People love to collect things. It seems to be a part of human nature, and many of us love to have a small collection of interesting objects. It could be anything from stamps to postcards to action figures… Whatever catches your eye really. But for most of us, our collections are little more than something to do. Something of interest. And if we do decide to include them in our will, it is not usually for the beneficiaries to gain any monetary value from them.
But this is not always the case.
Bob Postal collected toy soldiers. His collection spanned 30 years, and he had more than 10,000 when he died in September 2015.
He left the collection to his wife, Carole, who, although fond of the items because they had been Bob’s, and because they had always been a part of their life together, did not know what to do with them. It is likely that she would simply have left them in their boxes and cabinets if a friend had not phoned her up to tell her about a news progamme she had just seen.
The programme had been called ‘Strange Inheritance’, and it was all about a man who left a collection of toy soldiers, much like Bob Postal’s, to his family. The family wanted to sell them which, as it turned out, would be a good idea because they were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Carole Postal wrote to the programme herself to tell them about her collection, and she was featured on an episode entitled ‘Toy Soldier Story 2’. She told viewers that when she and Bob had first got married he had insisted that they buy an apartment with two bedrooms rather than the one they needed. When Carole asked why, Bob told her about his toy soldier collection. Carole said she never minded as long as ‘the guys’ (as Bob called them) remained in the soldier room.
Postal’s collection has been valued at over $300,000, and experts say it is one of the biggest collections in the world. But Carole does not want to sell them, and has placed half of the collection in the New York Historical Society. The other half is in a children’s museum in Rochester, New York.
The majority of people in the UK do not have a will. And while there are many reasons behind this, one reason that tends to stand out is that people often think that writing a will is a difficult, laborious job. So they put it off. And put it off. And sometimes that putting off can mean that it becomes too late to write one at all.
Firstly, there are low cost, online options that will save you money. These options are simple to complete – just follow the online instructions and work your way through the options given to you. By the end – around half an hour at the most – you will have a will written than just needs to be printed off and signed by you and your witnesses. In some cases, the will is checked by a professional before you print it. For very little work, you have a complete, valid (once signed) will that will save any problems after you die.
If you have a complicated estate or family situation, then online wills may not be the best option for you – but it still doesn’t need to be a difficult thing to do. If you need to have your will drawn up by a professional will writer or solicitor, then booking an appointment to go and see one is not a hard task to accomplish, and the meeting will not be difficult either. Professional will writers will know exactly the right questions to ask when it comes to your will to ensure that everything is covered. All you need to do is answer the questions and the professional will do the rest.
If you have any queries about writing your will, or you want us to organise it for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our expert team will be glad to help.
It is unlikely that you will be asked any questions about whether a property is insured or not when you apply for probate. It is not a requirement for applying for probate or receiving the grant of probate; it won’t stop you doing what you need to do as an executor.
However, making sure that the right insurance is in place is actually a rather important thing to do. Remember that any home insurance that was being paid on the property by the deceased is no longer valid, even if the payments are still being made through direct debit or similar. If the person under whose name the insurance is paid for is dead, no payments will be made if anyone tried to claim on it. In essence, therefore, until probate is complete and the house can be sold or passed on to the beneficiaries, it will be uninsured unless something is done about it.
Those who are responsible for the estate should therefore arrange for insurance on it for the probate period. This is especially important if the property is to be sold – in order to get the best price, the upkeep should be good and the house should be in good repair. If anything where to happen, especially while the property is empty, then the insurance would be able to make it good again for the sale. Insurance will also be able to fix any burst water pipes and general wear and tear. The heating will, in an empty house, be turned off. This will save money. But it can also lead to pipes freezing and bursting and therefore insurance with additional emergency works cover is often useful. It will be better to have the insurance dealing with these problems rather than the beneficiary who may not be able to afford large repairs and will have to sell the house at less than it is worth. A vacant house should be inspected regularly to ensure that everything is as it should be.
There is a special insurance known as ‘unoccupied property insurance’ which is designed for exactly this situation.
A woman from Ashford, Kent, received a £400,000 inheritance and was then jailed for two years. These two events may not seem related, or the whole thing may seem rather nonsensical, but there is, in fact, a link between them. And it makes perfect sense in the end.
