PREMIUM Bonds, unlike bank and building society accounts, can easily slip through the net when you are sorting out the effects of someone who has died.
Perhaps they were a long-forgotten childhood birthday present tucked away in a dusty corner many decades earlier. Thankfully, National Savings and Investments (NS&I) runs a free tracing service. Visit their website, www.nsandi.com, and fill in the form to see if Premium Bonds or national savings certificates were held by the deceased.
Premium Bonds are still valid up to a year following a death. After that, they need to be cashed in.
Bank and building society accounts are easier to trace as statements should be found amongst recent correspondence. Write to them and enclose a copy of the death certificate. Ask for standing orders and direct debits to be halted, and request a letter of final account along with any share certificates or deeds they may be holding.
Incomings and outgoings should now be routed through a special account opened by the personal representative on behalf of the estate.
Be aware that banks, building societies and NS&I may want to see a grant of probate, depending on the sums of money involved.
For help with the probate process, contact Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
AMONG the many first things that need doing following a death is for a bank account to be opened on behalf of the estate.
That should be done by the principal representative, be it an executor or an administrator, who has the legal right to dispose of the deceased's money and property. It's best to approach the dead person's own bank as the staff there are likely to be more understanding and more familiar with his or her affairs.
This enables the personal representative to pay for the probate application forms, any other legal services, the funeral costs and to settle any liabilities all from the same account. And this keeps things neat and tidy. Once the grant of probate has been issued, funds from various financial institutions can be paid directly into this account.
As a personal representative, you are not entitled to claim expenses for time spent administering the estate. But you can claim for reasonable costs like legal fees, travel, telephone, stationery, postage and legal notices in The London Gazette (the UK's official public record) and regional newspapers.
As with any tax affair, keep all receipts and copies of cheques and maintain detailed accounts.
For help with probate, contact Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
THE last thing any of us wants is to set off alarm bells in the distinguished corridors of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
Therefore, it is important that you have a fair idea of the value of an estate when applying for probate. There's no way you can calculate the exact sum involved until all asset and liability holders have been contacted. But you should know whether it is below the inheritance tax threshold of £325,000 or less than £1m if no tax is due because of spouse, civil partner or charity exemption.
If the estate does fall below those values, you need to fill in form PA1 - if the death occurred in England or Wales - and form IHT205. These tell the Probate Registry about the deceased and the value of the estate. Guides are usually available to help you complete this paperwork.
Be as accurate as you can. Failing to be open and honest may result in lengthy delays. And it could cause the beneficiaries and the taxman to feel decidedly uneasy, which is something that is best avoided at all costs.
For help with probate forms, contact Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
I EXPLAINED in a previous article that an administrator is someone authorised to dispose of a dead person's estate if no executor is available for whatever reason.
But who can apply to take on this role? First in the pecking order is a residuary beneficiary, ie, someone who receives the remainder of the estate. Next is a personal representative of a residuary beneficiary. Then it's a person given a specific gift in the will - followed by their personal representative. And, finally, any creditor.
A personal representative - who could be an executor or an administrator - has to collect all of the deceased's assets, pay all of their debts, prepare the estate accounts, and distribute the legacies and whatever is left in accordance with the will or the rules of intestacy.
Personal representatives wanting to stand down must complete a form of renunciation. Or they can play a less active role by becoming 'power reserved'. That means they can still take over if they have concerns about the way the estate is being handled or if a fellow personal representative becomes ill or worse.
Make things easier for your loved ones by contacting Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
THE terminology can be confusing but a Grant of Probate is the legal right to dispose of the property, money and possessions of someone who has died.
Actually, a Grant of Probate is just one of three legal documents called Grants of Representation, which give you the authority to deal with a dead person’s estate.
Still with me? The document is only called a Grant of Probate if an executor named in the will is carrying out the task. If no executor was nominated in the will or if the executor has died or is not willing or able to act, it’s called a Letter of Administration with Will Annexed. And if there was no will or the will has been declared invalid, it’s a Letter of Administration. Phew!
But there’s more. The umbrella term for a person dealing with an estate is a Personal Representative. You are only an executor if you are named in the will. Otherwise, you are an administrator.
If you are still baffled by these terms, give Heritage Will Writing a call on 02380 879243 and allow the experts to guide you through the legal minefield.
