’s funeral. It is written in a form of poetic monologue that the man himself would have admired.
In the play, Anne is given Shakespeare’s will as she leaves his funeral – an act which surprises her and intrigues her, although she has no wish to read what it says. She would rather remember her marriage to ‘Bill’ as it was, not through a selection of trinkets left over from a life together.
Eventually Anne does read the will and feels she has been punished; her sister in law will receive the house, a house Anne loves desperately, and all Anne herself is given is the second best bed. Is this punishment because she was unable to save their son from drowning?
It is Anne’s recovery from the betrayal in death of the man she adored that is the true focus of the play, and this is where the strength of it – and her – lies.