Estate valuation: It’s not a simple process

It is a phrase often heard by an heir hunter when visiting a potential beneficiary, “he didn’t have anything to leave, I suppose I may get a pound!” Of course the probate genealogists don’t know the value of an estate until an application has been made to the treasury but they hope that it will be worth more than a pound and usually is, so it is worth an heir considering what actually makes up an estate.

An estate is made up of anything that has a value not just a house or cash in the bank, including many things the heir may not know the deceased possessed, like personal belongings, furniture, cars, shares, trusts, pensions that include a ‘lump sum’ payment on death or a pay out from a life insurance policy.

Many people have more than one bank account, and often have small amounts in accounts they no longer use. For example if the deceased had an on line betting account there may be cash left in it which would form part of the estate and be a benefit to any heirs.

A beneficiary may not have realised that the old books the deceased owned may contain rare and valuable editions, or that their vinyl record collection is actually worth hundreds or even thousands of pounds. What about that box of old toys in the attic? Does it contain rare and collectable items? The old sideboard that actually turns out to be an antique, or an old and collectable car in the garage that was stored many years before and never used again, all could have great value and would form part of the estate to be inherited. An amazing example of this is the 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe which was bought by a British doctor in 1955, then stored in his garage in the early 1960s. After his death in December 2008, family members unearthed the car, which they sold in unrestored condition for over £2 million. Quite a result for his heirs.

Even if some of those physical possessions may be known about and obvious, it is unlikely that a beneficiary would have known all about the deceased’s financial arrangements or indeed of their value. It is worth searching through paperwork and attempting to trace any of these things. Apparently there are more than £15 billion pounds of unclaimed financial assets in the UK lying in old bank accounts, pensions, life assurance and investments. There’s so much lost cash, the Government has, set up a ‘Big Society’ fund for social and community causes using cash in accounts that have been dormant for more than 15 years. If you are a potential beneficiary you will want that money to form part of the estate you are inheriting.

The downside is inheritance tax which is payable on the value of the estate over £325,000 and is a scandalously high 40%. But if your inheritance comes from an unexpected source this, like the heir hunter’s fees, won’t really be a consideration, after all 80% of something you would otherwise not have had is surely better than nothing?

So when the heir hunter calls beneficiaries shouldn’t dismiss the potential of an unexpected inheritance. The relative who the heir thought had nothing may well have had more than was apparent. The probate genealogy company will work on the beneficiary’s behalf to sort out any problems with the estate and the inheritance and ensure that heirs are reunited with their rightful inheritance.

Finders have been awarded the ISO 9001:2008 Total Quality Management certification and are the first probate genealogy firm to achieve the international version of this Standard as devised by the IAB (International Accreditation Board). Finders also provide missing beneficiary insurance, which protects trustees and administrators against the event of an unknown beneficiary emerging after an estate, has been distributed. As agents for Aviva they are regulated by the Financial Services Authority.