The problem was that Patricia Boaden concealed the large windfall she received, and continued to claim over £50,000 in benefits. She claimed the sum over a period of four years, even though at the same time she used her inheritance to purchase a holiday home near Disney World in Florida, which she rented out for £1300 a week.
When applying for benefits, one of the questions asked was whether Ms Boaden owned any property, land, or holiday homes either in the UK or abroad. Ms Boaden answered no, even though she had in fact owned the Florida home for a year before signing up for the extra cash.
Patricia Boaden’s defence was that she had been intending to put the money into a trust for her children, so she didn’t feel it really belonged to her. But this doesn’t account for the fact that Ms Boaden neglected to tell the council that she had a business – Sunshine and Blue Skies Escape – which had bought the property, giving her a profit. Neither did she mention that she had started and sold another company, Groundcare Solutions, which had brought her around £100,000.
Not only has Patricia Boaden been jailed for two years, but she also is under financial investigation, and will need to pay back the money that was given to her by the council.
So the moral of this story is: don’t try to hide an inheritance that you receive because if and when you are found out, the punishments can be severe.
There is a lot of money owed by a lot of people in this world. Most of it is manageable, although not entirely pleasant. Some of it is difficult. A little is entirely impossible. But no matter the affordability of the debt that you have, there is something that you should know about it – it does not die when you do. Someone will still need to service that debt when you are gone.
Most of the time, it is your estate that will need to pay off the debts. If there isn’t enough money within your property and possessions, the leftover debt is passed on to loved ones. This is just one of the reasons why writing a will is so important. And it is a good reason to keep an eye on the debt that you are accumulating. Is it really worth it if it will become a massive burden to those you love when you die? You may think that by paying off the minimum from your debts each month is a good idea, giving you more in your pocket in general, and allowing you to save up money to leave to your loved ones. But that saved money will actually be needed to pay off the debts that are left, so you may as well get rid of them while you’re still alive.
Doing this will enable you to then go on to save money after your debt is paid, and that money will be able to be passed on to whomever you want it to go for. That’s a much better legacy than leaving a pile of unpaid bills for family members to sort out.
Is it true that problems at work can mean you lose out on an inheritance? It’s not usually the case, but it is – sort of – what happened to a shamed former army officer recently.
Captain Michael Pain previously of the Royal Dragoon Guards, may well lose an inheritance. But why?
The former army officer had a very privileged upbringing, but this has not stopped him from wanting more. In 2010, he was convicted of conning his mother, Lady Denys Pain of Eddlethorpe Hall, out of almost £460,000. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act he was ordered to repay the money.
He was also jailed for three years for theft, fraud, and obtaining money transfer by deception.
At the time, he only had £166,000, so the courts understood he could not repay all of it. However, recently Pain received some shares from his uncle’s will, which amount to almost £28,000. The authorities, having heard about this, pressed on with the confiscation order, attempting to enforce it to include the new assets. In order to do this, an extension to the original order had to be made through the courts. If the extension is granted, Pain will need to repay the additional money to his mother’s estate as, sadly, she died just hours before the original order was granted.
The case has been adjourned for the moment because there seems to be an issue regarding a missing share certificate. Without this certificate it is impossible to realise the true value of the shares, and therefore impossible to create any extension to the original order.
The reason behind Pain’s initial deception seems to be that, after losing his commission in the army, he was in danger of also losing his house. In order to keep it, he swindled his mother out of the money. His sisters believed he was using the money to run the estate, but instead he was lining his own pockets.
Sometimes beneficiaries for wills can be hard to trace. Heir hunters will have many methods of finding these ‘missing’ people so that they can award them their inheritance, and one of these methods is to use their credit files.
Most people in the UK have a credit file. It is the information that has been collected regarding all of the borrowing that anyone has ever undertaken, including all loans and mortgages.
Equifax does offer this service. It is not free of charge, but if you are searching for someone then the price might be something you are happy to pay. And of course, the initial searches are free – you only need to pay if you want to see the full record.
