Need for plus sized graves leads to plans for new cemetery
It is hoped that a new cemetery specifically containing plus sized graves of 9ft by 8ft will be built in Lincolnshire, to cater for larger individuals and to accommodate those not able to be buried in the nearby local churchyard, due to lack of available space.
The first dedicated cemetery of its type, if plans are approved there will be 30 large plots laid out near to the roadside, close to the village of Sutton Bridge.
This has been planned specifically so that undertakers can carry the deceased for only a short space of time.
Recent reports have revealed that some UK funeral parlours have been forced to install hoists, able to carry up to 50 stone. Some have even had to reinforce their steel trolleys and increase the size of their fridges to cope with larger deceased individuals. It is this increase in obesity across the UK, which has led to this demand for stronger equipment and larger plots.
With the expected cost for this facility set to reach in excess of £200,000, the parish councillors for Sutton Bridge admit that the larger plots will cost more than the usual sizes.
Other councils in the UK have already proposed to create bigger plots, but Sutton Bridge and Wingland Parish Council is the first authority to announce plans to have a completely separate area for larger bodies.
There is the problem of course that relatives and loved ones may feel that their dearly departed may be singled out for ridicule by being placed in one of these larger plots.
How would you personally feel about having your final resting place or that of your loved one in one of these designated sites? Would you be happy to adopt a practical viewpoint or would you be upset at any stigma attached to the location?
What not to leave in a will
I saw a local press article last week which discussed what not to leave in a will. The survey which was carried out among 1000 people, didn't throw up any surprising results. The items they would least like to inherit included:
- Old cars
- Holiday souvenirs
Predictably, the asset people would most like to inherit is cash. Whilst this may on the face of it seem a little cold, it is perfectly understandable. It is a rare family which wouldn't benefit from a cash injection to pay bills, invest in the childrens' education or even fund a family holiday. Funds which are immediately available are most helpful, whilst giving them an old car or furniture to try and sell on before they can then have the funds, is more problematic and in some instances, stressful – if they are really under severe financial pressure.
Aside from money however, other assets which would be most welcomed were given as:
- Stocks and shares
…in other words, more valuable items.
One aspect of this survey which concerned me was the inclusion of pets in the most unwanted list. Whilst no surprise – pets are of course a very big commitment, not to mention potentially expensive, it makes you wonder just how many animals are left out in the cold when their owners pass away.
If you have a beloved furry friend and want to ensure that they are well cared for when you're no longer around, it pays to have a discussion with family members or friends, to see who would be willing to take them in – in much the same way you would when looking for a guardian for your child. Once you've found someone, then why not leave enough funds in your will to ensure the animal is kept healthy and well fed for the rest of its life?
Too many pets are handed over to animal welfare organisations when their owners pass away or move into a care home – organisations which are already under extreme pressure when it comes to finances and resources. Make sure your pet will continue to be loved and have a happy life after you've gone.
To find out how you can invest in their future, call the IWC will writing specialists on 0800 612 6105.
What is a family investment company?
These tax changes mean that many trusts no longer offer the tax-efficient benefits they once did. With this in mind, individuals are being urged to consider other options, which include using a plc to pass down assets to other family members.
With a family investment company (FIC), the shareholders are other family members. Large amounts of cash can be invested tax-free into the company, which can be used by the family members as a means of generating income. Gifting shares in this way is treated as any other gifting, in that the transfer is completely free of tax and the gift itself will remain completely free of inheritance tax liability, should the donor survive for at least seven years after the date of gifting.
If all profits are retained within the company, no further tax becomes payable.
Family investment companies may not form the best tax-efficient solution for everyone, however. For example, farming families may automatically be eligible to receive business property relief or agricultural property relief, in which case a trust may be more suitable.
If you would like to know more about the advantages and disadvantages of family investment companies, or would like to discuss your personal needs and objectives in more detail, contact the IWC estate planning experts, who will be able to help.
Islamic wills causing controversy in UK
New guidelines from The Law Society which means that Islamic wills can now be recognised within UK probate law, are the source of controversy.
These guidelines state that wills which comply with Sharia law may now be considered valid within the UK, and recognised by British courts.
Unfortunately, there are some common conditions associated with Islamic wills which may well conflict with the UK's modern society and its opinions – including:
- women who are set to inherit will usually receive only half of the inheritance, unlike male heirs who may inherit an entire estate
- children born outside of marriage may not inherit
- adopted children may not inherit
- relatives not married in a Muslim wedding can be excluded
A campaign has inevitably been set up, led by Baroness Cox, to put pressure on The Law Society to revoke this recognition which, she says: "..would make the Suffragettes turn in their graves".
The campaigners argue that everyone should have the right to reflect their religious beliefs through their will, but any religion which seeks to discriminate between classes and sexes should not have a place in English law.
Sharia law advises that in most cases, male heirs will receive double the amount inherited by a female of the same class, and non-Muslims may not inherit at all. If a couple have a Muslim wedding and then divorce, the divorced spouse too, may not inherit.
Please note that IWC Ltd is qualified and experienced in preparing both wills traditionally recognised by UK courts and Sharia law wills.
What are your thoughts? Can differing religious beliefs and guidelines ever be amalgamated and represented in British legal documents such as a will?
Man leaves £2.3m legacy to Sidmouth
A generous-hearted millionaire left a fantastic legacy to the town of Sidmouth in Devon, leaving it £2.3m – part of which, he insisted should be spent on creating a "valley of a million bulbs".
