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Family history and leaving a Will

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Family history and leaving a Will

This week I read that Michael Parkinson can't go on the ancestor programme on television because his family tree is too boring. I've also suddenly developed an interest in the Heir Hunters series on BBC1 and have been recording it to watch later.
For those who haven't seen this programme it is about people who die intestate.  The companies work like mad to research the family tree, find ever-so distant relatives then dash off and sign them up so that they can earn commission.  It is quite interesting as it goes back into history and we get to know about things like WW1 and reconciling insurance policies with surviving relatives of Jewish people who were killed in WW2.
Some time ago I did quite fancy this and made a tentative start but alas gave up as I could see how involving it was and wasn't sure if I had the patience for it. In any event, very much like Parkie, I can't imagine that there would have been much of interest.
The one thing that does stand out from watching the Heir Hunters is the absolute importance of making a Will - apparently a large percentage of people do not leave one.  In some cases, the deceased has been cared for by a friend or neighbour, sometimes for many years, and yet they get nothing and people who the person had no interest in, or knowledge of (in some cases) get the money.
Someone who doesn't leave a Will clearly has no interest in who should get what after they die so I can't see why it shouldn't go to the government IMO.
13 REPLIES
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

I wonder if people fall into 2 camps on this...
1) I've got plenty of time / it'll never happen to me
or
2) I can't be bothered with the time and expense.
Will Moderate For Thanks
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

Ever the pragmatist, I made my first Will when I was in my twenties.  I had no assets cash wise but had just bought my first property with an endowment mortgage so thought that it was important to have things sorted out correctly.
I must admit that I can't understand the mentality of not making a Will - it's not as if there is any option about quitting this mortal coil.  Also, it is a nice feeling that the things that you leave behind will benefit those people/charities or whatever that you care for most.
I find Heir Hunters quite a sad programme really not just because it is about death, but because of what happens when it becomes public property and a matter of making money. They do make efforts to give tribute to the deceased person but it still comes down to pounds, shillings and pence.
Many of the people concerned were alone and reclusive so it is only one step further to surmise that they would probably have abhorred their lives becoming scrutinized in this way. Maybe if they had realised this they would have made the correct arrangements.
Community Veteran
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

Maybe people are put off becuase the lawyers try to persuade us that it is important it's done by one of them.
There are software packages that claim to write a will after you fill in a form - but I'm not sure they are to be trusted unless you are leaving everything to one person.
The average working person on the average wage - doesn't want to spend money on lawyers I presume.
itsme
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

If you are a single person below the inheritance tax level then wills are straight forward and unlikely to change.
If you are a couple above the inheritance level then wills are much more complicated if you are trying to leave your estate to your children with no inheritance tax liability. Then it's more then likely that the will have to be changed regularly to take into account of changing circumstances and tax laws. So perhaps people put off doing a will closer to the time to avoid on going cost of changing the will. Majority of people will die after an illness and not suddenly.
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

The likes of W H Smith sell will forms which I am told are easy to fill in and come with full explanations.  A friend of mine recently did joint wills (husband and wife) and I think it cost him £120.
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

One thing which has changed recently is the ability to transfer the unused nil rate band to a surviving partner http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/cto/iht/tnrb-guidance.pdf
This makes it a little easier for a couple as they don't need to have fancy arrangements to make use of both the allowances.
Of course where the estate is well above the nil rate band then more complex arrangements may be required and here a solicitor or other expert is essential
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

you need neither lawyers, nor special forms to make a will.  you can write it out on a piece of paper and get a couple of friends to witness it by adding their signature and current address.  that will be a valid will in law.
you don't even need the witnesses for the will to be valid, so long as it is set out clearly what your aims are.
what say the legal buffs here?
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

So by asking someone to witness your will you are effectively saying to them 'you will get nothing'. Sad
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

That's an interesting site Jim.  Thanks, I'm going back to it later.
Artificer you're right that you don't need special forms or lawyers to make a will but you have to be very careful that what you write is what you actually mean.  Assume you write, 'I wish to leave £10,000 to my son and daughter'.  This is unclear and could be challenged.  Do you want to leave them £10,000 each or £10,000 between them?  A lawyer would deal with this by simply phrasing it something like, 'I wish to leave £10,000 to my son and £10,000 to my daughter'. This is an often quoted example of unclear intentions in homemade wills.
itsme
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

I have to read the link Jim supplied more carefully but from quick calculations for a couple with all their assets splitted down the middle I estimated that if the estate is approximately 20% over the IHT threshold then trusts will have to be set to avoid tax being paid when the estate passes from the last survivor to the children.
mrmarkus1981
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

My solicitor will organise a Will for free if you make a donation to the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh.They saved his sons life.
As an addition, i work as a searcher of records (property based) so if anyone is looking to trace anyone in Scotland, gimme a shout  Wink
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Re: Family history and leaving a Will

That's good to know because I didn't get far with my own family tree but I do know that it takes hours of trawling through records, followed by the expense of purchasing necessary certificates of birth, marriage and death.
From the programme I've learned that if genealogy is not to become a virtually meaningless list of names you really have to learn a bit about history and put the ancestors that you have found into the context of the era in which they lived.
For instance, the subject of one of this weeks programme had a mother who was divorced because of her husband's philandering. There was a historian who was able to tell something of where this fitted in with the legislation as it wasn't until the 1920's that it became easier for women to petition for divorce. It's really fascinating stuff and for anyone who is really keen an absorbing hobby.