In order to start this search you will need some information about the person you are looking for. Useful information includes their full name, where they live, and their postcode (or at least part of it). The search results should yield up much more information. This includes their full name, whether they hold any directorships of limited companies (and what companies they are), their business address, any former addresses and their current home address, and their date of birth. This will then open up many other avenues when it comes to being able to find them – their home address is the most useful, but just in case this is not up to date, their businesses can also help a great deal.
Be aware, however, that many transactions that are recorded on a credit file are no more than 6 years old – after that time they are erased.
In June 2016, Gary Bryson Watt was declared bankrupt in Wellington, New Zealand. But this was after he had spent his dead partner’s fortune on luxury items rather than paying it out to his step-children.
Those step-children, James Roberts-Gooch and Alexandra Gooch were too young to inherit when their mother, Anne Roberts, died of cancer in 2012. They were 16 and 14 at the time. She didn’t leave a will, but due to New Zealand probate laws the children were entitled to two thirds of the estate.
Watt was given the task of being the administrator of the estate – an estate which included large pay outs from life insurance companies, as well as substantial savings. Instead of dividing the estate up and putting the children’s money into trustfor them when they were older, he spent it on things like cruise, motorbikes, and cars.
Although the family court did order Watt to pay the children their money – around $300,000, he didn’t do it. So James took matters into his own hands and applied for Watt to be made bankrupt. This would mean that the house he lived in – which had belong to Anne – would be sold, and the proceeds could go to James and Alexandra. Even so, after legal fees there might not be much left. However, he felt it was his only choice, and it was what he had to do.
It may sound like a good thing to do. It may sound like your only option. What is it? Leaving some kind of inheritance to friends and family after you die. But it can be a complicated thing in the end due to issues such as inheritance tax and gifting making people unsure about exactly how much they can leave someone before it becomes too much. And although you may want any money or possessions left over to help your loved ones, could you actually be doing more harm than good?
There are certain questions that should be asked before deciding on what to leave to whom. Once these are answered, you’ll have a much better idea of exactly what you should do for the best.
The first question is to ask how much you can leave as an inheritance before it becomes a burden. To know the answer to this, you should work out the tax implications of each bequest, and if this is not possible then speak to a financial advisor or accountant about it. They will be able to tell you the best way to leave your estate to your loved ones.
Next, just what is your financial position? Without knowing this it can be very difficult to work out how much you can leave someone anyway. What about your retirement? You may have financial wealth when you write the will, but what about if you live long into retirement? Will your estate be affected? Will you need to write a new will to take that into account?
And what about the beneficiaries? Although it’s nice to leave something to everyone, are there some that need the money more than others? And are they healthy? How old are they? It all can make a difference, even if it isn’t the nicest thing to think about. If the heir is a minor, you’ll need to think about setting up a trust for them, or you may need to mention specific provisions to be put in place for a disabled beneficiary. But what if the inheritance will have an impact of any benefits they receive from the government? This will all need to be taken into account. And if your potential beneficiaries have been made bankrupt in the past? Their creditors might take the majority of the inheritance as payment, and it could have been a better idea to leave it to someone else.
Although the figures are getting better, there is still a large proportion of the adult population who do not have a will – it’s around two thirds. And this can cause major problems when they die because their estate may not be given to the person they would have wanted it to be given to.
It can be stressful for those left behind, and it can cause financial issues too.
So why is it that only one third of people in the UK have wills?
The main reason, a new study by NS&I has discovered, is that it’s because no one likes to talk about death. It’s still a big taboo. And that taboo means that people simply aren’t comfortable when it comes to discussing their own demise, or other people’s, and especially when it is linked to money or inheritance.
As well as not writing a will, these adults don’t have any plans at all for when they die. That includes not having plans for looking after the relatives they leave behind – both elderly and children. This is how scared the UK is of death; even if it going to affect others negatively, people would rather not think about it at all.
Around 46 percent of adults in the UK are not happy about discussing their death with their loved ones, and a third say that they won’t discuss it with anyone at all. They would just prefer not to think about it. Or they think they are too young to consider writing a will. The problem is, death can come at any time for anyone, and having a will in place ‘just in case’ will stop any potential arguments after death.