The death of pop legend Prince has raised the thorny issue of whether enough people in Hampshire are providing for their loved ones after their death.
Official figures show that six out of 10 of us die without leaving a will, causing confusion and distress to families.
Tim Gamester, a wills specialist at Biscoes in Hampshire said: “The high-profile case of Prince, where there are at least 700 claims for his $300m estate, shows the emotional fall-out when a relative fails to leave a will.”
American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer Prince died at his Minneapolis home on April 21 aged 57.
“Our research shows that six out of 10 people aren’t leaving provisions for their loved ones and, ironically, lawyers are among the worst!
“If you have a will in place at least you can stop 700 people from having a chance of claiming against your estate.
“Drafting up provisions for your estate minimises the risk and gets you to a position where you can be as secure as possible.
“What a will does is give reassurance. It gives people something in place and something in black and white which they can point to, so there is no panic.”
Biscoes, which has six offices in Portsmouth, Gosport, Portchester, Wickham, Waterlooville and Petersfield, also offers a number of alternatives to writing a will.
Tim said: “You can look to set up lifetime settlements or a trust, for example.
“These can be used to put assets into trust for estate planning or inheritance tax purposes and potentially use them to protect assets from care home fees later in life.”
When somebody dies without leaving a will they are said to be ‘intestate’.
Intestate estates pass by law to the nearest surviving relatives. In the event that there are no surviving relatives an estate is said to be ‘Bona Vacantia’, meaning that the deceased’s assets pass to the State.
Tim said: “An estate that is ‘Bona Vacantia’ passes either to the Treasury or the Duchy of Cornwall so effectively your beneficiaries in these circumstances are George Osborne or Prince Charles!”
Intestate estates also leave the problem of uncertainty when determining who exactly a deceased’s nearest relatives are.
Tim revealed that Biscoes, which employs 100 staff, fully endorses the use of established tracing agents and genealogists to help find missing beneficiaries and constructs family trees to determine the extent of the estate distribution.
He said: “We can work in tandem with tracing agents and private detectives very well because they do a task that we sometimes can’t.
“For example, one intestate estate I dealt with had in excess of 15 beneficiaries – four of them were based in the United States and none of the family had any contact with each other for over 20 years.
“A tracing agent was essential to help identify, track down and contact the different family members. Sadly, this is exactly the level of uncertainly and confusion that can occur when there is no will.”
Notes to Reporters:
Biscoes, which traces its roots back 162 years and is led by managing director Alison Lee, is headquartered in Portsmouth and has five other offices in Gosport, Portchester, Wickham, Waterlooville and Petersfield. Staff number more than 100, including 28 fee-earners.
Biscoes is a member of a number of professional associations, including the Law Society, Hampshire Law Society, Notary Services, the Charity Law Association, Portsmouth Property Association and Hampshire Chamber of Commerce. The practice is also part of LawNet, the UK and Ireland’s leading network of independent law firms promoting excellence and providing a range of benefits for members.
Biscoes has the Law Society’s legal practice quality mark Lexcel, for excellence in legal practice management and client care, and is accredited with the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme. The firm is among 900 or so practising notaries in England and Wales – duties include authenticating legal documents for use abroad, including for people intending to marry or work overseas.
Historically, the long established Portsmouth based firms of Biscoe Smith, Heather and Bellinger, Cousins Burbidge & Connor and Lyndhurst Groves merged in 1994 to form Biscoes Cousins Groves. In 2004 in the Firm’s 150th year, Biscoes absorbed Wilkinson & Co and merged with King and Franckeiss, both well respected local firms.
Subsequently in 2005 a merger with Covers added a Petersfield office to an already impressive list of locations, which was closely followed by the opening of an office in Gosport. In 2006 a Portchester branch was created following the link up with the long established practice of Barry Swanton & Co. In 2016 commercial specialist Graeme Quar & Co also came under the Biscoes banner.