When someone dies, it is often the case that family members can run into issues regarding how the assets are going to be distributed. Whether it is someone saying that they don’t want anything from the deceased, or the family wanting to go against the wishes of the deceased and distribute the assets how they want to do it, this kind of problem can cause arguments at a difficult time.
If the deceased’s wishes need – or are requested – to be modified after the will has been executed, then the heirs all have to enter into an Agreement of Heirs. This is a written document that must be signed by everyone involved. It acknowledges that they have a right to inherit, and sets out how the new agree inheritance will be carried out, which will be different to that written within the will.
Because this is such an important document, the best advice is that it should be drawn up by a lawyer.
An Agreement of Heirs can even be created if there is no will. If the beneficiaries of the estate don’t agree with how the rules of intestacy would divide their inheritance up, they can go to a lawyer to draw up an Agreement of Heirs to show that they have discussed the estate and agree to a different course of action.
An Agreement of Heirs makes the distribution process easier, but it does not mean that probate can be skipped. Probate will still need to be carried out if the deceased owned assets that require it, no matter how differently they are distributed from what was written in the will.
Some people are pleased to receive an inheritance (despite the fact that it means someone they loved, or who at least loved them, died), and some would prefer not to for various reasons. But no matter what, some inheritances which, from the outside, might not look like much, or might not be overly welcome, could actually be worth a lot more than even the testator realised.
This was the case recently in France when a man inherited a house from a deceased relative and soon found that he had a lot more than he bargained for in terms of what he had been given. Because, hidden in strange places throughout the entire house were gold bars and coins. Not just a few, not just a handful, but around 5,000 coins, two 12kg gold bars, and 37 1kg ingots. They weight over 100kg in total, and they are all worth millions – around £3 million in all.
The treasure trove was apparently extremely well hidden, and it is unclear whether the beneficiary of the house was meant to find it at all. But find it he did when he began to move the old furniture out. The first thing he found was a tin of coins which had been screwed in place under a sofa. Once he discovered this and more, he called a solicitor as he wasn’t sure what he should do with the stash.
After further investigation, it was discovered that there were certificates of authenticity also hidden within the house, and the gold had been bought in the 1950s and 1960s. It has now all been sold.
But what about inheritance tax? The haul could well be liable for a 45 percent inheritance tax, as well as three years’ worth of back taxes if the original owner failed to declare the gold in the first place. And considering how well he had hidden the treasure, it’s unlikely that he did.
If an heir hunter phoned you, knocked on your door, even contacted you through the post or via email, what would you think? Would you be excited or wary? Would you even believe what they had to say? After all, someone coming to you to tell you that a family member you barely knew, if you knew them at all, had died and you were entitled to a share of the estate is not something that happens every day.
However, with more and more people failing to make a will, and as families move further apart, the chances of exactly this scenario happening are increasing.
Although the majority of heir hunters are honest and have done a huge amount of background work before even coming into contact with you there are, just like in any industry, problems too. Heir hunters need to be paid just like anyone else, and many of them receive a percentage of the estate they are offering. So, the bigger the estate, the more money they get. This is not an inherently bad thing, but remember: all heir hunters have the same information, and if one has got in touch, others will too. It’s wise to find out what each one’s terms and percentages are before signing up with anyone.
Due to this, it can be a bit of a race for the heir hunters to find the relatives of those who have died intestate. And they can utilise fairly pressurised sales techniques to persuade you to sign with them rather than another company. This is not fair, and it’s not right, and you, the beneficiary, are the one in the position of power – you don’t have to sign with the person who is telling you to, especially if their percentage take is too high.
The good news is, if the deceased person died less than 30 years previously, there is no huge rush – the estate won’t be declared ownerless just yet, and the money won’t go to the Treasury. So you’ve got time to do some important research and have some breathing space.
Some heir hunting companies – IWC included – actually offer fixed price fees. This means that no matter what the inheritance actually is, you will know in advance exactly what you will be paying to receive it.
So when the heir hunters come calling, don’t rush anything. Think hard. Contact IWC. We’ll find your inheritance, and we won’t charge the earth for it either.
