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.
I KNOW an elderly mum in her 80s who recently sat down with her eldest son and went through all her financial and legal paperwork. This included the location of her will.
Sadly, though, death can arrive at unexpected and inconvenient times, and trying to find the will of a loved one can prove frustrating, to say the least. First, search the house. If that draws a blank, try their bank or solicitor or a local will writer. It could even have been lodged at the Principal Probate Registry in London. If so, there should be a certificate amongst the deceased’s possessions.
If you do find the will, take copies without removing staples or other fastenings. Under no circumstances write on it or attach anything to it. If you only find a copy, the Probate Registry will need proof that the original will was not destroyed or revoked before the deceased’s death, which, of course, may be tricky.
If you can’t find a will, it is possible that one may not actually exist. In this case, the rules of intestacy apply. This is a subject we will cover later.
Heritage Will Writing offers a secure will-storing service. Contact us on 02380 879243 for help in applying for probate.
PEOPLE who pay for their own nursing home care may be subsidising state-funded places, new figures show.
Average weekly rates for self-payers have now reached an eye-watering £1,000, according to a report by analyst LaingBuisson. In fact, ten per cent of the existing capacity costs £1,200 or more a week.
LaingBuisson called for the Competition and Markets Authority to examine whether the higher fees paid by self-payers are a cross subsidy.
Lower fees offered by councils mean that care homes have to raise prices for self-payers. The Conservative Party’s introduction of the National Living Wage, now set at £7.50 an hour for workers aged 25 or over, has put further upward pressure on prices charged. Sadly, a number of businesses have been forced to shut because they can’t cover their costs. And this means we are facing a national shortage of places.
Be aware that you will probably have to pay for residential care yourself if you have assets of more than £23,250. But also be aware that you won’t get away with deliberate deprivation of assets, such as suddenly giving all your money away.
For further advice about planning for care home fees, contact Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243.
INDUSTRY experts are celebrating after a layer of red tape was removed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
As we reported in November, 2015, family doctors had been advised not to supply medical records on the basis of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) relating only to property and finance.
GPs had been told by the CQC - the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England - that a health and welfare LPA must be produced, even if the records were required in support of a financial decision. This meant significant delays as only the Court of Protection could give authority for the records to be released.
The CQC now points out: “A property and affairs LPA attorney may need to have access to medical information occasionally, for example in order to set up health or care annuity policies on behalf of the person without capacity.” And it said this new advice would be communicated to all GPs and to Medicals Direct Group, a company that gathers medical data for insurance companies.
However, Heritage Will Writing recommends that people have both types of LPA in place. You can save £95 by setting up both together rather than singly.
Ring us now on 02380 879243.
SMALL businesses run the risk of major upheaval if one of the owners dies without carefully planning what would happen to their shares.
A survey by financial services giant Legal & General discovered that 51% of Britain’s small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) bosses have not left any instructions in their wills or made other special arrangements regarding the disposal of their shares.
It also revealed than 59% of the 800-plus SMEs questioned had no shareholders’ agreement in place and 36% of SMEs worth over £5m had no share protection insurance.
So, what can go wrong? Beneficiaries could become involved in the business, which the other shareholders may not be entirely happy about, or they may sell the shares to a third party – maybe to a competitor. Shares could be tied up in probate for a considerable time, which could paralyse the day-to- day operations if the deceased was a majority shareholder. Or surviving shareholders may be forced to buy the shares using their own money.
Make sure your shares - and your partner’s - are protected and that your company can flourish after your death by considering a life policy or share protection insurance or a shareholders' agreement.
Contact Heritage Will Writing on 02380 879243 for advice.
THE register office in the town in which the death occurred must be notified within five days unless the coroner is involved. This, of course, may not be the deceased’s own town.
It is the registrar who issues the death certificate not a doctor, who only issues a medical certificate. You will need the medical certificate and the deceased’s birth certificate and NHS card. You will be asked for the deceased’s full name, including maiden name, address and occupation, name and date of birth of the deceased’s spouse whether living or not and their occupation.
Several official copies of the death certificate should be requested as banks, building societies, etc, will all want one. Many, but not all, register offices operate a ‘Tell Us Once’ service. This enables local and central government departments to be notified of the death in one hit. This must be done within 28 days.
Contact a funeral director as soon as possible although the actual funeral will not usually go ahead until after the death certificate has been issued. As funeral costs can be reclaimed from the estate, it’s important to keep a record of all expenses and paperwork.