The Heir Hunters Association
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Heir Hunters Association News : October 2015
Varied news this month as we review our growth since 2009, and are now entering a consolidating phase. FPAR and HHA are now strengthening their own separate identities, yet remain a united force against fraud and unprofessional practices across the industry. The subscriber base of HHA continues to change as more members of the public now seek advice and support through a range of issues connected with intestacy matters. With BV estates exceeding 15,000 there seems scope for more Heir Hunters. Technology plays an increasing role in the tracing of heirs to intestate estates with more data arriving at web sites across the world, social networking and apps on mobile phones and tablets, which we plan to launch before the year end.
1 : HHA changes and developments
Just 46 subscribers received the first issue of HHA news which was published in October 2009, a mere month after the HHA main launch http://ymlp.com/z2CdeZ
Growth and development has been steady and sure, and continues to evolve and expand. Well over 3,300 subscribers now get this newsletter, all issues being retained online proving a great research tool of articles, tips and hints as well as charting the work of both the HHA and FPAR.
Maurice Clarke founder of the HHA stepped down as chair of FPAR just a few months back which he helped found in 2011 and continues to both support and work with that organisation for the benefit of both probate researchers and heirs to intestate estates.
Earlier this year saw the Clarke family as shareholders set up a separate division into probate research work, and have recently welcomed Peter Clarke (Maurice’s middle son) to the team as Commercial Director.
Strategic research offices have been established in both Scotland and Ireland as those areas continue to grow in importance.
HHA has always had strong IT skills and background with increasing penetration into marketing services for its subscriber base and its own research teams via carefully thought out plans linked to strategic web sites such as www.hha-bvlive.co.uk , www.hha-peopletrace.org.uk and http://bona-vacantia.org.uk/
The use of social media such as Facebook is growing as a research tool; links with a major UK service are being developed for announcement in the near future.
With computer tablets and mobile phones now in most homes, we are working on a Mobile App to revolutionise the work of the HHA – scheduled for release in the near future, with many unique features this useful free tool will assist with tracing heirs internationally.
A new free newsletter for HHA subscribers and FPAR members “Travelling Researchers” was recently started to match member’s needs and wants in having local research work done, or prospective clients visited and contracts signed. All HHA subscribers and FPAR members get a copy automatically (but can opt out if required)
Financing has always been a strong point of the HHA, always being self-financing by re-investing profits into new features and growth, thus allowing the company to grow organically thanks to tight financial control, low overheads and a secure capital base.
The companies accountants have recently merged with a larger multi office Midlands practice and we are in the process of transferring over formerly to Cottons http://www.cottonsaccountants.co.uk/ which will be of considerable benefit as we continue to evolve and expand.
Where does the future lie for HHA?
The basis of the HHA has been to trace heirs to intestate estates and this will continue to be the backbone of the company, not only BV listed estates but an increasing number of leads to intestate estates that may never reach BV and are referred direct to the HHA in some cases earning the referrer a useful bounty often thousands just by sending a few emails with the information.
Education to subscribers continues via the knowledge base and small training sessions mainly 1:1 rather than the popular Master Classes which have been phased out, but have helped to train many of today’s leading independent research firms. There is continued scope for new entrants to this line of work, as an independent researcher or as partner with HHA. Australia, Canada and an increasing part of Europe already have strong links, agencies and partnerships.
There seems little indication the market place is being saturated with probate researchers – case research is certainly becoming more complex and tracing heirs requiring a range of skills backed up with special web and app based tools. Success as a probate researcher is measured in various ways, and certainly the smaller organisations are growing in both competence and successes, but continue to need support and encouragement afforded them by both the FPAR and HHA.
2016 will be an interesting and challenging year just as the previous 7 years have been.
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2 : Two Claims - Two Approvals - One Dilemma
Occasionally the Government Legal Department’s BV division are faced with a dilemma where TWO claims are submitted on the SAME DAY and have equal merits and the required proof stands up.
Their decision is to approve BOTH claims and ask the claimants, or their agents to decide which of them will ADMINISTER the estate.
Often this can cause some dispute and argument and this article looks at the options and asks and answers some key questions to help those faced with such a problem. Usually such cases occur for claims made on recently posted estates; older cases are unlikely to see this issue occurring.
