Inheritances Are Growing

The richer are going to become richer, and the poorer poorer, and it’s not just to do with income. A lot of it is linked to inheritance. It is said that half of the country are set to inherit large amounts, whereas the other half will inherit nothing, or very little.

The study comes from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) who has said that the reason inheritances are, in some cases, growing hugely, is down to house prices. When property prices rise, and those properties are left to relatives who go on to sell them or even keep them for the price to rise even further, they can make a rather healthy profit.

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The IFS has said that around half of Britain’s young people will inherit about 90 percent of the country’s wealth in a few short years. At the moment, 72 percent of people say that they expect to inherit something from their parents. Just a decade ago, that number was at 60 percent.

These figures mean that the inequality between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will only widen over time, making the country potentially unstable because so much of its wealth will be wrapped up in a relatively small number of people.

Another worry is that the big cuts to inheritance tax that David Cameron unveiled are continuing under Theresa May. This is even though it will actually only benefit a small number of people, but it will affect the country by not bringing in as much money as it once did. The very richest people will effectively be receiving a tax break whilst our essential services are cut. 

Who Can Witness A Will?

The witnesses to a will are absolutely essential. Without them, the will is not valid, even if it is signed by the testator and correctly and completely filled in. Witnesses have been required to make a will valid since the government in the UK passed the Wills Act in 1837. It states that there must be two independent witnesses when a person signs their will. These witnesses must actually have seen the signature take place, and cannot sign after the fact. Their signature is proof that they have seen it happen.

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There are certain rules that must be followed in order to ensure that the witnesses are suitable, and that they can make the will valid. Firstly, witnesses must be over 18 years old as only adult witnesses are allowed. Next, the witnesses cannot be members of your own family, and neither can they be beneficiaries in the will, in any way (including being married to a beneficiary). Other than that, you can choose anyone you want to witness your will for you. You could choose friends or work colleagues, people you know from a class, or anyone else.

By signing your will as a witness, the people you choose are not committing themselves to anything – it is not like signing a contract. The only thing the signature does is show the Probate Court that the will is valid.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch

Stolen Inheritance

A Bradford court recently heard the case of a 51 year old woman – Maxine Forster – who, along with her sister, was given power of attorney over their mother. They had arranged this because their mother, Betty, was beginning to suffer from dementia.

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However, it was claimed that Maxine stole £50,000 from her mother. She is alleged to have done this over the course of six years (between 2006 and 2012) by taking small amounts at a time. This then impacted on the amount of money that was left when Betty died, and therefore Maxine’s sister, Elaine Welch, was unable to receive the inheritance that would have been due to her. Sadly, Elaine died in 2015. However, her husband continued the court battle as he believed she would have been owed money, and it was in the interests of justice if nothing else that Maxine was punished.

Mr Welch has even suggested that the stress of the situation caused Elaine’s cancer to return, after she had previously beaten it.

The judge who heard the case sentenced Maxine to 8 months in jail, although the sentence was suspended for a year. 

What Is RootsTech?

RootsTech… the name sounds intriguing, but what exactly is it? Well, if you are keen to know more about recent technological advances in genealogy, it’s the perfect place to go. Running from 8th to 11th February in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, it is the biggest genealogy convention around. It has been going for seven years now, and it is growing hugely each year.

This is the place where tens of thousands of family historians and qualified genealogists gather to find out more about their families, themselves, and the tech that is being developed to help them with that search. There should be over 30,000 attendees at the 2017 convention over the four days it is on.

There are many reasons why people attend, and perhaps you might be keen to go yourself.

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Firstly, it’s entirely possible that you could meet a long lost relative at the convention. It has happened more than once, with different people finding that they are searching for the same people. They can then combine their research and come up with a much bigger family tree. Plus, it’s always exciting to meet family you may not even have known you had!

Another good reason to go is that it will re-energise you when it comes to your search. For anyone who has attempted or is attempting to find out more about their ancestors, brick walls appear all too often and it can become somewhat disheartening. Going to a convention like this will give you a big boost and set you off on the right path once more. You may even discover new tech that will help you.

