What Is The Biggest Reason For Not Having A Will?

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?

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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.


Prince’s Estate Becomes More Complicated

In April 2016 the world lost a musical icon. Prince died unexpectedly in his home in Minnesota. The problems regarding his estate began immediately since Prince (whose full name was Prince Rogers Nelson) had no will. This meant that his estate had to go through the intestacy rules, but Prince’s family is a spread out and complicated one, and so the entire process of portioning out the estate is still not complete.

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The current problem stems from the fact that there are two lawyers who are attempting to represent Prince’s potential heirs, and the judge overseeing the case is refusing to appoint either one of them to the job. This is because there is disagreement between the remaining siblings as to who to use. The two lawyers – both very experienced in their field – effectively interviewed for the job of dealing with Prince’s estate recently, but the six siblings and half siblings of Prince are split over who to use. The judge has declared that if they cannot reach a consensus then he will work on a majority of four to two. But the issue is literally split down the middle.

Minnesota law means that Prince’s estate and assets should pass to his sister, Tyka Nelson, and his five half siblings equally because he had no children and his parents are dead. However, there have been a number of other claims from people who say that they are also half siblings of the singer, and until the claims are all looked at, the judge cannot – and will not – begin splitting the estate between the six who will definitely inherit something. 

Can All Children Be Beneficiaries?

In UK law, you can leave whatever you want to whomever you want, assuming you own the asset in the first place. That means that if you want to leave money or property – or anything else – to your stepchildren, you are perfectly entitled to do so.

The problems start when there is no will. If there is no will then the estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy, and these laws are strict. There is a distinct list of people who will receive parts of the estate, and this list must be dealt with in order. The rules of intestacy do not, however, cover stepchildren, and this is important to bear in mind. Only a spouse, adopted child or blood relatives can inherit if there is no will.

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And of course, even if you do have a will and you simply write that you want to leave everything to your children (or even siblings) this will not include stepchildren or stepbrothers and sisters. You will need to make a separate point for them.

Even if you have parental responsibility for a child, they still will not inherit unless they are your adopted or biological child. If they are stepchildren then the only way they will be able to inherit anything from your estate once you die is to write a will and ensure they are mentioned by name.

It is possible for a stepchild to challenge the rules of intestacy – or even a will. If they were financially dependent on the person who died, or if they had been treated like the person’s own child, they may have a claim to some of the estate. But this is a long-winded process and is expensive and distressing for everyone. It is easier by far to write a will that says what you want it to say. 

Estate Manager Must Pay Back Funds

Jamaica. At that time, there was more than one application for the grant of letters of administration submitted. The first was from someone claiming to be Ms Lyons’ niece, Audrene Kerr-Robinson. She was given the grant in February 2012. However, this was soon determined to be a mistake when it was discovered that Kerr-Robinson had no claim to the estate.

Although she was contacted by the Principal Probate Registry, there was no response.

The other applications, which had been unsuccessful, had been from Jonathan Kerr and George Lyons. They proceeded to challenge Ms Kerr-Robinson’s claims. They were both close relatives, but Kerr-Robinson, an accountant, was not – or so they said. So that they could stop the estate being broken up and distributed to the wrong people, the pair employed an estate administrator to ensure that everything was kept together while their claim was looked into.

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Kerr-Robinson’s grant was revoked due to the initial error, and she was requested to pay £20,000 as well as some of the estate assets to the interim administrator.

In order to refute this claim, Ms Kerr-Robinson hired Blueprint Property Lawyers to appeal on her behalf. This cost almost £87,000 even though the company were not probate lawyers (and therefore should not have been involved in the case) which was taken from the estate.

Eventually, it was determined that that money would have to be returned. Unfortunately, Blueprint Property Lawyers had gone into insolvency, and this meant that Ms Kerr-Robinson was liable for the cost. She should, said the judge, not have used the estate that was in dispute to pay bills relating to it. 

What Does An Heir Hunter Do?

Although the term ‘heir hunter’ might only be familiar to you through the BBC daytime show of the same name, it is actually a real job, and it could be that, one day, an heir hunter might contact you.