Is the estate valuable? – if so a grant will be needed and it is normal for an HEIR to be named as the administrator and the research firm to MANAGE the estate for that named administrator. Neither side can or should make a decision until some guide to the value is known. BV may state the estate is “over £500” which means they have done little with the estate, the value could be £1,000 or £500,000. BV may rule that they will not quantity the estate value UNTIL a specific administrator has been agreed on. This can be unfair as ideally both sides need to be aware of the facts before agreeing to the administrators’ appointment.
It maybe the value of an estate may be estimated by referencing any property own/sold by the deceased, but one may not be aware of the value of any mortgage which may reduce the asset value. Mortgage free properties sold for known values can be a good indicator or minimum estate values.
Are the claimants of equal status? Indeed, are both or indeed any claimants’ valid beneficiaries to the estate? This sounds a silly question BUT all BV have done is approve a claim from a proven blood relative to the deceased BUT not necessarily a valid heir. Many claimed estates loose out to higher ranking heir under the law of intestacy – e.g. a brother claimed an estate BUT their father was still alive and had entitlement to the entire estate of his son.
One would think that BV faced with 2 claims would opt for one which was obviously superior in inheritance rights to the other claimant. On our experience claimants are usually of the same status.
How many heirs are there to the estate? And what % does each party have. If one side has 9 heirs and the other 1, it suggests the majority should rule. It follows if the heirs were asked to vote why would they vote for the other firm/applicant?
How will fees be charged and what for? An agreement must be reached at the onset to limit or waive fees, other than disbursements otherwise you could end up giving the other rights to charge thousands for a simple estate.
Is there a time frame? Some firms are notoriously slow and take 1-2 years to complete even a simple estate. Look for attempts to bully you to give up your rights to administer an estate. Remember you are both equal and must make a joint decision that is fair and acceptable to you both. Hold your ground until you are happy – remember your obligation is to your clients.
What does your contract say with clients? Does this allow you to administer the estate OR appoint someone else? This may have a bearing on the discussions and you are within your rights to ask to see one of their client’s contracts. They may be reluctant or unwilling to supply same.
We asked a leading probate researcher what
advice they would give where x is a large firm of probate researchers and the
other party a sole trader, and they replied;
“Personally if I had four heirs on a case over 100k and x had two I would advise my heirs that I was appointing a solicitor to negotiate with x (that I would pay for) with a view to getting the administration. If x takes the administration then I would ask the solicitor to present claims to x on my behalf for a flat fee. I would not deal with x directly on anything - even if it costs you. “
What if you cannot agree?
Seems to us the estate sits there, BV is unlikely to rule in either sides favour. It could be we would feature the dispute issue in this newsletter needing only the approval of one side. Big firms may feel they could justify “sitting it out” whereas the smaller firm should accept the larger firm. To us one side must have a reasoned argument as to why THEY should administer, and that generally is maybe who has the most heirs. If they are equal then an independent administrator should be considered who should be impartial.
With increasing competition we could see the dual acceptance frequency increasing, and often some mediation may be needed by HHA or FPAR (www.fpar.org.uk) although one side of the dilemma may not be a subscriber or member to either organisation and not accept any decision which can only be given as advice.
If you are faced with being half of an approved estate and want advice or even have someone manage this problem for you contact the team at www.hha-research.org.uk
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3 : FPAR report for October 2015
The monthly report from The Federation of
Probate & Asset Researchers is brought to you by Directors, Steve Morgan and
FPAR sees ‘business as usual’ under its’ new
Chairman, James Wrench. The
frame-work of weekly meetings of the Board continue via online conference
facility but it has been decided that periodical face-to-face meetings will also
be reinstated. A meeting was
convened in Rugby in August to appoint a new Chairman and Directors felt the odd
meeting in person was of significant value to reconvene periodically.
The next meeting of the Board in person will be in Rugby in late November
or early December.
It will be two years this coming week since
Directors, Steve Morgan, Tracey Sedgwick and Elaine Griffin-Singh joined the
other Directors on the Board of the Federation of Probate and Asset Researchers
Ltd (a company limited by guarantee). It should not be underestimated the amount
of work and dedication put in by Board members especially the Chairmen.