Speaking of new tech, that is the main reason for attending this particular event. At the 2017 convention you will find over 100 different exhibitors all showing how their innovations can help you find family members and create the ultimate family tree. Not only that, but you will be able to use some of this tech yourself. Having a proper play with it will help you decide what works for you, and what doesn’t.

Finally, those attending RootsTech all have one thing in common; they are genealogists, either professional or amateur. With that in mind, there is no doubt that you will be able to make friends and become part of a much wider community. 

How To Bequeath Intellectual Property

For many people, the items that are listed within a will are tangible. They are things like property, jewellery, money and so on. However, for a smaller set of people there will be many more intangible things that should be mentioned. These includes anything that has been written, produced, or created. This comes under the term ‘intellectual property’. It could be a song, the name of a brand, a design of a logo, a novel, and much more.

It might be that the item is actually of great value, but it mustn’t be forgotten that there are other layers of complications across these things that include patents, copyright, trademarks and similar. This can often be where the true value of a product lies, and it is important to understand what it being left, even if it may not look like anything at all.

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Remember that copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the person who created the work. After this time, the creation – song, novel etc – enters the public domain and can be shared and used however anyone wants. It is possible to bequeath the right to benefit from copyright. Alternatively, the item can be left to a gallery or museum, or to a person.

Patents last for up to 20 years after it is first filed. A patent is seen as personal property, and therefore it can certainly be bequeathed to someone. If you do hold a patent to something then you should include it in your will and write down what you want to happen to it. If it is to be left to someone then the patent office will require a copy of the death certificate and letters of administration so that the ownership can be updated.

What do you own that you didn’t realise could be bequeathed? Do you need to update your will after realising you have intellectual property? Please get in touch

What You Need To Know Before Scattering Ashes

Around 75 percent of people in the UK are now choosing to be cremated rather than buried, and in London that number is at a record 85 percent. It is likely, therefore, that at some stage you will know someone – a friend or relative – who is cremated and wants their ashes scattered in a specific place. Before you do this, however, there are some things you should consider.

Firstly, although TV and film may show us that someone’s ashes are just that – ashes – this is not entirely the case. When you look at someone’s ashes you will likely see fragments of bone that did not burn. This can shock loved ones and is a reminder of their own mortality – knowing that this may happen in advance gives everyone time to prepare.

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If the deceased did not express their wishes as to where they wanted their ashes to be scattered, the choice is left to you. You might want to consider whether you want to scatter the ashes in one place at one time, or keep some back to scatter if you move house, for example. Once the ashes are gone they are gone, and it will be too late for regrets or a change of heart.

Are you taking the ashes abroad to scatter them somewhere meaningful? If so, pack them in your hand luggage. Suitcases go missing all the time from airports, and it would be the worst news to hear that your loved one’s ashes had gone too.

A good tip when releasing the ashes into water is to throw flowers in at the same time. This way you can follow the ashes as they flow downstream and say a proper goodbye.

Can everyone who wants to be there make it? Perhaps not – this is where photographs are invaluable. But they can be precious for you as well, enabling you to remember exactly what the day was like and what the place looked like.

Finally, it’s not nice to think of bad things happening, but too many times ashes have been released and the wind has whipped them straight back into people’s faces. That’s awful. Be aware of the wind direction before you begin. And remember, ash can and will stick to your hands if you’re not scattering from the urn. 

What Is A Discretionary Trust?

Sometimes organising a probate trust can be the perfect way to keep your estate simple, to avoid any protracted probate delays, and even to enable everyone to stop worrying about inheritance tax implications. A trust is a great way to give grieving families a bit of time and space to get things organised without too many – if any – complications getting in the way. It is often much more manageable this way.

There are a number of different types of trust. One of these is known as the discretionary probate trust.

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A discretionary probate trust is perhaps not as simple as other trusts, but it does still allow for an easier transition that some other options. It offers a degree of flexibility after the policyholder passes away because it is the trustees who are given the discretion (hence the name) to choose who to pay from a beneficiary list. No inheritance tax will be due on this kind of inheritance because it is classed as a chargeable lifetime transfer.