Although we all know that we should write a will, over half of us still haven’t. And that could cause some huge problems for our loved ones when we die. People finally get around to making their wills for various different reasons – here are some of the main ones. Perhaps you’ll find your reason in this list, in which case, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to make your will. In fact, you should do that even if your reason isn’t below…
1. The Crown
Even if you have no living relatives and no one you want to leave your property and possessions to, you should still write a will. It may not sound like something you need to worry about, but if you have no will then your estate will go to the Crown instead. That’s the government, in other words. If you don’t want this to happen, you could write a will that specifies a charity to take your possessions.
2. Your Ex
If you are simply separated rather than divorced and you don’t have a will, your ex-spouse could be entitled to all of your assets. This is true even if the split was many years ago. Don’t want that? Write a will.
3. Family Arguments
It shouldn’t happen, but it does. A lot. If a will is not made and someone dies, family members tend to get upset about what they haven’t been left. It can lead to massive disputes and family break downs. You don’t want the last memory your loved ones have of you to be that you caused huge problems for them.
4. The Partner
Without a will, your partner or spouse is only automatically entitled to things that you own jointly. Everything else will be split – that includes the house they live in.
5. The Children
If you have children with someone you’re not married to, they will not be entitled to anything when you die. That’s just how it works. Unless, of course, you write a will.
6. The Grandchildren
If you are married to your children’s mother or father, they will automatically be entitled to some part of your estate if you die without a will, which might be fine for you, but for some people it isn’t. Some people would rather than grandchildren received their inheritance instead – so write it in a will if that’s what you want.
7. Inheritance Tax
Dying intestate can mean that your family pay more inheritance tax than they need to.
8. Dying Together
If you and your spouse die at the same time (in a car accident, for example) then the person who is the oldest is said to have died first. Their possessions will pass to the spouse but, because they are also dead, the possessions will then pass to the spouse’s family. If you are the oldest in your relationship, in this situation your family would receive nothing.
This makes for some interesting reading. If you do wish to get in touch, please do so.
A protective property trust, property protection trust, or life interest trust is a type of will that is designed specifically to stop your home from being sold to pay for any long term care home fees that you may need to pay. If the property is owned by two people, then after one of the couple dies, their share of the property passes into the trust. It means that the survivor is then able to benefit from the entire property – and upon their death the trust passes to other people, most often the children.
A protective property trust is ideal for those who are worried about the cost of long term care when they are older meaning that they have to sell their home, even though they would prefer for it to go to their children or other specified people.
In order for this to work, the family home needs to be held in joint names, as tenants in common. Then, after the death of the first owner, the title deeds will need to be transferred into the joint names of the surviving partner, and the trustees (who can also be your executors). If required, the surviving spouse can also be a trustee.
No matter who the trustees are, they cannot order the remaining spouse to leave the property – it is theirs for life. If that person needs to move into residential care later on, the share of the property in trust is not seen as an asset, and therefore it can’t be taken into consideration when looking at care home fees. However, the share that is owned by the spouse living in the house is seen as an asset. Houses cannot be split in half to sell, so it is unlikely that it will be used to pay for a care home.
If the surviving spouse decides to move home at any time, this is perfectly possible, and arrangements can be made for a trust to be set up on the new home instead.
The High Court recently heard a case regarding a man’s will. Neighbours who had been expecting to inherit his house – he had told them as much – found that the man’s will had changed, and this prompted them to take the matter to court because they were convinced that he had been bullied into making a new will.
Robert Warke died in 2014, and instead of leaving his property to his neighbours William and Maureen Watton, Mr Warke’s nephew, Hugh Crawford, was the beneficiary. But the neighbours alleged that the nephew had told Mr Warke that unless he left him the house, he would have his dog put to sleep when he died (rather than look after it, presumably).
Not only did Mr Crawford inherit the house, but also all of the contents and the dog in question. However, the will – which was drawn up just a week before Robert Warke died – did include a £10,000 bequest to Mr and Mrs Watton.
But there was a previous will, dated March 2013, which left the property and dogs to the Wattons. And this is what prompted the neighbours to take the matter further. They claimed that Mr Warke was coerced into making a new will under duress due to the bullying nature of his nephew. They also suggest that Mr Warke did not have the mental capacity to make these changes legally.
Since the new will was executed while the Wattons were on holiday, they are convinced that something untoward went on.
The judge, however, could find no evidence of any wrong-doing. And the alleged threat to put the dogs down could not be substantiated. There were no documents to support the claims, and the judge determined that this was, most likely, a case of previous beneficiaries becoming upset that they were no longer part of the deceased’s will.