The Director roles are unpaid and it takes some real commitment to meet
on a weekly basis plus be expected to follow up on issues raised or to progress
matters on behalf of members. Still, dedication to FPAR, its purpose and vision
Director and Vice Chairman, Dave Gaertner, has
created a formalised Complaints Procedure which will be posted to the website
soon. This document intends to set
out transparently the steps the complainant needs to follow before contacting
FPAR, and the FPAR reaction to any complaint.
The Procedure will highlight the steps to be taken by FPAR and any powers
FPAR have installed a
different tele-conference facility provider recently, GOTOMEETING is now used
and will be the vehicle for the online chats also.
FPAR has fortnightly online forums for members to chat informally amongst
themselves or to Directors. It is
thought that, going forward, some of the forums might have specific topics and
the next Friday meeting, on 23rd October, will be on the topic of
adoption. BV comment that “each case
will be considered individually” and members are invited to share the different
scenarios they have encountered; an issue that is often encountered.
Members will also be sharing resource information regarding adoption.
As time goes by and
with the FPAR membership numbers swelling, the potential of networking is
increasing. In an industry where we
are constantly on a learning curve, sharing information and tips is a very
valuable asset. Some members are
beginning to work together whether through the benefit of being geographically
placed or through just pooling knowledge, tips and resources.
FPAR runs a monthly
Newsletter for Members also and this month, a member shares an interesting
research story and it is hoped that other members will contribute from month to
month. It is not only interesting to
read about each other’s experiences with good and bad outcomes, but swapping
stories could give hints and ideas to each other.
Debate on the various issues and scenarios
raised by Maurice and HHA is always interesting; this month the matter of two
claims being accepted and sorting out who/how to administer plus sharing
information regarding the amount of historical cases being listed by BV and
their values, have been hot topics.
If you are interested in joining the membership of FPAR, please contact: email@example.com for more information or see the web site at www.fpar.org.uk
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4 : Time to take advantage of Will Aid’s Make a Will Month
Participating solicitors are taking appointments
for November when they will prepare basic Wills without charging their
normal fee. All that they will
ask in return is that clients consider making a voluntary donation to Will
The suggested donation is just £95
for a single Will or £150 for a pair of mirror Wills.
The money raised is shared by nine UK charities
that carry out life-changing work here in the UK and around the world,
namely ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC,
Sightsavers, Save the Children, SCIAF (Scotland) and Trocaire (N. Ireland).
More than half of UK adults (53%) don’t have a Will and so have not made any legally valid provision for what they would like to happen after their death. Even worse, around one third of people who die each year do so without a Will and their estate is therefore distributed according to a set of rules which cannot adequately cope with modern family circumstances. This can lead to a great deal of stress and uncertainty, as well as financial hardship, for those left behind.
Even if you have a Will it is important to keep it up to date. Will Aid’s research shows that 37% of people with a Will have not revised it for more than 5 years and these older Wills are almost certain to be out of date – assets will have been disposed of and new ones acquired; children and any named guardians will have grown older; whole families could have been re-configured. Experts recommend routinely reviewing a Will every 3 to 5 years, and making a new Will as soon as significant family changes occur.
Peter de Vena Franks, Will Aid campaign director says:
“Writing a legally valid Will is essential to ensuring your wishes will be carried out after your death. Will Aid is a fantastic opportunity to get an affordable Will with one of our friendly and approachable solicitors. They are generously giving their time without any payment to help people look after their loved ones and, at the same time, to raise funds for very worthwhile causes. Please book early as solicitors tend to fill their appointments very quickly. ”
Search for a convenient participating solicitor from 14 September at
or by calling the hotline 0300 0309 558, then contact
them directly to make an appointment.
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5 : Streetlife – helping local communities
Everybody Needs Good Neighbours
The local social network www.streetlife.com is on a mission to strengthen community spirit
Conversations started on Streetlife have helped to find lost pets, save local pubs, expose doorstep scammers and set up community garden projects. The site also encourages real-world friendships, with neighbours sharing DIY equipment, IT advice and dentist recommendations, and organising walking groups and coffee mornings.
Matt Boyes, Founder & CEO, is delighted to see the people connecting on Streetlife: “Within every neighbourhood there’s a wealth of knowledge and support. Streetlife makes it easy for local people to share that and together build stronger, safer, better connected communities. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to get involved!”
