Legally Speaking


The ‘Castle of Spite’ and a Vengeful Inheritance

The ‘Castle of Spite’ and a Vengeful Inheritance

What would you do if your late husband’s family contested your entitlement to his fortune? Sit down with them and discuss it? Quietly move away to another country, never to be seen again? Or use the money to build a castle that dominates the landscape and blocks your stepson’s views?

You may have chosen to talk it out, but Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland, took the third option upon the death of her husband, George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 3rd Duke of Sutherland.

Who is the Duchess of Sutherland?

The Duchess of Sutherland was more commonly known as ‘Duchess Blair’ because her first marriage was to another rich and powerful gentleman, Captain Arthur Kindersely Blair of the 71st Highland Light Infantry.

Her Wikipedia profile states that she is known for her, quote, ‘scandalous marriage’. But one is not sure which marriage the tag refers to. Her first husband died in a mysterious shooting accident. Although it was officially determined to be above suspicion, there were whispers that it could have been either a murder or suicide.

It must also be noted that she was embroiled in a secret affair with her second husband, the Duke, at the time of her first husband’s death. He was one of the wealthiest men in Britain and owned a staggering 1.4 million acres of land. One could say that he was an attractive prospect.

Mary Caroline, Duchess of Sutherland

A Scandalous Marriage

Unsurprisingly, Duchess Blair caused quite a scandal when she married the Duke only four months after the Duke’s wife also died in mysterious circumstances. That’s quite a few coincidental deaths.

It wouldn’t have been such a scandal if Queen Victoria herself didn’t staunchly disapprove. The quick wedding flew in the face of the required one-year minimum for a widow to mourn before remarrying. Queen Victoria even sent a letter expressing her misgivings, but The Duchess and her Duke ignored them.

At this stage, Duchess Blair had all the money in the world, but in light of the Queen’s disapproval, she did not have much social standing. This can only assume that this left a particularly bad taste in her mouth.  

Another Husband Dies

You may not be surprised to learn that only three years after her marriage to the Duke, he died too. The last one standing, Blair was due to inherit the lot, but the Duke’s son from his first marriage, Cromartie Sutherland-Levenson-Gower, wasn’t having any of it. He initiated a legal battle, but the Duchess was one step ahead. She gathered all of the relevant documents and burned them.

Unfortunately for the Duchess, the Judge found this act to be illegal. He rounded her up and put her in jail for six weeks. Enough time, one would think, for Mary Caroline to learn her lesson.

Enough Money Left for a Castle

You’ve probably already guessed that jail time didn’t suppress the Duchess. Indeed, in the finalised judgment, Mary received enough fortune to build her own castle even though the documents were in cinders.

They only had one stipulation – that the castle not be built on Sutherland family land or be visible to the main road or railway line, lest it ruin their view when travelling.

The Castle of Spite 

The Carbisdale Castle was built between 1905 and 1917, but even though it wasn’t officially on the family land, it sat upon a hillside and dominated the landscape from every angle.

The one side of the clocktower facing Sutherland land was left without a clock in a deliberate snub to her late husband’s family. She did not want to give them the time of day.

With its obnoxious placement and clocktower without a clock, one doesn’t have to guess why it was nicknamed the ‘Castle of Spite’.

Who Owns the Castle Now? 

The colourful Duchess Blair died in 1912. Since then, the castle has seen several incarnations but was most recently run as a youth hostel. The current owner bought the property in 2016 and renovated it.

What of the castle now? Well, it’s up for sale. That’s right; you can own the ‘Castle of Spite’ for 1.2m pounds. Not a bad price for a partially-renovated castle with some of the best views in Scotland.

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

# Note: Featured is Aerial photography (drone) of Carbisdale Castle.
Photo attributed to Anthony Round

What Happens to Unclaimed Estates When Someone Dies Without an Heir?

What Happens to Unclaimed Estates When Someone Dies Without an Heir?

Usually, when people die, their loved ones assemble. There is often a ceremony. People make speeches. They console each other. The lost loved one is fondly remembered.

