Anyone familiar with BBC One’s Heir Hunters programme will know about the otherwise relatively unknown and niche industry of probate genealogy research. When someone passes away, they leave behind an estate; it’s necessary to distribute that estate to the rightful heirs, known as beneficiaries. As the programme highlights, it’s not always easy to identify who should benefit from the estate or, if the beneficiary is known, to locate their whereabouts.
Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, sadly passed away in August and did so without leaving a Will. This might come as a surprise to many given her superstar status and assets worth an estimated £62.3 million. Without a Will in place, local law is dictating how her estate is being divided, rather than this being her own choice. This is further complicated because one of her sons has special needs that require financial and medical support for the rest of his life. The process of administering her estate could take years to resolve because of this lack of clear division and potential claims to the inheritance, and will likely play out in public.
They say that the two things you can’t avoid are death and paying taxes, and even the former doesn’t stop the latter. Inheritance tax used to be a tax on the very rich, but today it may affect many families.
Dealing with the death of a family member is always very difficult, both emotionally and practically, especially if you are the one who has to make all the arrangements. Issues and wills can often add a great deal of stress to the situation especially when you or someone you care for was not properly provided for in the will or the will is being challenged by someone else.