Streetlife, the local social network, has a simple aim: to help people across Britain make the most of where they live. The site provides an easy way for locals to share practical information, advice, opinions, skills and belongings.
People sign up using their postcode, and can start and join conversations with others in their area. Users can customise their settings so they control how much information they receive, the areas they're interested in, and what they share about themselves.
Main uses of the site include:
• finding locals with common interests, organising and attending social groups and events
• sharing belongings and skills with neighbours, from hedge-trimmers to computing tips
• recommending local businesses and tradespeople
promoting, campaigning and volunteering for community projects and local causes
More than 1 million users in 4,000 communities across Britain already use the site, with thousands more joining every week.
Streetlife is a privately funded limited company headquartered in Covent Garden, London. The service is and always will be free for local residents to discuss local issues.
Find out more at www.streetlife.com/about
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6 : What makes a good probate researcher?
Maurice Clarke, founder of the HHA (Heir Hunters Association) which has educated hundreds of new, fledging probate researchers since 2009 gives his considered opinion of the present day probate research industry and what make a good probate researcher, based on experiences with intestate cases researched and claimed working direct for clients who are potential heirs, or lawyers handling probate and have missing heirs to trace.
Education for a probate researcher is very much a hands on experience, as each case differs in the challenges and opportunities it provides. As such education in constant and never ending, there is always a new event or change of laws needing modification of operational processes and thinking skills. International links on some cases can be both rewarding and frustrating.
Not many people possess the wide range of skills needed to be a good, successful researcher, and indeed not all, or indeed many, are motivated by money alone, but by the sheer challenge and educational value each case offers.
Many probate researchers (aka “Heir Hunters”) are part time, hobbyists if you will; others take it up in retirement and may only complete one or two cases a year. It is not unusual for aspiring probate researchers to start alongside a full time job, which may offer financial security but boredom and lack of interest and/or opportunity. Many face redundancy and seek a new career more in tune with new needs and ambitions.
Some practice the research side of a case, but never make contact with heirs for lack of knowledge, fear, or just the enjoyment of the chase, but never “close”. A number of such researchers come to HHA with their findings to take the matter forward to trace heirs and claim estates, some of which are decades old.
There is a battle within the industry which is unregulated and wide suspicion existing with potential heirs to estates. Many people self-claim intestate estates with limited or no knowledge of their legal obligations and in no way can we call those heirs probate researchers. They do need, or could do with advice and support; even then they are heirs to an intestate estate and not a researcher.
What elements do professional firms tell us, or make us believe makes a good probate research firm?
As such there are no qualifications needed to be a probate researcher, more the practical life skills and a keen interest in family history research.
Having a string of degrees has little bearing on one’s ability to function as a successful researcher. Total absence of any qualifications is no bar from being successful at probate research as many will attest to.
The work involved requires more “qualities” such as the natural ability to communicate with people in a friendly, efficient and professional manner and in a relaxed way. This talent cannot be “bought” and though it can be to some degree taught, it is a generally a natural talent.
Superb research is great BUT unless you can close the deal the potential heir might believe that they are being tricked, all too common an outcome to approaches which lack tact and diplomacy and above all PATIENCE. Potential heirs are best advised to take their time in choosing the best firm to suit their needs and to whom they have trust and loyalty.
A researcher may be able to do the Times Crossword in 10 minutes and be a Member of MENSA but it’s rare that such abilities are useful in probate research work, which often means thinking “outside the box.”
Being a member of a genealogical association or society, although useful has limited value since most cases investigated do not go back that many generations, so knowing how to research prior to 1850 has little value.
Membership in any event is often open on payment of a subscription and as such has no entry level qualification. Access to research records and discussion groups may be provided to members, and thus is not unlike the HHA resource area available to subscribers specific to probate research work with special emphasis on intestate cases.
Membership of a specific probate research organisation such as FPAR or HHA is wise to show commitment and acceptance of the need for ongoing knowledge and support. In this business you never “know it all.”
Being a Limited Company
This is not always necessary and most small research firms operate as a sole trader or partnership. There may be some tax advantages by incorporating dependent on level of turnover and commitment to the business.
Employed v Commission
If you are employed full time as a probate researcher it does not imply you are any more competent that someone who works on a commission basis direct with clients or a research company. If you have a monetary incentive and are good you can make excellent money, far more than a typical salary will pay. Poor researchers working on commission will soon fail.