But what if no one comes to the funeral? Worse than that, what if no one even knows that you’ve died?

The New York Times piece, ‘Dying Alone in New York City,’ tells the story of George Bell, a man who died in his apartment alone. The article draws attention to the growing number of people whose deaths go unnoticed. ‘No one collects their bodies. No one mourns the conclusion of a life. They are just a name added to the death tables. In 2014, George Bell, age 72, was among those names.’

The discovery that someone has died alone and unnoticed is sad and confronting, but things become complicated when that person also has an unclaimed estate.

What Happens to Unclaimed Estates?

In a case such as George Pell’s, with no living relatives and an unclaimed estate, one may naturally ask, so what happens next?

Indeed what happens to an unclaimed estate in the U.S.?

When a person dies and has not made a will, their estate passes on to the next in line of succession, usually a family member. But if the person doesn’t have any living relatives, their estate reverts to the state.

Trying to Find Living Relatives

Fortunately, there are excellent legal providers whose sole purpose is to track down the living relatives of unclaimed estates. There is much detailed research and expertise required, but the state must locate the rightful inheritance recipients. Often, probate genealogists take a percentage of the estate for their services, but finding those next in the line of succession is a vital task.

According to the law, when the unclaimed estates are vast, it’s in everyone’s interests to find the rightful owner.

What Happens if An Heir is Missing?

In the U.S., the law varies from state to state. Most states allow for a long line of succession to allow the most opportunities to find a beneficiary. But what if, after all that searching, an heir still can’t be found?

In that case, the estate is forfeited in ‘escheat’. When this occurs, it is, again, different in every state. Some states pronounce escheat early. They do this to avoid a person with no relationship to the benefactor receiving the inheritance. Other states draw out the process to guarantee that the line of succession has adhered.

If, in the end, the heir is still missing, then Escheat is enacted.

Can You Reject a Relative’s Inheritance?

Interestingly, there are also situations where an individual may want to reject their inheritance. There are several reasons for this. In the U.S., an inheritance may jeopardise someone’s access to social services and income. It could affect employment. On some occasions, it can be simply that a person didn’t know the deceased and doesn’t feel right claiming their estate.

If U.S. citizens do disclaim their inheritance, most states move on to the next person in the line of succession. Of course, all of this has to be done through the correct legal channels. A person has to state that they reject the inheritance in writing.

The Moral of the Story 

George Pell was a man who sadly left this Earth alone. None of us would wish our death to go unnoticed. None of us would want to go the way of George Pell. But, if we take the time to write a will, we can at least make sure that the people who loved us most in life are listed as the next in the line of succession.

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

Six Reasons You Should Make a Will 

Six Reasons You Should Make a Will 

We all remember the touching funeral scene in ‘Love Actually’. In a moving tribute, Liam Neeson’s character makes the eulogy for his late wife. He tells the assembled mourners that ‘there were requests she was pretty clear about. She’s going to say her final farewell to you, ever so coolly, through the Bay City Rollers.’ The song ‘Bye, Bye Baby’ rings throughout the church, her loved ones smile, and it’s obvious to everyone that his late wife had a sense of humour. It’s also evident that she had wanted to do things her way.

It’s a touching scene that shows what’s possible when someone has clarified their wishes after they die. From deciding what song you want to play at your funeral to who receives your assets, making a will is as important as any other decision about your future.

1. Family Harmony

In the scene from ‘Love Actually,’ Neeson’s character finds solace in granting his wife’s wishes. You can also give your loved one peace of mind by making a will.

If people don’t have to guess what you would have wished, there is less room for tension between relatives who have different assumptions. Think of it as not only a gift to yourself but your family.

2. Avoid Unnecessary Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax is calculated based on your assets and to who you decide to give those assets to. If you leave your assets to people other than family members, this can impact how much Inheritance Tax you pay.

Suppose you fail to make a will and haven’t stated who receives your estate. In that case, the state-appointed executor determines the distribution of assets. You may therefore lose money that could have remained in the family.

3. Give Sentimental Items to Those Who Value Them

Making a will allows you to be specific. Wills aren’t solely about money. You may wish to make personal choices regarding items of sentimental value. This way, you can make your inheritance unique.