However, be careful. There are some actions which can still lead to a large tax bill. For example, any gifts made within seven years of your death will be taken into account. There are many other potential pitfalls as well, and so it is always a good idea to speak to a professional about how you can bypass as many issues as possible. 

Prince’s Estate Becomes More Complicated

In April 2016 the world lost a musical icon. Prince died unexpectedly in his home in Minnesota. The problems regarding his estate began immediately since Prince (whose full name was Prince Rogers Nelson) had no will. This meant that his estate had to go through the intestacy rules, but Prince’s family is a spread out and complicated one, and so the entire process of portioning out the estate is still not complete.

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The current problem stems from the fact that there are two lawyers who are attempting to represent Prince’s potential heirs, and the judge overseeing the case is refusing to appoint either one of them to the job. This is because there is disagreement between the remaining siblings as to who to use. The two lawyers – both very experienced in their field – effectively interviewed for the job of dealing with Prince’s estate recently, but the six siblings and half siblings of Prince are split over who to use. The judge has declared that if they cannot reach a consensus then he will work on a majority of four to two. But the issue is literally split down the middle.

Minnesota law means that Prince’s estate and assets should pass to his sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five half siblings equally because he had no children and his parents are dead. However, there have been a number of other claims from people who say that they are also half siblings of the singer, and until the claims are all looked at, the judge cannot – and will not – begin splitting the estate between the six who will definitely inherit something. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Protecting Your Inheritance

The UK’s population is aging and increasing. That means that more and more people will eventually need residential care, and that can cost many hundreds of thousands of pounds. That can be taken out of someone’s savings and assets, and in turn that means that their children’s inheritance can be severely reduced.

Since care homes are means tested, if you have over £27,000 capital per annum, you will have to pay. For many, their initial thought is that they should hide their assets, or give them away as gifts so that they don’t get swallowed up in the care system. But is this the right thing to do if you want to protect your children’s inheritance?

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There is really only one big ‘don’t’ when it comes to trying to prevent any inheritance from being swallowed up by the government and that’s don’t give your house to your children. It may sound like the ultimate solution, but it’s actually very bad news. It even has a name – the deprivation of wealth. Your local authority has the right to check over your financial records, and they will discover anything along the gifting lines. If the authority believe that you deliberately gifted the property to avoid paying fees, they can reverse the gift, and you will potentially lose it all.

As for the ‘dos’, one good idea is to become joint tenants. For married couples, the ownership details of a property can be changed so that rather than being join owners, you will be tenants in common. This means that within each person’s will they can leave their half of the property in trust to their children – and not to one another. This means that if one half of the couple dies, the other person can stay in the house. However, if they did need to go into a care home, only half of the property would be valued to be taken into account.

Another definite ‘do’ is to appoint a lasting power of attorney. An LPA is someone who is given the power to make decisions for you should you become unable to do so yourself. If you still jointly own your property when you need to go into care, but are unable to make any decisions for yourself, the LPA will be able to help your partner and the inheritance too.  

Can All Children Be Beneficiaries?

In UK law, you can leave whatever you want to whomever you want, assuming you own the asset in the first place. That means that if you want to leave money or property – or anything else – to your stepchildren, you are perfectly entitled to do so.

The problems start when there is no will. If there is no will then the estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy, and these laws are strict. There is a distinct list of people who will receive parts of the estate, and this list must be dealt with in order. The rules of intestacy do not, however, cover stepchildren, and this is important to bear in mind. Only a spouse, adopted child or blood relatives can inherit if there is no will.

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And of course, even if you do have a will and you simply write that you want to leave everything to your children (or even siblings) this will not include stepchildren or stepbrothers and sisters. You will need to make a separate point for them.

Even if you have parental responsibility for a child, they still will not inherit unless they are your adopted or biological child. If they are stepchildren then the only way they will be able to inherit anything from your estate once you die is to write a will and ensure they are mentioned by name.

It is possible for a stepchild to challenge the rules of intestacy – or even a will. If they were financially dependent on the person who died, or if they had been treated like the person’s own child, they may have a claim to some of the estate. But this is a long-winded process and is expensive and distressing for everyone. It is easier by far to write a will that says what you want it to say. 

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