One good probate researcher working on commission could be equal to several salaried researchers. Interns, students and lowly paid researchers may boost up team numbers but mean little in overall performance per capita.
Having a web site
For anyone doing probate research on a regular basis a simple web site with a few pages about the business and services offered is clearly an advantage.
Modern society is highly web based and many heirs when approached by an Heir Hunter, even if they claim to belong to a support organisation seek them by typing their name and/or business name into a search engine.
If a search fails to find a web site, or brings up some reported problems the potential heir is on alert and becomes cautious.
HHA receives daily enquires from prospective heirs approached by probate researchers expressing concern about being scammed or approached by unscrupulous or unprofessional firms.
How many researchers are needed to solve a case?
Sometimes it takes a team effort to solve a case, more so if they can all work in a single office, or liaise via video conference or email, but many cases are solved by one researcher running their own business usually from home.
New “Bona Vacantia” intestate cases posted by the Government Legal Department (BVD) are often solved quickly and more easily by a team. For tough cases which remain unsolved for years a dedicated single researcher may wins hands down as time is not measured, the challenge is risen to, true some (many) may fail, or it is clear there are no heirs to inherit an estate.
Smug satisfaction cannot be beaten where a case is cracked which has eluded “experts” for years, and for many is the driving force that motivates them in this line of work.
A potential heir to an estate may have been approached by several probate researcher firms and people, so has to choose which one if any will represent them. What factors apply when faced with this dilemma?
Commission – this can vary widely – typical commission is 20% but some firms can charge 35% or more plus VAT which can seem excessive. Smaller firms have lower overheads and expectations and are usually VAT free. There is evidence of cost cutting deals as low as 3% on high value estates which tend to be more of a tactical move rather than one of commercial sense.
Established – checking how long the firm has been trading is a factor, and two or three years seems adequate. Start-ups will take several years to establish their business and build on knowledge and experience.
Being part of a support organisation such as HHA is vital as it shows the researcher:
Has access to both knowledge and the experience of others
Is able to seek advice from the support service and fellow members
The HHA is now part of Heir Hunters Researchers Ltd a private limited company owned by Maurice Clarke and his family which specialises in the tracing of heirs to intestate estates www.hha-research.org.uk
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7 : The Executor’s Year - what is it, how does it affect you?
In the ordinary course of handling a deceased’s estate the estate trustees are permitted a period of one year from the date of death (sometimes described as the executors year) to gather in and realize estate assets. Special circumstances might apply to indicate an extension of this one year period.
Realization of Assets (The ‘Executors Year)
The executor(s) must not unreasonably delay in getting in the assets and settling the affairs of the estate and they will be personally responsible for any loss occasioned by undue delay. There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes undue or unreasonable delay, but it is the practice to speak of the executor’s or administrator’s year and the courts attach importance to the question whether the alleged failure to convert or realize assets which resulted in the loss to the estate occurred within or beyond a year.
Therefore, all investments which are not proper to retain should be realized within a year of the testator’s death or, in the case of an administration, within a year of the date of the grant. “It is the practice of the courts to consider that the estate ought to have been reduced to possession at the end of a year and to allow interest to then become payable on legacies, if there is any delay.”
The “executors year” developed as a rule of thumb in the common law, and provided that the executor of an estate has 12 months from the date of death to call in the assets of the estate, pay the debts and liabilities, and to distribute the net assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the provisions of the will.
The entire rationale for the rule is that executors must not unduly delay in the administration of the estate.
If this is not accomplished within a year, the beneficiaries have the right to demand interest on their gifts and to call in the executors to explain why the administration of the estate has not been completed.
There are of course many complicated estates together with litigation and other such difficulties that can easily delay the administration of the estate well longer than a year.
Some clauses in wills also give executors wide latitude in determining how and when to realize the estate, and these clauses are often relied upon by executors to explain why the administration of the estate is taking longer than one year.
Complaints relating to the executors year are often related to an executor that either cannot or will not deal with the estate for various reasons, usually emotional, or they are simply power tripping over the other beneficiaries and literally keeping them in the dark.
If either of these is the case scenario than the executor is typically at fault and may be removed as executor for proper reasons.