As mentioned earlier, this also improves family harmony. No one wants to make unseemly grabs for personal items after a loved one has died. Divide your assets clearly. In that case, family members don’t need to feel grubby about keeping a sentimental item and remembering you in their way.

4. You Can Choose An Executor

Making a will allows you to choose an executor that you trust. This is one of the benefits of planning for the future. The executor may be a surviving family member or a legal professional with the qualifications and sensitivity to do the right thing.

Working with a professional also informs you of any information about the law that will help you make good decisions.

5. Pets Are Family Too

Most people think of their children and partners when drawing up a will, but pets are also family. Writing a will allows you to decide who will care for your pets when you die.

This is just one example of an issue that people who haven’t drawn up a will can easily miss. Making a will help distribute your assets but can help establish how your pets and children are looked after when you’re gone.

6. Improve Your Quality of Life

Like most things not discussed, making your will a taboo topic only increases the anxiety around it. By getting the subject out into the open and making clear decisions for the future, you may improve your quality of life.

At the end of Liam Neeson’s eulogy in ‘Love Actually’, he tells those assembled, ‘Jo and I had a lot of time to prepare for this moment.’ His character’s wife had died of a terminal illness, which allowed them time to plan. Talking about it had brought them even closer together.

Sure, it’s a movie, but there’s some truth. Having conversations about your will and planning for the future can put everyone at ease. Not least, you.

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

The Heir Hunters – What does a Probate Genealogist Do?

The Heir Hunters – What does a Probate Genealogist Do?

A probate genealogist is a detective. What are they investigating, you ask? They’re looking for the rightful recipients of the estates of people who have died with no known heirs.

You may think that it should be easy to find the family members of a deceased person. However, family trees are complicated. Although it may seem tempting to tackle the search yourself, the legal process of finding the correct recipients should fall to those who are qualified.

The probate genealogist performs in-depth research on the family tree of the deceased person. Eventually, they’re able to determine and locate the heirs. This kind of detective work is similar to solving a crime. It requires meticulous attention to detail and knowledge of the relevant legalities. The hunt for an heir is an exciting occupation.

Will vs Probate

Probate Genealogy is a legal field. As such, there are several legal terms used that need clarification. Let’s clear things up.

You’ve probably heard of the terms probate and will when discussing inheritance, but although often used in the same sentence, they are two different concepts.

What is the difference between a will and probate? A will is a legal document written up by a person determining who their estate goes to. Probate refers to all of the paperwork and processes associated with the administration of the estate.

Two other valuable terms are testate and intestate. Not common vocabulary, the meanings are simple enough. Testate refers to the execution of an existing will. Intestate refers to the execution of an estate with no existing will.

A Day in the Life of an Heir Hunter

With sites like, the field of family tree research is an increasingly popular hobby. Many people spend hours exploring their ancestry, often finding fascinating details about their family and long-distant relatives they didn’t know they had. Comparatively, the field of probate genealogy isn’t something anyone can do.

A probate genealogist’s job is complicated and intricate. Colloquially referred to as ‘heir hunters’, the role involves extensive research. It is specialist work and often requires access to records only open to those with the legal right to search them.

The probate genealogist’s work is also international. Families move and settle in new countries. People forget to update their addresses and contact details. Passports expire. Government databases become invalid.

You may assume that people would be easy to track down with the prevalence of social media. However, often this isn’t the case. This is where the probate genealogist and their research expertise become invaluable. A professional knows where to look when the evidence is sparse.

Research of this nature takes years to perfect. It requires knowledge of how to locate historical records, interpret them, and then bring together the case to locate an individual who doesn’t know someone is looking for them.

The Ethics of Heir Hunting 

Although probate specialists are experts in their field, there’s been a spate of amateurs who have offered their services to unsuspecting people. Occasionally they are fraudulent and charge unreasonable fees. At other times, they are well-intentioned but ill-qualified. Either way, when tracking down the rightful heirs of an estate, one must secure the services of a professional.

