In some states in America (Alaska, Ohio, Arkansas, and North Dakota) it is possible to request ‘living probate’ to be carried out. It isn’t something that many people think about doing, and it isn’t absolutely necessary in most cases, but when it is done it ensures that the will is valid and correct before the testator dies.
The testator will be able to prove that they are in sound mind and body, and wrote the will by themselves, without any outside influences. This is useful if they believe there might be those who would choose to challenge the will after they die. By proving that the will was written exactly as the testator wanted it to be, there is then little chance that any kind of challenge can be made.
This is, however, an expensive option, and one that is not needed in the majority of cases. If there is a chance that someone will contest the will, and if doing so would create a lot of problems for many people, or hold time sensitive funds up for too long, then it could be something that some people would consider doing. And it’s not just about money either – contesting or challenging a will can cause huge family feuds and upsets. It could be that the testator wishes to avoid anything like that, and so organises a pre-death (or antemortem) probate review.
If you were to go down this route and then change your mind regarding who should benefit after you die, it is possible to change your will, or revoke it entirely. However, there will be a validated version on file, and therefore you must go to court in order to have that will destroyed to avoid any confusion. And, if you wish to go through the antemortem probate procedure for your second or subsequent wills, you would need to pay.
An executor is always expected to act reasonably when it comes to dealing with someone’s will and estate. They must act in the best interests of the estate, and the beneficiaries named in the will. This involves a number of things including getting the best possible price for any property or assets that are sold. It also means that they should ensure that the death is registered correctly. If this is not done, there could be serious implications that affect many people, and their inheritances.
The estate must be calculated correctly as well. This is to make sure that, if any inheritance tax is due, it is paid on time, and at the correct figure. This needs to be done before any of the money and assets are distributed.
The death should also be ‘advertised’, for example it could be announced in a national newspaper. This is so that anyone who is not mentioned in the will but who is owed money by the estate can contact the executor to arrange for payment. These debts must be paid off before any beneficiaries can inherit. If this is not done, and someone makes a claim after the money has been distributed, the executor may be liable for the debt.
If someone disputes the will (ie, if they question whether the will is valid, or if they have evidence that there is a newer will, for example) then there could be further claims. Being executor is an important job with huge responsibility, and it is always worth getting independent legal advice if you take the job on, to prepare you.
Applying for probate can be a complicated process, particularly if you have never had to do it before. If you don’t seek expert advice, there are some common mistakes that are often made. These mistakes can cause probate to take much longer than it needs to, making it more costly, and more stressful.
The first mistake that often occurs is that people apply for probate in the wrong country. The only place to apply for probate is in the country where the person was living before they died. Many people applying for probate apply in the country where the person was when they died, rather than their country of residence. This is not always the same place, and if you are unsure it is best to check.
The forms required can also be confusing and lead to mistakes. The forms can be found online, but although they are easy to find, they are not always that easy to fill in. Every part of the form needs to be completed, and that might require some research because all the names of the person need to be entered. Those names much match the ones on the will. This might relate to middle names, or perhaps maiden names. All the information much be correct and the same on all the forms.
Estate fees are the last area where big errors can be made. There is a special formula that needs to be used to calculate the fees and taxes due. Mistakes here can mean big problems further on, which is why hiring an expert to help at this point can save you a lot of trouble in the long term.
It has long been thought that the final wishes of Alexander The Great of Greece have been lost to the mists of time. However, a London based expert on Alexander, David Grant, has allegedly discovered them – and they were hiding in plain sight for the last 2,000 years.
Not only does the will set out exactly what Alexander wanted to happen to his worldly possessions and his burial wishes, but it is also said to lay out future plans, specifically for what needed to happen in the Greek-Persian empire that he was building. By the age of 30, Alexander the Great (or Alexander III of Macedon as he was known at the time) had created one of the largest empires in the world. He was the stuff of legend, only his exploits were absolutely true.
It took Mr Grant a decade to finally find the will after a trail of clues that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood movie, was followed. For many years, the final resting place of the will was dismissed as a story, but David Grant refused to believe that, and decided to test his theory. It turns out he was right.
A book entitled Alexander Romance was written in the 100 years after he died. Legend had always suggested that the will would be found at the end of this book, but all that had been discovered there was a pamphlet that had nothing to do with Alexander.
Or did it?
After a thorough investigation by Mr Grant, it turns out that this is exactly where the will had been all along! More about this remarkable story can be read in David Grant’s book, In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.