In the matter of intestate cases which involved a Grant of Letters and the appointment of an administrator, usually an heir, the rules differ from the above situation.
In intestacy especially those ending up as “Bona Vacantia” it may be several years before the matter is listed by the Government Legal Department (BV division) and many years before a claim may be lodged by a qualifying next of kin.
Personal representatives: executor’s year
For estates in England and Wales, the personal representatives cannot be compelled to distribute the assets of the estate until at least one year has elapsed from the date of death (Section 44 Administration of Estates Act 1925). This is commonly referred to as the executor's year.
When dealing with a dispute about whether a disposal was by personal representatives in that capacity or in their capacity as bare trustees for legatees we would not normally contend that the disposal was on behalf of the legatees if it took place during the executor's year.
Although personal representatives cannot be compelled to distribute assets during the executor's year there is no bar to them doing so. In a simple estate they may have ascertained residue well before the year ends. If there is evidence that they have done and have then distributed assets to the legatees we can accept that the liability relating to disposals during that year but after the date assets were distributed does lie with legatees.
In Scotland the rule is that the personal representatives are entitled to distribute the estate after six months from the deceased's death if they have provided funds for payment of all the estate debts and made reasonable enquiries for claims.
In essence it means that
executors have a year from the date of death during which they are not obliged
to pay out to anyone other than the taxman and the undertaker.
This gives them time to ascertain assets and liabilities, deal with any problems and draw up estate accounts before distributing the funds to beneficiaries. Liabilities such as utility bills and debts will generally be paid before the end of the year, usually when the estate has been quantified and the statutory notices under s.27 Trustee Act 1925 have expired.
This period is not set in stone.
A modest estate might be wound up before the end of the executor's year but a large estate may well continue for a second or third year before the administration is finalised. A house may need to be sold. Foreign assets, ambiguities in the will, missing beneficiaries may all cause problems.
Where there are assets such as private company shares that require correspondence with a specialist section of the Inland Revenue, a considerable time may elapse before matters are settled.
Beneficiaries frequently complain of delay because they fail to appreciate the finer points of estate administration. They just want to spend their legacy and become annoyed at what they see as unwarranted delay in sending out the cheques.
In fact the executors would not be doing their duty correctly if they paid out before checking that all possible liabilities had been ascertained and dealt with. The last thing any executor wishes to do is to write and ask for some money back because an unexpected liability has arisen.##
A notice to creditors
should be placed in the London Gazette and a newspaper circulating in the area
in which the deceased resided. Such a notice gives creditors two months from the
date of publication to notify the executors of their claim against the estate.
Executors placing such notices are protected from personal liability for the
debts should a valid claim arise later.
In this connection it should be noted that the Recovery From Estates section of the Department of Work and Pensions is notoriously slow in writing to claim back overpaid state benefits so that it is advisable to write to them immediately the death occurs.
The other time-limit is the six-month time-limit under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 2005. Those six months run from the date of the Grant of Probate not the death.
If it takes two months from the death to obtain probate, then the time-limit will not expire until eight months or so after the death. It is a very unwise executor who pays out before the time-limit expires. It may be thought unlikely that a claim will arise but it is never possible to say with certainty. Beneficiaries must understand that it is better to wait out the six months than to be asked to give back money paid out too early because a claim has arisen.
Where an estate has paid inheritance tax, a prudent executor will obtain a tax clearance certificate from the Capital Taxes Office before distributing the estate.
It may happen that a beneficiary will offer to indemnify the executors against any claims that arise if only they will pay out earlier. Great caution should be exercised.
There is a well-known case of a solicitor executor who accepted an indemnity from a beneficiary in respect of instalments of inheritance tax. When the beneficiary later went bankrupt and couldn't pay the tax, the Inland Revenue looked to the solicitor to pay it. As the primary responsibility for tax payments rests with the executors he had to pay.
The more the beneficiary pleads that he has desperate need of the funds, the more caution should be exercised by the executors. Where the beneficiary concerned is a major charity, the possibility of a default may be far less of a consideration for the executors. In that instance, an indemnity may be offered and considered acceptable. A lot depends on the overall position of the estate and, in particular, whether the charity is sole beneficiary.
The final decision must always rest with the executors.