Not sure who to hire? This is the time to do some research of your own. Check that the genealogist is qualified and belongs to the relevant professional bodies. Make sure that you feel comfortable that this person genuinely knows what they’re doing and are likely to reunite estates with their rightful owners.

The Rewards of Heir Hunting 

The life of an heir hunter is not just exciting but rewarding. Not only do probate genealogists spend their days investigating family history all over the world, but they have the personal satisfaction of doing the right thing. It’s not just about vast estates and inheritances worth a fortune. Helping to locate family members who have the right to unclaimed estates is a high reward.

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

Covid Forces Millennials to Face their Mortality

Covid Forces Millennials to Face Their Mortality

Young people don’t often think about dying. Traditionally, mortality is something people face later in life. Most people begin estate planning after accumulating considerable assets and a family. However, the Covid pandemic has seen a marked shift in the demographic of people drafting up wills. In 2022, it’s the young who are contemplating what will happen when they die.

Writing your will is essential if you are to make clear your wishes after death. With a will, you can choose who receives your assets and what they receive. But for millennials, who range from twenty-five to forty, contemplating end of life decisions hasn’t seemed relevant. That is, until now.  

Millennial Myths

Born between 1981 to 1996, millennials have long been saddled with negative stereotypes. Labelled entitled and overly-sensitive, they’ve had to contend with unfair assumptions that they continue to defy.

Since 2000, their namesake year and the year the dot-com bubble burst, millennials have suffered financial insecurity. Ten years later, American millennials witnessed the Great Recession and its aftermath. Since then, they had to earn more to receive less. They may not have faced a plague before, but they’ve certainly experienced economic blight.

Millennials are the largest generation of Americans today. With huge student debt and increased cost of living, they’ve typically put off having children and getting married. Hence, they’ve also put off estate planning.

Michaela Vincze, a public health expert from nonprofit Transamerica Institute, tells the host of Clearpath, Al Waller, ‘Part of the reason for doing things later in life might be the economic downturns… Another factor is the student debt that we carry and how much that eats into our budgets.’

Burdened with the mistakes of their parents, millennials have put off planning for the future. 

The Impact of the Pandemic on Millennials  

In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Catherin Collinson, who leads the nonprofit Transamerica Institute, released a report about its impact on millennials. She told the host of Clearpath, Al Waller, ‘Almost 6 in 10 Millennials (58 per cent) said their finances were negatively impacted during the pandemic at that time. And seven in 10 had made one or more adjustments to their financial situation, such as reducing everyday expenses, dipping into savings, accumulating credit card debt, and some even moved back in with family or friends to help save money.’

Covid forced millennials to examine their own finances and those of their vulnerable parents. Many, worried that their parents may succumb to the virus, encouraged them to get their affairs in order. Naturally, this prompted them to follow suit.

According to, eighteen to 34-year-olds were the age group most motivated by the pandemic to draft a will. Twenty-seven per cent of adults in that age range now have wills compared to 18 per cent in 2019. That’s a ten per cent uptake since Covid hit.

Millennials are also saving more. After witnessing so much financial upheaval, they are even more likely than baby boomers, the generation nearing retirement, to plan for their futures.

Collinson says that her research showed a definite trend toward millennial financial planning. ‘Millennials are a truly remarkable generation… with the immediacy of everything they’re going through, it is astonishing that so many Millennials are continuing to focus on the future. More than eight in ten (82 percent) say they are currently saving for retirement, which is just extraordinary… the Millennial generation, I’ve come to think of as the retirement generation.’

The Great Pandemic Pivot

More than any other time in recent history, people have been forced to ask, what will happen if I die? It seems millennials have answered this question with clarity and decisiveness.

With the worst of the pandemic over, many are reckoning with what remains. Millennials have taken the opportunity to plan their finances, their estates and their future. Perhaps it’s time we dropped the stereotypes and took our cues from the generation leading the way.