Making a will is an important thing to do. Once it’s finished, you can put it away safely and forget about it – you can, in other words, get on with the important business of living, with the peace of mind that your family and loved ones (and your possessions, money, and property) will be looked after when you die.
But there is more than one type of will, and it is essential that you choose the right one when it comes to writing yours. All wills do the same thing; they all set out in writing what you want to happen to your assets, and who you would like to deal with them. However, that doesn’t mean that you can simply pick any type of will and be done with it. They all have slightly different meanings and consequences.
The single will is the one that most people are familiar with. It is the list of instructions from one person regarding their estate. Not only is it the most widely used type of will, but it is also the simplest. There is another, similar will, however, that you may want to consider instead of the single will. This is the mirror will, and is useful for couples. The mirror will is for couples (either married, in a civil partnership, or unmarried) who have the same ideas of what they want to happen to their estate. It means that the two wills can mirror one another, and it is often cheaper to do this than to write two single wills.
Next is the property trust will. This is for those who want to protect the value of their property. This kind of will keeps the property safe for loved ones further down the line. It won’t be able to be sold to cover care fees for the surviving partner, for example. Another type of will that protects property is the flexible interest trust will. However, these wills also protect the testator’s savings and investments. The wills are flexible (as the name suggests) which means that some beneficiaries are able to receive their inheritance straight away, and others can have their put into a trust for a later date. This is a good choice of will to use when there are two (or more) families (ie there has been an additional marriage which has produced children).
Discretionary trust wills mean that specially chosen trustees will manage the estate and portion out the inheritance as they see fit. Because people’s circumstances change, this kind of will means that those who need the inheritance the most at the time of the testator’s death will receive it. The downside of this kind of will is that someone else will be making the decisions on your behalf, and they may not choose as you would have liked.
There is also a type of will called the living will. This is a different kind of will entirely, mainly due to the fact that in order for it to come into effect, the testator must still be alive. It is used to determine exactly what kinds of medical treatment can and should be used in the event of a life changing illness or accident. It is a way of making a decision when the testator can no longer speak for themselves (perhaps due to a coma, for example).
And these are just the most common types of will – others include the unsolemn will and the notarial will as well as many more.
The idea of a retirement village is a wonderful one. This is a place where, once you have bought your apartment or small house, you can move into a ‘village’ environment where there are care facilities and people on hand to help you in any way, but where you can also have your independence. These villages are extremely popular in America and Australia, and are becoming more the norm in the UK as well now.
They can make a real difference to the lives of those who choose to buy – or rent – their final home there.
But there can be issues for family members if the full details of the costs involved aren’t worked out in advance. This is because, although the cost of the retirement village seems fair, or even low, at the outset, there can be some major costs involved once the person who has bought or rented a home there has passed away or moved out for any reason.
And that cost will need to be met by the family.
The bill – typically known as an ‘exit fee’ – is usually capped at 10% of the purchase price of the property (which on average is £250,000, making the exit fee £25,000), although it can be much higher, and in some cases it can be as much as 30%.
It is important to understand exactly what these exit costs are, what they are for, and when they would need to be paid. Finding out the circumstances about all of these details is essential before signing up for any kind of long term commitment.
For some, however, this is the ideal solution. They may have a small income and therefore only want to commit to small outgoings, yet want to be able to enjoy the facilities of a retirement village. They can rely on their savings or property to be sold once they have died to pay for the outstanding amount.
Many of us are probably aware – even it only vaguely – about the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. It is an inheritance and probate dispute that has gone on for decades, and runs throughout the narrative of the book.
But although that is fiction, there is a real life case that bears a striking similarity to that of the one from Dickens’ head. And it has only just been resolved after two hundred years.
It is the case of Voivode Haci Huseyin Aga. Two hundred years, 800 descendants, and a court battle that would have worn out most people by now, and it is finally concluded.
The inheritance revolves around a 33.6 acre pieces of land near Bodrum in Turkey. The current value of the land is thought to be around £23 million, and the two men who owned it – brothers and descendants of Haci Huseyin Aga – decided to sell. Only they couldn’t. Because 798 (or so) other descendants came forward to claim the land for themselves – or, if they couldn’t do that, they wanted a share of the proceeds from the brothers’ sale.
After a six year court battle, everyone lost.
In the end, the true owners of the land couldn’t be determined, which meant that the courts could sell the land, but because it would need to be done quickly, it is likely that the land would sell for much less than it is really worth.