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8 : Switzerland is the best place to live in later life
Switzerland is the best place to live in later life, according to the Global Age Watch Index for 2015.
Unfortunately, the UK is being undermined by chronic loneliness and isolation. MP Jeremy Hunt has described loneliness as an 'epidemic' in the UK.
The Global Age Watch Index 2015 ranks 96 countries according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people. The Index represents 91 per cent of people aged 60 and over, some 901 million people, measuring the wellbeing of older people in four key areas: income security, health, personal capability and an enabling environment.
The UK was ranked 10th out of 96 countries but came only 27th on the measure of health and well-being, partly as a result of its loneliness levels. The Republic of Ireland was placed 15th overall but 17th on health & wellbeing.
Top 20 countries
9.United States of America
What’s new in 2015?
Globally, Switzerland (1) is judged the best place for older people to live, closely followed by Norway. Apart from Japan (8) all the top 10 countries are in Western Europe and North America. Afghanistan (96) is ranked last.
All regions are represented in the lowest quarter, with countries in Africa making up half of those with low income security rankings and poor health results.
Greece (79) Venezuela (76) and Turkey (75) are in a similar position to sub-Saharan African and Asian countries.
“The big story this year in the Index, is that millions of older people are invisible, living their lives in countries where information on the quality of older age is missing from international data sets,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive, of Help Age International. “The Index includes 96 countries but 98 countries had to be left out because we do not have enough information.
“Poverty rates in old age are missing from international data sets in at least 93 countries. It’s particularly shocking in Africa where there was only enough data available to include 11 out of 54 countries.
“Consequently, we know more about the needs of older people in Norway and Luxembourg, two of the richest countries in the world, than we do about those in Liberia and Burundi, two of the poorest.”
Against a back drop of global ageing there is a danger that wellbeing in older age is going backwards not forwards. Data shows that the gap in life expectancy at age 60 between countries at the top and bottom of the Index has widened from 5.7 years in 1990 to 7.3 years in 2012. This inequality will grow without more focus on this age group and better targeted policies. Austerity measures are already affecting older people in Europe.
Ageing has started to be recognised in the Sustainable Development Goals, following the commitment set by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ‘leave no-one behind’.
“The Global Age Watch Index can help show the impact that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals will have on the lives of older people but we need to fill the data gaps to complete the picture,” he added. “Improved national, regional and global data, broken down by age and gender will help us to fully understand how men and women experience ageing around the world.”
Countries that do well in the Index are thinking about ageing. They have data on older men and women and consult them on targeted approaches to meet their needs and build on their experience and skills. These countries score highly in all four areas, have social pensions, accessible and appropriate healthcare, promote and support flexible working as well as life-long learning for older people and have created a secure and supportive environment for people of all ages.
The Sustainable Development Goals with their 17 goals and 169 targets will be adopted at the United Nations at the end of September. By the time they reach their fruition in 2030, the proportion of people aged 60 and over, globally, is predicted to rise from 12.3 per cent now to 16.5 per cent. Three-quarters of this number will live in developing countries.
In a message accompanying this year’s Index, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “I want to tell the world that I count, that older people everywhere count and that people of all ages should be included in the Sustainable Development Goals.”
•Switzerland tops this year’s Index as the best country to live for older people;
•The Index includes 96 countries but 98 countries had to be left out through lack of data. Only 11 out of 54 countries in Africa included.
•Poverty rates in old age missing from international data sets in at least 93 countries; millions of older people missing from the data;
•Inequality among older people increasing - life expectancy gap at age 60 between countries at the top and bottom of the Index has widened from 5.7 years in 1990 to 7.3 years in 2012;
•Impact of austerity on older people increasing;
•Investing in people throughout their lives reaps dividends in later life.
Find out more at www.globalagewatch.org
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9 : A Third of Americans blow their inheritances
A study funded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that one in three Americans who receive an inheritance blow it.
Potential inheritors often gasp at the rate that state and federal governments in the U.S. will tax an inheritance. But their biggest worry should be whether they are even prepared to handle a small or large fortune, a new study of inheritance found.
One-third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years of receiving it, according to the study by economist Jay Zagorsky at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. “The vast majority of people blew through it quickly,” he said of findings in a study based on data from the Federal Reserve and a National Longitudinal Survey.