This unusual request was granted after investment banker Keith Owen passed away, and last year saw the planting of 178,000 colourful daffodil bulbs by all members of the community, with more to be added as time and resources allow.
Mr Owen, who was 69 when he died, was born near the town and stayed there regularly as a child. His mother continued to live in Sidmouth, with her son returning regularly to the area, to visit her.
In 2007, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and informed that he had only a few months to live. Rather than dwelling on the darker side of living and dealing with cancer, he chose instead to ensure that the town continued to prosper. Mr Owen changed his will at that point, leaving £1.5 million in cash and property worth £800,000 to Sidmouth's civic leaders.
The money is also set to help support individuals living within the area, including the local Scout troop, who are reaping the benefits of having a brand new Scout hut.
This unusual yet fantastic bequest means that Mr Owen will continue to be remembered and honoured within the town he loved so much, for many years to come.
Are there any unusual things you would like to do with your legacy, if you could give away over a million pounds?
Be careful of digital legacies
Much is being made of digital legacies in the press once again, now that they are officially recognised by The Law Society protocol. However, much confusion still reigns among the general public, with regard to what can actually be included within a digital legacy.
The whole point of a digital legacy is to leave specific instructions for your executors, for what to do with social media accounts and online bank accounts, as well as material including music and photographs. Prepare a list now, detailing any online bank accounts or savings accounts, social media accounts and films, photos or music stored online. In this way, your executors will be able to access everything much faster and easier, distributing assets and content in the way in which you requested.
It is NOT recommended that you store information regarding passwords and PIN numbers – particularly if they are needed to access sensitive financial information such as online bank accounts. Indeed, should the executor tap into any of your accounts using these details, they will then become liable for prosecution under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
What I would like to emphasise however, is that although a person who is now deceased may have purchased online copies of songs, films or artwork, they did not purchase the copyright. This means that copyright still belongs to the artist and that it cannot therefore be sold to anyone else.
Online material and accounts may now form part of our everyday life, but this does not mean that they can be treated in the same way as any physical assets which the deceased person leaves behind.
Why staying single could lead to inheritance rows
An article in The Telegraph recently examined why staying single could lead to inheritance rows, following the results of 2011's census, which reveals that just under half of all UK adults are married.
The statistics showed that:
- UK adults who are married dropped from 51% to just under 47% between the 2001 census and the 2011 census
- The number of adults classing themselves as single had risen by a quarter
- The number of divorcees had risen by a fifth
- Around half of all children are now born outside marriage
With the change in society's attitudes towards cohabiting couples and divorce, many couples now choose to have a family but simply not to go to the expense and fuss of a wedding.
Problems arise however, when sadly one of the partnership dies without having left an up to date will.
There is no such thing as a common law marriage and if the individuals are not married, then the next of kin is often considered to be the children, parents or siblings of the deceased. This leaves the other person without any financial support.
I wasn't shocked to learn that one law firm quoted in the piece revealed that it has seen a 25% increase in the number of cases linked to couples living together but not married.
If you are determined to stay together as a couple but not marry, then at least plan for the future by having wills professionally drafted for you. In this way, you can rest assured that you will continue to support each other – even after death.
Fund supermarket comes under fire for death fees on Isas
Fund supermarket Hargreaves Lansdown has been criticised for introducing "death fees" up to £600 – charging clients for carrying out valuations and basic administration on Isas and other fund accounts belonging to a deceased individual.
The company has always charged for holding investments, but these new additional fees for work including probate valuations, is seen by many as being greedy and heartless, particularly when other fund supermarkets do not charge for these services.
When questioned, a spokesperson for Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK's biggest fund supermarket, stressed that administrative tasks associated with probate valuations are generally very labour-intensive and so the company felt that it needed to recoup some of the associated costs.
All this of course then leads you to wonder how other fund supermarkets manage to cope. Barclays Stockbrokers for instance says that it applies no additional charges in relation to the probate process. Nor does it charge for probate valuations.
Although organisations such as this are meant to be very clear about their charges, it seems that there is no standard way of charging probate fees within the industry. There are often additional extras including exit fees and transaction fees which are added on, so it pays to ask up front about any further potential fees which may be added at a later date.
Co-op funeral firm apologies to families
It has emerged that Co-op Funeralcare is making apologies to families, after it was revealed that it failed to embalm around 1000 bodies.
The undertakers in question were based in Burslem, Tunstall and Newcastle – where three branches were found to be at fault. Despite charging grieving relatives for the service, their loved ones were in fact never embalmed at all.
One woman says that when her grandfather died, she found the Funeralcare service at her local branch to be terrible, whereas once they had been fantastic. When she requested to see him in the Chapel of Rest, they advised her not to attend due to the state of his body – which she now realises, was as a result of his body not having been treated correctly.
The failure appears to have gone on for at least five years and it was not until an investigation took place by the Funeralcare team itself, that the problem was highlighted and it became clear that a large number of families had been charged for the embalming service, but the service had not been performed.
Since the findings, three members of the local Funeralcare teams have since left and the Co-op has offered a total of £170,000 in compensation to devastated relatives.
This may seem to be a large sum, but each family on average only received around £65 as a refund, with an additional £100 goodwill gesture. Bearing in mind that to embalm a body costs around £95, this means that a family will only have received around £70 by way of compensation.