Heir hunters, also called probate detectives or genealogist researchers, are tasked with the job of finding family members after people die intestate (ie they die without leaving a will) and there is no immediate family to inherit their estate, or when there is a will and beneficiaries are mentioned, but there is trouble finding them. Since it is a rare thing for someone to die and not have at least one living relative, no matter how distant, it is in the heir hunter’s interests to find them. If not, after a period of time – currently 12 years – the entire estate will be passed to the government’s treasury department. Once that happens, even if a relative is subsequently found, the money cannot be returned.

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Once an heir hunter finds a case to proceed with, their first step is to create a family tree for the deceased person. They will need to investigate and dig deep into archives in order to find various branches of the tree, and ascertain who is the rightful heir of the estate. Although they have 12 years before the government can take the estate, there is still a time element involved as there will be various different heir hunting firms working on the same case. The first one to find the beneficiary and sign them to the firm will receive the commission.

Commission can range from anywhere between 10 and 30 percent (plus VAT) of the total estate, although some firms are now charging a fixed fee instead. Depending on the size of the estate, this could be a cheaper way of receiving an inheritance.

If an heir hunting firm gets in touch with you regarding a potential inheritance, don’t panic and sign the first contract you see – you could be better of waiting to see what other offers and ‘deals’ you are given by other firms. This could be the difference between many thousands of pounds. 

Why Else Is Heir Hunting Important?

Heir hunting is essential when someone dies intestate (ie without a will), and there are no immediate relatives to inherit the deceased person’s estate. An heir hunter will then carry out an investigation in order to discover any distant relatives who would be able to inherit the estate. But what other reasons might an heir hunter be employed to find someone?

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It could be due to health issues. Some diseases are known to be hereditary, and if someone dies from something particularly aggressive, and especially if it can be treated, then finding members of the extended family could actually save lives. And if the disease cannot be treated, it is worth letting people know this as well – so that they can decide about whether or not to have children and so on. Cancer is one such disease, as well as hereditary heart conditions and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Heir hunters can also be hired to find family members when there is no inheritance involved. This could be when people do go missing – or they have moved away and contact has been lost. It could also be used for finding biological families after an adoption. Although it is possible to do these things yourself, heir hunters have the tools and the expertise to do it much more quickly. And although you will necessarily need to pay them for their time, it could well end up costing less than if you were to try to do it yourself. Think of all the time you would need to put into the search, and how many websites or organisations you would need to sign up for – and potentially pay for – if you were to go it alone. Hiring a professional heir hunter will make things much easier. 

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Another Celebrity Without A Will – Prince Dies Intestate

Celebrities may have a completely different life to the ‘normal people’ who look up to them – they may have more money, go to more parties, win more awards… but when it comes to writing a will, they are just as forgetful as the rest of us. And yet, due to the huge fortunes that many of these well known people amass, they are in just as much need of writing a will as anyone else. Otherwise what will happen to the money, the property, the cars and jets and businesses?

It’s a lesson that Prince should have thought about. However, the 57 year old singer’s unexpected death on 21st April 2016 has revealed that the icon never actually made a will, despite his assets being worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The final figure is yet to be established as there are so many different revenue streams to tie up.

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Due to the fact that Prince had no will, his estate has been found to be intestate. There are specific rules that need to be followed to work out who would inherit and how much, and because Prince was not married, had no surviving children, and his parents were both deceased, the bulk of the estate will most likely fall to his six siblings equally. However, since there was no will probate will take much longer and cost much more than it otherwise would have done.

Not only that, but there is no executor for the estate, and therefore Prince’s bank has been named as the ‘special administrator’ in order to try to straighten things out.

One of Prince's assets is his home and recording studio, Paisley Park.

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And there is one more potential issue. A woman named Darcell Gresham Johnson has stepped forward to claim that she is another of Prince’s siblings. She says that she and the singer-songwriter had the same mother, and she is petitioning to receive a portion of Prince’s estate.

