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Sunflowerrei
03-08-2015, 11:13 PM
A major plot point in my new story is an Unexpected Inheritance. The beneficiary was contacted in chapter one that she's one of eight heirs of this noble family. The current lord of the family is growing old and ill and he wants to get the ball rolling on the finding and initial steps of establishing his heirs. None of them will inherit his title or his house, but they'll get equal pieces of the money, investments, some family trinkets.

I assume there would be a lot of paperwork to be looked at and obviously, the inheritance wouldn't actually be handed down until the lord dies. So what are the logistics of getting an inheritance? What kind of paperwork is involved?

Drachen Jager
03-08-2015, 11:26 PM
As with all legal questions in this forum, it's impossible to say much until we know the jurisdiction.

Especially for big estates, most of that is handled by the estate lawyer most places. The actual inheritors wouldn't have to do much unless there's someone contesting the will. (but that's just in general in most Western countries, it can vary quite a bit and I wouldn't even want to guess outside of that sphere)

jclarkdawe
03-08-2015, 11:51 PM
With a title involved, I'm going to guess Great Britain for a location.

Personal bequests can be given to anyone. Usually the person is identified by name and the town/city they live in at the time the will is signed.

Personally if someone had approached me with a request to find all of their first cousins, or however far out he wants to go, I'd hire a genealogist. Family Bible, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates would be the primary documentation.

I doubt the heirs would have much work to do, other than maybe providing their birth certificates.

Understand that your scenario is markedly different from the missing heir showing up after death.

Sunflowerrei
03-09-2015, 12:35 AM
Yeah--the lord lives in Great Britain. The beneficiary lives in New York, as does her aunt, who is also an heir.

I think the lord or his lawyers already did all the family tree searching with a genealogist. There aren't any heirs left in the male lines, so the title is done after this man dies. But his money is passed on to living family members, but pretty distant ones; it's a peculiar clause in the wills of this particular family. Nicole, my main character, is a fourth cousin and didn't even know about this branch of the family beforehand.

She wouldn't do anything about it now because the guy isn't dead yet. She's hired a lawyer of her own. Would that even be necessary for her?

BDSEmpire
03-09-2015, 12:43 AM
You should probably start by looking up how wills work:
http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/relationships_w/relationships_death_and_wills_e/wills.htm

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/relationships_w/relationships_death_and_wills_e.htm

Bolero
03-09-2015, 01:43 AM
So what does happen to the house?

Presumably the title is lapsing.

It is usual for most of the money to go with the house, because they are so very expensive to keep going, and the usual desire is for them to keep going.

ironmikezero
03-09-2015, 01:54 AM
FWIW... Don't overlook any taxes involved... It's not that unusual for the tax burden to be such that the (real) estate might be facing (pragmatic or otherwise) liquidation. Multiple heirs tend to muddy those waters considerably.

mirandashell
03-09-2015, 02:12 AM
Oh yes, death duties have wiped more than one estate in this country.

King Neptune
03-09-2015, 02:31 AM
There are so many possibilities of how the estate might go one way or another and how taxes, debts, etc. might get in the way that you should avoid that, unless it is what the plot is. Instead of going into detail about the division of the estate, you could simply have whoever you want get whichever part(s) you want.

jclarkdawe
03-09-2015, 03:18 AM
First off, usually titles don't disappear. Take a look at a succession table for the king or queen of England, especially after the top ten. It goes out quite a ways.

Second is fourth cousins? Unless everybody is limiting themselves to one child, this is going to be a lot of people. For second and first cousins from one of my grandmothers, and we're not a big family, I'm looking at seven people that would inherit. For that grandfather, I think we're at eight or nine people. Fourth cousins are very distant.

Where the beneficiaries live is not an issue to an estate. There may be taxes for the beneficiaries separate from estate taxes, but that's very unusual.

If this clause has been in the family for several generations, then their wealth is being continually spread out. A million dollar estate, divided between ten heirs is only a hundred thousand dollars to each. Not really a whole lot of money. Most people of wealth want to keep the family wealthy.

Personally what I'd think about is having the old man be a bit of a kook, mad at his more immediate family and finding this fourth cousin to give his entire estate to.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

mirandashell
03-09-2015, 03:25 AM
First off, usually titles don't disappear. Take a look at a succession table for the king or queen of England, especially after the top ten. It goes out quite a ways.