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

Dutch Golden Age Painting Found in Australian Storeroom

Dutch Golden Age Painting Found in Australian Storeroom

Many of us fantasise about uncovering an item of unimaginable value in our attic. Perhaps this old doll is worth something? Maybe this book could sell for a good figure? Does this painting have a famous signature? A great find could help with the bills or even pay off the mortgage. But what if your spring-clean uncovered a Dutch Master? In Australia this month, one lucky person did just that.

The painting, ‘Still Life’, currently attributed to Gerrit Willemsz, was recently stumbled upon during a restoration project on a property in New South Wales. The Woodford Academy, managed by the National Trust of Australia, is one of the oldest colonial buildings in the Blue Mountains. It’s just the kind of place one imagines holding a secret like this.

That’s not to say the finding was expected. Estimated to be worth millions, ‘Still Life’ depicts a hedonistic table setting typically associated with the Dutch Golden Age. One that National Trust collections manager Rebecca Pinchin heralds as ‘one in a million’.

How Did a Dutch Master End up in an Australian Storeroom?

Thought to have been purchased for $30 AU dollars by Alfred Fairfax in the late eighteenth century, ‘Still Life’ was possibly acquired as part of the fashionable (and retrospectively inspired) trend of buying up Dutch Masters. Alfred, the nephew of James Fairfax, founder of The Sydney Morning Herald, is thought to have brought the painting to Woodford, where it sat undiscovered for the next century or so.

Eightieth Anniversary of Bilateral Ties 

Coincidentally, the find came one week after The Netherlands and Australia celebrated the 80th anniversary of bilateral agreements between the two countries. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison penned a statement to mark the occasion. ‘From the Duyfken’s exploration of Australia in 1606 to the contribution made by generations of the thousands of men and women of Dutch heritage to this country, Australia and the Netherlands share enduring bonds of friendship and family.’

Eight decades of agreements are significant, but Morrison touched on the actual length of the relationship when he mentioned the Duyfken. Chartered by Willem Janszoon, The Duyfken left The Netherlands in 1603. As part of a fleet of twelve ships commandeered by Steven van der Hagen, it was headed for the East Indies.

When the fleet departed Java, Janszoon split off to head south, searching for more trading partners. Although believing what he saw to be the southerly most part of New Guinea, when he sighted land, it was, in fact, Australia. Indeed, The first European to touch foot on Australian soil was not English but Dutch.

Landing at the place in Queensland now known as Weipa, Janszoon found the surrounds muddy and the people (understandably) inhospitable. He decided to high-tail it out of there, unknowingly changing the course of history.

Janszoon may have failed to establish the trade relationship he sought out, but since then, things have changed. ‘The strong trade relationship between The Netherlands and Australia is the foundation for our collaboration in other areas, such as the green economy and cybersecurity. Through our growing engagement with multilateral fora, we will work together to advance our mutual economic prosperity and stability,’ said Morrison.

The Dutch Diaspora

While relations between the two countries have always remained positive, the most significant period was during and immediately after the Second World War. Not only were Australia and The Netherlands allies, but post-war, Dutch people migrated to the Land Down Under in their droves.

The evidence of cultural exchange is seen in immigration patterns and the hallmark of Dutch culture – art. Dutch Masters turn up in Australian storerooms, and Australian masterpieces are found in Dutch galleries, too.

It’s a little known fact that the only museum in Europe dedicated to contemporary Aboriginal art from Australia can be found in Utrecht. The AAMU Museum of contemporary Aboriginal art is recognised by the government of Australia as an essential platform for Australian cultural heritage in Europe.

Today, 240,000 Australian residents claim Dutch ancestry. That’s a lot of bitterballen at the barbeque. Forming one of the largest groups of the Dutch diaspora outside of Europe, a few of those residents undoubtedly spent the last fortnight searching for a Golden Age painting in the attic.

# Note: Featured is the painting ‘Still Life’. Credit: National Trust of Australia

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

Will Britain Change its Succession Laws?

Will Britain Change its Succession Laws?

You may think society has progressed in the last thousand years, but if Britain’s succession laws are anything to go by, not much has changed. Indeed it’s 2022, yet the inheritance of aristocratic titles and estates still excludes daughters. Jane Austen, never short on witty social commentary, famously wrote, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ Pride and Prejudice, written in the late seventeen hundreds was a deep dive into the archaic laws that governed the British aristocracy, and yet to date, the same rules remain.

