It is a sign of great trust to be named the executor of an estate in a Will, but it is also an onerous responsibility that not everyone will have the time and the energy to fulfil. The reality is that even the most organised and time-rich of individuals will find the assistance of a professional probate solicitor helpful.
If you are to accept the role of executor, it is vital that you first understand the full ramifications of the position and the inherent responsibilities. This should begin with understanding that executor responsibilities commence almost at the point of death; although registering the death is not the executor’s responsibility per se, in many instances it does become so.
Figures from a leading provider of legacy information to charities, Smee & Ford, have revealed that in the UK in 2018 more than £3 billion was bequeathed to charities in Wills. There are some interesting trends: not only is the figure 50 per cent higher than it was a decade ago, it is the smaller charities who are increasingly becoming the beneficiaries. This follows a number of high-profile scandals involving larger charities – for example, Kids Company in 2015 and Oxfam in 2018.
There is also the negative issue of pressure tactics applied by some of the major charities. For example, in 2015, a 92-year-old poppy seller was found to have committed suicide following an assault of so-called “begging letters” from charities – a practice which has now been criticised by the UK’s fundraising watchdog, the Charity Commission.
The Government has bowed to pressure from families, taxpayer groups and probate solicitors by announcing a U-turn on its plans to increase probate fees – a move which had been branded as a “stealth tax”, a “death tax”, and an “abuse of power” by assorted critics, including MPs.
An important and interesting inheritance dispute claim has been heard at the High Court. The contested probate issue between stepsisters sought to establish which of their parents was the first to die in order to determine the way in which the estate's assets should be distributed.
According to the Alzheimer's Society around 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, with this figure set to rise to more than 1 million by 2025 and more than 2 million by 2051. The organisation says that 225,000 people will develop dementia this year – that's one roughly every three minutes.
The possibility for a disputed Will increases when there is a mental health issue, so, it is vital for anybody with assets – no more matter how small – to keep an up-to-date Will in place so that their wishes are clear in the event of mental incapacity or death. Read on for our top tips on avoiding contested probate if dementia or mental health issues are a factor for you.