That's not actually true. Titles die do out if there is no male heir. This link:

http://www.hereditarytitles.com/Page56.html

shows some that have died out quite recently and it's only A - C.

Don't mistake royalty for nobility. It's not the same thing. You can be ennobled without being related to the Royal Family.

Sunflowerrei
03-09-2015, 03:53 AM
Thanks, guys. But yeah, as mirandashell said--this particular title is done, because there are no male heirs. They're not a prolific family, so tracing back to the first lord, there are only eight people left. A lot of them didn't have kids or died young.

The estate's already been taken over by the National Trust, so there's nothing house or land-wise for the beneficiaries. The lord previous to the one who is dying is the one who--having only daughters--created this family's particular clause, so it's only been in the family within the twentieth century. Not that long, really.

So, from this thread, it seems that once Nicole's been notified, meets with the lord's lawyer and turns over her birth certificate, that's it? When the lord dies (a year after she hears about this for the first time) and it's time for her to get her share, then she pays a hefty tax bill? (In both countries, I assume)

King Neptune
03-09-2015, 04:00 AM
Thanks, guys. But yeah, as mirandashell said--this particular title is done, because there are no male heirs. They're not a prolific family, so tracing back to the first lord, there are only eight people left. A lot of them didn't have kids or died young.

The estate's already been taken over by the National Trust, so there's nothing house or land-wise for the beneficiaries. The lord previous to the one who is dying is the one who--having only daughters--created this family's particular clause, so it's only been in the family within the twentieth century. Not that long, really.

So, from this thread, it seems that once Nicole's been notified, meets with the lord's lawyer and turns over her birth certificate, that's it? When the lord dies (a year after she hears about this for the first time) and it's time for her to get her share, then she pays a hefty tax bill? (In both countries, I assume)

She probably would only pay taxes on the inheritance in the UK, because the U.S. estate tax has a 1.5 mil dollar exemption after deductions for debts, etc. I think that the UK tax could be among the deductions, but don't quote me on that.
http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Estate-Tax

Foolonthehill
03-12-2015, 02:41 AM
I haven't read all the other posts, in Italy, in absence of a will 1/3 goes to the wife of husband and the rest is split between legitimate children

waylander
03-12-2015, 02:05 PM
There are companies that exist to find heirs, in fact there is a TV series called 'Heirhunters'. They usually specialise is finding the heirs to estates where the person has died with a decent size estate, left no will and has no known relatives. They take a percentage of the estate for finding the heirs.
The current threshold for inheritance duty is 325,000 and everything above that is taxed at 40%

Priene
03-12-2015, 02:44 PM
So, from this thread, it seems that once Nicole's been notified, meets with the lord's lawyer and turns over her birth certificate, that's it? When the lord dies (a year after she hears about this for the first time) and it's time for her to get her share, then she pays a hefty tax bill? (In both countries, I assume)

I'm not completely certain, but I think the executor of the will (normally a solicitor, though my brother was the executor of my mother's will) would pay the inheritance tax, since it's levied on the estate, not on the beneficiaries. At the conclusion - which would take many months - the post-tax estate would be divided among the beneficiaries. A third-party valuation of non-monetary items would be used if they weren't all sold by the executor.


The current threshold for inheritance duty is 325,000 and everything above that is taxed at 40%

This is true, but inheritance tax is transferable, so if the character had a predeceased spouse they could use that to double the threshold to 650000.

waylander
03-12-2015, 03:46 PM
Priene is correct - estate duty is paid by the estate executor(s) as part of the probate process.

InkStainedWench
03-19-2015, 06:37 PM
My mother's uncle accumulated a sizable estate. His wife had died, and they had no children, so he left it to his relatives and friends. His will divided it all into equal shares, which he allocated according to how much he liked people.

My mother was the black sheep of the family and received one share. I think it was 1/32nd of the pot.

Bolero
03-23-2015, 02:33 AM
The estate's already been taken over by the National Trust, so there's nothing house or land-wise for the beneficiaries.

Its probably just your phrasing but...... National Trust doesn't "take over" as such - not in the way that companies are taken over. The owner invites them in - and there are often some complex finances involved in terms of funding the house being donated. The deal can include the family remaining in residence, sometimes just in one wing. (This from a book written by someone whose friend donated their house to the Trust, from a book by people who worked as NT custodians and a documentary last year on various NT houses.)