The Downtown Abbey Law 

Known colloquially as ‘The Downtown Abbey Law’, for the television program’s storyline of three sisters passed over in the line of succession, Primogeniture is still in place. Introduced by the Normans in 1066, the law decreed land pass to the eldest son. Who would believe, however, that a bid to cement the power of Norman Barons over one thousand years ago would still hold today?

Call For Change

Although Primogeniture laws only affect a niche and privileged section of British society, they symbolise an archaic set of values. How much longer can we accept laws that discriminate based on gender, you may ask? Recently, aristocrats have been breaking rank.

Speaking with The Evening Standard, Lord Monson suggested the laws were cruel. After losing his only son in tragic circumstances and with a sole daughter remaining, almost 600 years of succession will end when he and his brother die. He is one of the many voices speaking out against the discriminatory law. When asked why other aristocrats disagreed, ‘It’s not easy. However, to make omelettes you have to break eggs,’ he said.

Lady Kitty Spencer, Earl Spencer’s eldest child and not entitled to her father’s estate, has also spoken out. ‘Primogeniture can be a tricky topic because as times are changing, attitudes are as well,’ she told Town and Country Magazine.


Who Gets the Crown?

The hallmark of British aristocracy may be tradition, but even traditions change. Recently, Queen Elizabeth made a change that many didn’t see coming. The Succession to the Crown Act, passed in 2013, abolishes the law that decrees a male inherits the throne. Indeed, if the Queen makes an exception for her own family, women of the British aristocracy should be allowed the same.

The hallmark of British aristocracy may be tradition, but even traditions change.

Progress in Parliament 

In 2019, change seemed imminent. Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, introduced the Hereditary Titles (Female Succession) Bill to Parliament. However, at the last moment, it failed to pass.

Still, a vocal minority continues to voice their dissent. In March, 2020, The Earl of Shrewsbury spoke out. ‘Maybe the Government, with their appetite for diversity and equality, should take the lead and support a private member’s bill. Indeed, should the minister indicate her support for this initiative, I will move the matter forward to try to secure a question for short debate in order to gauge the opinion of the House before moving forward,’ he said.


What Would Jane Do?

Jane Austen – long-held as English literature’s first feminist, saw male inheritance as an old fashioned concept. What if someone told her that almost 250 years later, the same laws would still be in place? If this line from Pride and Prejudice is anything to go by, I have a feeling she would have encouraged us to press on. ‘There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.’

Surely, following The Succession to the Crown Act, the Queen invites the aristocracy to follow suit. After one thousand years, perhaps it’s finally time for a change. 

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

Inheritance Closing the Australian Wealth Gap 

Inheritance Closing the Australian Wealth Gap 

You may think rich families get richer when their offspring receive an inheritance. Surprisingly, a recent report from the Australian Productivity Commission suggests this is only part of the picture.

The Productivity Commission, an independent research body advising the Australian Government, recently released a report on wealth transfer. The report is one of the first to examine the economic impact of wealth distributed through inheritance. The Government hopes to determine the effects of wealth inequality, mitigating the widening wealth gap.

Increase in Australian Inheritance 

Australians are becoming more affluent. As property value booms, so does the relative wealth of the generation who own houses. With falling fertility rates, older Australians have less offspring to distribute these assets to.

Unsurprisingly, the Productivity Commission found that the elderly, typically fiscally cautious, delay drawing down on this wealth. Saving for a ‘rainy day’ has seen an astronomical increase in personal wealth. This, combined with untouched and growing Superannuation (pension), has produced the wealthiest generation of Australians in history.

Struggling Australians Receive Bigger Boost

Inheritance is relative. If you’re already well-off, wealth transferred from your parents after death will have less impact than if you were struggling at the time of the windfall. Productivity Commissioner, Lisa Gropp, suggests that, ‘the less well‑off get a much bigger boost from wealth transfers.’