This declaration will add another layer of confusion to a messy estate and asset list, and will also add more time to the case as steps are taken to prove Johnson’s story. 

The Cost of Dying Intestate

It’s a common question; what exactly is the cost of dying intestate? What harm will it really do to you family, my loved ones, those who care about me? Because, for many, it feels as though it does no harm at all to leave no will and to die ‘intestate’. After all, everything will just go to your next of kin, right?

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Not necessarily. And don’t forget – it’s not just about the possessions, assets, and cash that you leave behind. It’s about the debts and the payments too. They don’t stop being owed just because you’ve passed away. And if your next of kin gets everything, they’ll get that too.

Firstly, when someone dies without a will they must hire a solicitor to deal with probate. This can take a long time, and be costly. All banks and utility companies need to be contacted and, if family members are up for doing this themselves, they can save a fair bit of money – but it’s an emotional thing to have to do.

There will be demands. Utility companies will send out letters regarding non-payment, and these letters may not be received. So more letters will be sent out until it gets to the stage where family members are having to explain – again – that their loved one has died and that no one is in the property, for example. At this point, the only way to deter some companies is to pay what is owed, which could be hundreds or thousands of pounds. So that’s a definitely, tangible cost on top of the emotional upheaval. At least the court case will be dropped.

But of course, after that comes the next bill – perhaps an estimated one, perhaps for the next few months. Another phone call explaining. Another plea for the automatic letters and calculations to be switched off. Hopefully they will be this time.

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Now, what about the mortgage? Mortgage companies can’t talk to just anyone about specific cases, and in order to make any changes you will need to be an administrator (requiring a grant of administration, which allows a living person to act on the behalf of a dead person). But that can take an age without a will, and during that time late payments and penalties will be stacking up. And even if you are able to make the mortgage company aware of what has happened, and perhaps they’ll make notes on their system, they may still send out repossession letters, which is frightening and unnecessary.

Still not sure it’s worth the bother of writing a will? Would your family agree? 

Fast track probate in Jersey

Fast track probate in Jersey

How does fast track probate in Jersey work?  Well, if a person has died who was principally domiciled in Jersey, it is likely that their estate will be subject to probate laws as laid out in that region.  Fast track probate however, means that if you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration in the UK, then we can arrange to have probate issued in Jersey.

Jersey's probate laws are different from those in the UK.  Generally, if the deceased's estate is valued at under £10,000 then there is no need to pass through the probate process in order to release funds.  Instead, the relevant banks or financial organisations should be contacted directly, to find out how executors can access the money.

If the estate is valued over £10,000 then no assets at all must be taken and the estate must be passed through the official probate process.  

To apply for fast track probate in Jersey, you'll need to supply us with:

- an original copy of the death certificate

- an original court sealed copy of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, issued in the UK

- a court sealed copy of the original will, if it is available

- confirmation of the assets belonging to the estate

-certified ID of the Exectutors or Administrators

We will send these documents off to the probate court in Jersey where they will be retained, and you will receive a Greffier certificate of a Jersey Grant of Probate.  If a will was not made available, the deceased will be classed as having died intestate, and you will instead receive a Greffier certificate of Jersey Grant of Letters of Administration.

What happens to an unclaimed intestate estate?

What happens to an unclaimed intestate estate?

An intestate estate is one whereby the deceased never made a will and so their intentions for the distribution of their estate were never made clear. 

Normally in these cases, the deceased's next of kin will apply for probate and will go on to distribute the estate according to the law of intestacy. However, if there are no next of kin or if none can be traced, then the estate is referred to the treasury solicitor.

With families now spread across the entire globe, the task of tracing relatives can often become more difficult, which has led to an increase in the services of professional heir hunters.  These heir hunters will search for any remaining blood relatives, once the estate has been posted on the Unclaimed Estates Register, also known as the Bona Vacantia List.

Blood relatives can be spouses, biological children, parents, siblings and their children, half siblings and their children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and half aunts and uncles.

If you feel you may be entitled to benefit from a deceased relative's estate, then you should contact us.

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