BACK in the day, family members often lived their whole lives in the same town or village. So, finding relatives mentioned in a will was usually simple.
But in these days of globalisation, high divorce rates, modern transport systems and the internet, families are often scattered to the four winds. And that makes tracking down distant relatives quite tricky.
This can become awkward if, for example, a beneficiary has died and you have to find their children, who are entitled to equal shares, or if the testator asked for all his (unnamed) cousins to receive an equal share.
I should mention at this point that if you are executing a will and do not take reasonable steps to trace beneficiaries, you can be held liable in a court of law.
So, what can you do? First, talk to friends and relatives of the deceased. Next, place adverts in local newspapers and in The London Gazette, a weekly government publication that contains various legal notices. You could even hire a probate detective, as popularised in the BBC's Heir Hunters. Thankfully, any costs involved can be claimed back from the estate.
Make the job of an executor easier by contacting Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
A SPOUSE, or civil partner, and blood relatives are the only people who can inherit the estate of someone who has died intestate.
There is an easy-to-read flowchart at www.heritagewillwriting.co.uk/what-happens-if-i-dont-have-a-will/ which explains the order in which the money and belongings are distributed if no will is in place.
If none of these people exist, the whole lot goes to the Crown. Nothing goes to relatives on your spouse's side. Nothing goes to your friends. And this, of course, may not be how you wanted all your worldly goods to be divided up following your demise.
If you leave a spouse (or civil partner) and children - including those you had formally adopted - the rules of intestacy are quite the same. Your spouse (or civil partner) receives all of your personal belongings, the first £250,000 of the estate and a life interest in half of the remainder. Your children share the other half. No one else can be a beneficiary.
The law also lays down a strict order for who can administer the estate. Again, it's spouse, or civil partner, followed by blood relatives.
But to save all the complications and to make sure your estate goes where you want it to, contact Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
WHETHER we like it or not, technology is playing a bigger part in our daily lives. But how far do we want it to go? That is the question facing will writers.
We may be comfortable nowadays shopping on the internet but are we happy to see a doctor via our laptops or mobile phones? Perhaps some people are.
But preparing a will remotely does raise some important issues. It is vital that the document is prepared in such way that it can't be challenged in court. Without face-to-face contact, can a will writer be completely satisfied that the testator is of sound mind, memory and understanding and that no undue influence is being applied?
The industry is currently having a debate about the validity of online wills and the legal liability and negligence issues of the firms involved. It is a fact, though, that preparing wills from a distance puts the onus more on the testator to supply all of the correct information. Would it be dumbed-down service?
We are probably a little way from a text message acting as a will - thank heavens, some may say. Avoid faceless will writing by booking an appointment with Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
LOVEBIRDS planning their wedding day have a thousand and one things to think about. But how many put re-writing their wills at the top of the list?
It is a little-known fact that a will becomes completely invalid when you get married or enter into a registered civil partnership - unless it contains a clause specifically expressing that expectation.
And did you know that a spouse or civil partner mentioned in a will retains the right to inherit even while divorce or dissolution proceedings are underway? The will is still valid if the decree absolute or the dissolution order is granted before the death but the spouse or civil partner is treated as if they had died, meaning they are no longer beneficiaries.
Another interesting fact is that a child that had been conceived but not born at the time of your death is still your offspring as far as your will is concerned. Your children mentioned in your will could also include those born in a former relationship or those born outside of a formal relationship or those adopted or those conceived artificially within a marriage.
Heritage Will Writing, on 02380 879243, recommends that you update your will following a marriage or divorce.
WHO brings up your kids following your death is, like many things in life, a subject no one wants to contemplate - let alone talk about.
But what happens if you do nothing? If you and your spouse die unexpectedly, a court will decide who looks after your children. And that person may not be your first choice.
You can avoid this awful situation by appointment a guardian in your will. That person will then take parental responsibility. It should be noted that guardians can, and should, also independently nominate other guardians in their wills.
It probably goes without saying that it's best to seek the consent of a proposed guardian. We don't want any surprises, do we? And you would also want to leave a gift for your children in your will to help towards their education and upbringing.
Another good idea is a letter of wishes, which lays out specific details of how you want your children raised. It might concern after-school activities or their education or religion. But a letter of wishes is not legally binding.
It is comforting to know that, if you should die, someone you trust will love and care for your children. To appoint a guardian, contact Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.