Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Just trust me

It surprises me to realise there's no official system for monitoring the carrying-out of wills, for ensuring the right amount of money goes to the various recipients and there's no funny business going on, nobody siphoning off large sums they're not entitled to.

As the executor of my mum's will, it's entirely up to me to make sure the money is passed on to the three beneficiaries as it should be, and I'm not stealthily whisking the odd £10,000 into my own bank account. As far as I know nobody in authority is going to check I'm doing things properly.

My mum left a lot of money to her half-brother. None of the family have met him and nobody, including him, knew he had been left any money. We could in theory have ignored the legacy and divided it between the rest of us. Or we could have told him he'd only been left £100. Who would know? How would the long arm of the law ever find out? But of course we're all honest and he'll get what he's meant to get.

As far as I can see, an irregularity only comes to light if someone challenges the will and claims some sort of fraud. And they can only do that if they've seen the will. If they haven't seen it, they would have to contact the probate registry, which has custody of every original will.

It's also entirely up to me to declare the right value of my mum's estate to the tax authorities. I haven't been asked for documentary proof, so I could in theory have undervalued her estate by thousands of pounds, paid a lot less tax, and passed on more money to the beneficiaries. But again I'm honest so I told the truth. Perhaps the tax people make secret checks with the banks to confirm what I've told them?

All I can say is that a lot of people are simply trusting me to do things properly. Which is remarkable in a society where constant suspicion is widespread.

24 comments:

Ms Scarlet said...

Thank you for these tips ;-)
Sx

nick said...

Scarlet: You're welcome. My invoice is in the post.

Bijoux said...

Not something any of us look forward to.

CheerfulMonk said...

Fortunately Kaitlin will be the only beneficiary when Andy and I both shuffle off. That makes it a lot easier.

tammy j said...

there will be no money to leave and very few possessions when I'm gone.
I just want it to be as easy for the marine as possible. the last time I checked a hand written will that is witnessed is still valid in our state and will keep your 'estate' from going to the state. when Bob died I bought two cemetery plots so even that is taken care of. simplicity is the key for me.
and I have to say here that your singular integrity is so wonderful Nick. bless you! there are families that would fight forever over such as your mum's last wishes. xo

Joared said...

Years ago I experienced having an attorney/executor keeping an item willed to me by a friend of mine who died young from a sudden heart attack. Attorney did so, even after having told me initially he was looking at the item sitting on his desk as we talked. When I contacted the attorney later (after the will was read which he told me I didn't need to be present for,) he said he didn't know what happened to the item when I wanted to make arrangements to pick it up. Later, when I contacted the State Bar Assoc. about it they said there was nothing they could do. The sentimental value mattered most to me though it's possible the item could have had some monetary value. So, there' was no official checking this attorney to see that he was fulfilling his legal obligation as executor, even after I attempted to bring it to someone's attention.

nick said...

Bijoux: Do you mean someone's death, or sorting out their estate? They're both hard to deal with, that's for sure.

Jean: That does make it a lot easier. And my mum only has three beneficiaries, thank goodness.

nick said...

Tammy: My mum left a hand-written will, which was perfectly clear, and nobody has objected to it as yet. I don't even want a cemetery plot, scattering the ashes is good enough for me.

Yes, I'm glad I've avoided all those bitter family disputes I read about. My sister, niece and brother in law have discussed everything very amicably and not come to blows about anything at all!

nick said...

Joared: Interesting. So there's no official monitoring system in the States either? That's a shame about the item your solicitor hung on to. I do read often about dishonest solicitors defrauding clients out of huge sums. That's another reason I'm dealing with my mum's estate myself and didn't use a solicitor (as well as their eye-watering charges).

Rummuser said...

Should I not? Just asking!

I can see the problem. Wills can be registered with the Registrar in your loaclity, in which case, a claimant can ask for a certified copy by establishing his / her credentials. In the USA this is called probate to the best of my knowledge.

My will has been witnessed and sealed to be opened only after my death. Since I have only one heir, I have no worries that my estate will go to the wrong hands.

nick said...

Ramana: Wills here are usually held by a solicitor, and then sent to a probate registry after death. My mum had a self-prepared will, which she kept in her flat (and was later kept by my brother in law to avoid it falling into the wrong hands). "Probate" can mean several things here - the validation of the will, the disposing of the estate or the legal right to do so. The probate registry receives the death certificate, the original will, and a financial summary of the estate, and authorises me to dispose of her assets. I suppose it would also tell me if it thought the will was invalid.

Jenny Woolf said...

I am sorry to say it but it would be quite different if you were a desperately poor person trying to get an extra fiver out of of the welfare system. It's always made suspiciously easy for those who have lots of money to dispose of. Or do you think I'm just cynical??

nick said...

Jenny: Oh, you're absolutely right. Someone trying to get an extra fiver in welfare benefits is seen as a greedy scrounger, while a well-off person inheriting a large sum of money is seen as a decent upstanding member of society. Double standards everywhere you look.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think people manage wills unfairly ALL THE TIME. My mother made both me and my sister executors, so we'll at least keep an eye on each other. :)

nick said...

Agent: Really? That's appalling. But if you're just relying on one person to do everything correctly, without any external monitoring, then the scope for subterfuge is enormous.

Liz Hinds said...

I hadn't thought of that. Having recently been executor of Uncle's will You mean I could have kept all the monies he left to various people?! Having said that, his will caused enough bad feeling as it was when I followed it to the letter.

I assume most people in choosing the executor will trust the person they choose. Or if they don't trust anybody use a solicitor. Aren't most people honest?

Liz Hinds said...

Just read your earlier comments about solicitors. How dreadful.

kylie said...

I'm in the process of making my will and my solicitor recommended making all the beneficiaries co-executors. It would appear an unwieldy way to go but what would I know?
I was very young when mum told me any executor becomes the interim owner of the estate so it's good to choose carefully, which of course is your point

nick said...

Liz: Sorry to hear about all the bad feeling. I guess I'm lucky that my family are all quite happy with the will. We must be a very civilised bunch!

Unfortunately a proportion of solicitors (like any other profession, I suppose) are crooked and will squirrel away a bit of money if they can get away with it.

nick said...

Kylie: I don't understand why he/she suggested co-executors. I suppose that covers the possibility of one of them dying, but surely it'll make dealing with the will more complicated? Indeed, I'm the interim estate-holder, so I'm very aware of my responsibilies!

helen devries said...

We have registered our wills with the national registry in Costa Rica precisely to avoid problems with Leo's close family...though under CR law they don't have any rights in an inheritance...as we don't want the actual beneficiaries bothered, especially as the close family will be infuriated by our dispositions.

When his father died, Leo was joint executor with a solicitor...who cleared out the contents of the safe deposit box at the bank without saying a word to Leo. Needless to say the solicitors' watchdog just sat on its hands.

His mother left his brother as sole executor...it took five years and legal action to get him to cough up - and then only what could be checked.

nick said...

Helen: Another crooked solicitor - they do seem to be rather numerous. You'd think the massive fees would be enough for them. Five years and legal action to get the executor to hand over the money - that's appalling. We do rely on the executor getting on with the job and doing it properly, but who's keeping an eye on them?

Danielle L Zecher said...

It's very different here. Everything has to be accounted for, to the penny.

nick said...

Danielle: I'm glad to hear that.