As millennials and Gen-Xers are poised to see a “wave of wealth” flow from the oldest generations in the coming decades, experts said benefactors should be prepared to smartly invest the money, pay down oppressive debts or shore up retirement savings accounts. Whether the inheritance is $50,000 or $500,000, it’s wise to step back and take stock of personal and family financial goals, Zagorsky said.
“Ask some big questions,” he said, according to a MarketWatch report “Sit down with your spouse and ask, what do we want to have happen with this?”
The inheritance can end up being smaller than most benefactors believe. Tax rates vary by state, but the federal estate tax rate can be as high as 40 percent, depending on the amount and the circumstances of the gift, according to a Forbes report.
The 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 57 percent of U.S. workers had less than $25,000 in savings and investments. This comes as a time when even $1 million in savings wouldn’t guarantee a couple’s comfortable retirement, according to MarketWatch.
Zagorsky and other experts said inheritance recipients should not make major financial decisions out of emotion or while they are grieving. First get a clear picture of your financial health, they advised. Tom Anderson, author of The Value of Debt in Retirement, said those without any emergency savings should set aside at least one month’s living expenses before using an inheritance to pay down debt.
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10 : Volunteer creates a family tree forest
Derek Hardwick, a volunteer is helping patients at Scarborough’s hospice to plot their place in history and leave a priceless legacy for their families.
Derek has devoted thousands of hours to creating intricate hand-written family trees for patients with life-limiting illnesses. The longest was a whopping 13ft long and the furthest back he has ever gone was more than 1,000 years to the time of Alfred the Great.
Among his most poignant successes was helping a woman whose own life was coming to an end to trace the history of her mother who had died two weeks after she was born. The patient didn’t even know her mother’s name but Derek’s persistent detective work meant he was able to find her and the patient was able to die finally knowing her roots at last.
For others, there has been the surprise of discovering that they had relatives who were deported to Australia for crimes which in more modern times would hardly warrant a fine.
Derek is currently on his 76th family tree. The only one he has ever started and not completed is his own.
“I just don’t have time to work on mine,” he said. “I’m rushed off my feet but it’s so rewarding. A lot of our patients have told me that it’s something to pass on to their families.”
Derek faced his own personal tragedy before becoming a volunteer for the hospice. His son was just 11 when he died after battling cancer. The tragedy ultimately led to Derek’s early retirement from his post as a geography teacher at Graham School where he had taught for 34 years.
He planned to devote some of his retirement to following his interest in tracing his own family history. His wife, Jane, a staff nurse at Saint Catherine’s, had other ideas.
“She told me she would let the hospice know I had an interest in family trees,” he said. “I haven’t stopped since. It takes my mind off my own problems.”
Derek now spends every Friday in the Scarborough Day Hospice where he has helped 76 patients trace their family tree. His detailed charts are all hand-written and include photographs he finds on the internet of people, homes and places that shaped a patient’s history.
Every story, he says, throws up interesting facts and fascinating surprises. He traced one ancestor who was sentenced to hang for being the lookout at a mugging – but then was transported to Tasmania instead.
For another patient, there was the surprise of finding that he and Derek were related – albeit through an ancestor who died in 1590!
The pressure to complete the family trees becomes particularly intense when patients whose health is failing take a turn for the worse. Derek remembers burning the midnight oil to complete one chart for a man who he knew didn’t have much time left. When it was finally completed, he prepared to hand it to the family only to be told that the man had died the previous day.
“It seemed so sad but they told me later that they were able to have it out on display at the funeral and it had given his family so much to talk about and remember,” he said.
Derek makes no charge for his many hours of work but grateful patients often make a donation to the hospice as a thank you. A single chart can take him up to three months to complete which is why he is unable to help everyone who would like to make use of his skills. Referrals come to him via the hospice.
For the patients, there is the pleasure of being able to pass on a unique keepsake to their families but for Derek the pleasure is two-fold.
“I love all that social history, the rags-to-riches stories, the families with 16 children, the way people survived,” he said. “And it’s great to be able to help people. It can be very poignant, particularly when people say, ‘Now I’ve got something to pass on to my family.’”
Patient Paul Green said that Derek had traced his history back to the 1500s. “The hours he put in – it was just amazing,” he said.
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Look out for more great news in the next issue.