Ian Workman killed his wife, Susan, mother of Ben and Nicholas, in April 2011, stabbing her in the heart with a large kitchen knife. The reason, it is claimed, was that she was in the process of divorcing the multi-millionaire car dealer, and the murder was committed in order to prevent Ian Workman from having to pay out in a large settlement. Susan would have been entitled to an equal share of everything.
For six years, Workman’s sons, and his sister-in-law, Carol Forrester, have battled the courts in order to obtain their share of the inheritance. Recently, three senior judges at the Court of Appeal agreed that the killer, who is currently serving life, would have to pay out just over £1.5 million, plus £500,000 costs.
Workman had originally refused to cooperate with the legal process. He had even forfeited the right to defend himself in court. On further investigation, it turned out that Workman had actually ‘voluntarily dissipated’ almost everything he owned to his eldest son, Grant.
This was seen to be an obstruction of justice, and did not do him any favours when it came to court. Ian Workman always claimed that he did not kill Susan for the money, but that instead it was done in self defence after she came at him during an argument. His sons, however, insist that their father should not profit from his crime – and the judges agreed.
When someone dies, unless family were told beforehand, or it is easy to find in the house, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether someone even had a will, let alone where it might be.
The problem is that there isn’t a central database of all the wills made in the UK. There is the Central Probate Registry, but it is not compulsory to enter the details of your will there, and not many people do. This might be because very few people are actually aware that it exists.
If you want to know about someone’s will for any reason, the first person to ask should be the one who has organised the funeral. They should at least be able to determine whether there is a will or not, which will aid you in your search. If there is a will, they may even be able to tell you what it consists of, but they are under no legal obligation to do this.
Once probate has been issued, the will itself becomes public. Once this is the case, you can apply to the probate registry to obtain a copy of the will. If you are unsure when probate is due to be given, you can register through a standing search at the probate registry. One registered, the search (which is set up in the person’s name, their address, and their date of death) lasts for 6 months. If probate has not been issued in that time, you will need to set up another search.
Organising a pre-paid funeral plan is a fantastic idea. It saves you the worry of ensuring that everyone knows what you want for your funeral, and it will save your family the worry of paying for it.
There are many benefits to this idea.
The first is that you can fix your funeral director’s costs. No matter how many years before your death you complete paying for your pre-paid funeral plan, the price you have paid will be the price that is honoured – your family won’t be asked to pay out anything further, unless they want to add to the funeral in some way.
Payments are also often flexible. You can overpay, take payment holidays, and choose your own budget. It’s ideal if you like to be in complete control.
Speaking of control, a pre-paid funeral plan gives you exactly that over every aspect of your funeral. You can pay in advance for the coffin you want, the kind of service, the burial or cremation… you can even organise the music and readings ahead of time, making sure that the whole thing goes exactly as you want it to.
But, if you do change your mind about any of the arrangements, your flexible funeral plan should be easy to amend. Since nothing will be organised until it needs to be, you won’t incur any admin costs. Bear in mind, though, that if you do need to change something your monthly payments may also change to ensure that everything is covered.
There aren’t many people in the UK who like the idea of inheritance tax – it seems that it’s just the politicians who are keen on it. But what can be done about it? Surely it is something that must simply be paid and be done with?
Not necessarily. There is an inheritance tax loophole that more and more people are taking advantage of.
It all relates to the ‘deed of variation’. The dead of variation allows the beneficiaries of a will to redirect the assets left to them to other people. But how does this help?
Firstly, it means that the inheritance can be given straight to those who might have a more immediate need for it such as grandchildren rather than children. Secondly – and perhaps more importantly in many respects – it can reduce the overall inheritance tax liability for the family. It effectively diverts wealth away from an estate that is already close to the inheritance tax liability threshold, and it means that the estate won’t be taxed twice.
There are certain criteria that need to be met for this to happen, however. The changes must be made within two years of the death. All the beneficiaries within the will must agree to any changes made, otherwise it cannot happen. They must all sign the variation. The variation deed must be very clear about who is to inherit, and everything must be set out in writing. It should also contain a stamp duty exemption certificate if any stocks or shares have been changed. If the changes are being made with regards to inheritance tax or capital gains tax, there must be a signed note to that effect along with the deed of variation.
In the past, the contents of someone’s estate was most likely to go to their children first, and other family members and friends second. A recent study by pension firm Royal London now shows that as much as £400 billion is set to skip a generation, and pass from grandparents to grandchildren instead.
Either this, or children are receiving inheritances from their parents, but are immediately passing it on to their children as they are seen to need it more (and it is often used for mortgage deposits, for example). The ‘sandwich’ generation of people between 45 and 64 are often relinquishing their claim to any inheritance, even if the grandchildren are not explicitly mentioned within the will.
But the amount of money left behind is decreasing as well. This is because grandparents are giving their children and grandchildren the money they need while they are still alive, thus reducing any inheritance left over.
The majority of Britain’s homes are owned by the older generation, with the younger generations renting from them. If the country is to re-establish its housing market, then these gifts or inheritances from grandparents could be the way to do it. The figures at the moment shows that 45 percent of ‘babyboomers’ (people born in the 50s and 60s) owned their own home by the time they were 25. In contrast, only 25 percent of ‘millennials’ (people born in the 80s and after) owned their own home by the same age.
Property Protection Trust
Worried about Care home fees? Thinking of setting up a Property Protection Trust. Find out the facts about placing your property into Trust. Are you concerned over what may be seen as deliberate deprivation. Placing a property into trust without careful planning can be fraught with risk.
An estate cannot be distributed between heirs if the person who owns it is still alive. That makes sense. But what happens when the owner of the estate is missing, and could be dead, but there is no proof of their death? Is there something that can be done, or will the estate remain in limbo forever, unable to be inherited or sold?
Death in absentia means that someone is declared death despite gaining any direct proof of the person’s death. That means that no remains have been found, and no one has come forward with any evidence to proof that the estate owner is actually dead (or alive).
In order to be declared dead in absentia, there must be overwhelming support for the theory that the person is actually dead. For example, they may have been travelling in a plane that crashed, and everyone on board died. Their body may not have been recovered, but the theory would be that they had died. In order to pass the estate on to any heirs, there must be a court order to declare death in absentia; this order directs a doctor to complete a death certificate.
In most countries, the individual must have been missing for seven years before anything can be done regarding their estate. If, however, the estate is a significant one, it may be that a court will request a longer time to enable every avenue of investigation to be completed. The problems arising when someone who has been declared dead actually returns are huge, and cause major issues for everyone involved, not least the person whose estate has been divvied out amongst his or her heirs!
We have probably all heard the term ‘power of attorney’, but it doesn’t follow that we know what it means. It’s all over the TV, we find it in novels, it’s in films as a great plot point, but what does it really mean, and when and why might you want to use it?
A power of attorney is a document. That’s the first thing to remember, and something that is often misunderstood as people tend to imagine that it is a particular person instead. This document allows you to appoint someone (which is where the confusion lies) to look after your money, property, assets, even to make decisions on your behalf regarding your health, if you are unable to do so. If this sounds too vague or too much, you can enact a ‘special power of attorney’ which is used only in very specific circumstances – circumstances that you dictate.
As well as these two main power of attorney types, you can also use a health care power of attorney which means that your attorney in fact can deal with health decisions on your behalf.
Some of the things that a general power of attorney allows others to do on your behalf include selling property, opening safe deposit boxes, settle claims, file tax returns, buy or sell stocks, and so on.
But it is the health power of attorney that most people think of when considering this. It’s not something that everyone will be happy to do as there is a lot of responsibility – so make sure you speak to the person you want to have the job before you start any paperwork. It’s important that there are no problems if you need to enact the power of attorney. The health power of attorney will relate to ‘life sustaining measures’ such as life support or medications. It might even relate to consent for operations to be carried out. Someone will need to make these decisions if you are unable to – if, for example, you are in a coma, are badly injured, or have limited mental capacity. It is best to discuss your wishes with your attorney in fact so that, in the event that something should happen, they can follow what you wanted.
Writing a will is a job that not many people relish. But, once it’s done, it’s done. Right? Not necessarily. According to studies, the average useful lifespan of a will is around eight years. What does that mean? It means that, in many cases, within eight years of you writing your will something will have happened to cause you to need to change it. It won’t be the case with everyone, and a large number of people really can simply write their will and then forget all about it (apart from letting loved ones know where it’s kept, of course). However, wills do sometimes need to be updated, and if they aren’t then there can be problems when it comes to probate and executing the will.
When should you update your will?
If something major happens in your life, then think how that will impact your will. Marriage is one of these major life events, as is divorce. If either of these things occur after you have initially written your will, then you will most likely need to update it to include or remove people from it.
Children are another reason to update your will. It is likely that you will want them to inherit some or all of your estate, so they need to be mentioned in your will. Guardians are also an important aspect to include if your children are under 18. And if they turn 18 after you have written the will then the guardians should be removed as they will not be required.
The death of anyone who is mentioned in your will will also mean that it needs updating, and the same is true if you fall out with anyone who was originally meant to inherit. If you change your mind, change your will, otherwise the people you don’t want to inherit will do so anyway.
A recent survey carried out by the Cavell Nurses’ Trust showed that over two thirds of nursing staff don’t have a will. The charity supports nurses who are in financial difficulties or who are going through personal hardships, and the organisers of the survey were shocked to find that such a high number of nurses had not yet – or didn’t intend to – write their will.
Within the general population of the UK, the number of those who don’t have a will is at 53 percent compared to 64 percent of nurses.
The Cavell Nurses’ Trust intends to raise awareness of this facts through information in May, which is Make A Will month. The charity’s chair, Simon Knighton, said that he understood how busy a nurse’s life can be, and how working around the very ill, and seeing death on a regular basis, can put people off from wanting to think about such things when they finally do have some time off. However, he also understands that without a will it is the family left behind who will suffer, and so they are extremely important.
Some will writing businesses offer a discount for those in nursing, and it is always worth checking out beforehand.