In recent years, inheritance represented 90 per cent of all inter-generational wealth transfers. The average windfall – AU$125,000. With private wealth re-distributed at such a scale and many Australians as sole beneficiaries, the report suggests this will close the wealth gap in Australia, not widen it.

The Timing of Inheritance Matters

The Commissioner is wary of claims that inheritance is the only important factor in wealth transfer. She suggests it’s the time in life one receives a windfall, that has the greater outcome. ‘But while inheritances weigh on economic mobility — by increasing the likelihood that wealthy parents have wealthy children — the effect is moderated by the lateness in life at which they are received,’ Gropp says.

It’s all very well to receive a hefty inheritance, but if you’re in retirement, this boost may not have a significant impact. Much better, she suggests, to receive inter-generational wealth when you’re making employment and family decisions.

Commission Predicts Huge Wealth Transfer

Over AU$120 billion was passed on between Australian families in 2018, but that figure is set to quadruple in the coming decade. ‘Nevertheless, absent a significant change in how wealth transfers are distributed or saved in the future… they are unlikely to significantly worsen wealth inequality in Australia in the coming decades,’ says Gropp.

The sheer magnitude of wealth soon available and continued frugality will undoubtedly increase personal wealth. However, receiving this wealth later in life may not help as much as it could. Perhaps it’s time for Australians to contemplate what that means.

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).

When Celebrities Die Without a Will

When Celebrities Die Without a Will

Wondering who inherits the vast estates of the rich and famous when they die without a will?

In the U.S., individuals who die without a will lose control over their assets by default. It’s a lost opportunity to assign appropriate beneficiaries and minimise the burden of inheritance tax. Often this results in disputes between those left behind. But how much more complicated does the battle for inheritance become if the individual was famous?

When most people die without a will, inheritance is of interest to a small group. But when celebrities die without a will, the public interest can attract attention far and wide.

You may have heard of the squabble over Tupac’s estate; a 40 million dollar dispute fought between family members after his untimely and unforeseeable murder at twenty-five. Fame certainly contributed to his wealth, but it also led to a money grab after his death.

Similarly, Prince, one of the most recognisable musicians of the modern era, died of an accidental drug overdose at 57 without a will. It took six years and considerable legal wrangling, all played out in the public arena, to sort out his 156 million dollar estate.

Law gravel and bag of money

Complicated Estates

The rich and famous often have complicated estates. They may range from tangible assets (think private jets and pet monkeys) to considerably more abstract wealth such as intellectual property (think royalties and song rights): the more complex the estate, the more expensive the process to determine its value. Often, considerable money is lost in the wash.

Dying without a will nullifies your opportunity to appoint an executor who assesses and values your estate before distributing it. As Prince passed up his right to choose, an executor was agreed upon by a majority of the potential beneficiaries, not an ideal scenario and one that attracted the scrutiny of the IRS, who claimed Prince’s estate was worth considerably more than previously disclosed.

Dying Without a Will

What happens to a wealthy person’s money when they die has been the fodder of gossip columns long before the prevalence of celebrity culture and the twenty-four-hour news cycle that feeds it.

Perhaps the most famous lawyer in the republic’s history, Abraham Lincoln, surprisingly died without a will. Luckily his estate was executed by a close family friend who just happened to be the U.S. Supreme Court Justice, David Davis. Still, we will never know if Lincoln intended his estate to go to his wife or split between her and his children.

Without a will when he died in 1973, Pablo Picasso left behind one wife, one ex-wife, a slew of mistresses and four children from three different women – another example of a public figure who could have benefited from getting his affairs in order. Leaving an estate many consider priceless, his heirs engaged in a lengthy court battle to state their claim. Now the riches have been carved up; they’ve progressed to arguing over the use of their father’s name, a commodity Picasso’s son, Claude, has recently seen fit to sell to Citroën.

Understanding Intestacy Laws

In the U.S., Intestacy Law, also known as Law of Descent and Distribution, determines the relevant beneficiaries of those estates without a formal declaration. Or, to put it simply – who gets what if the paperwork is missing. It’s fair to say that most of us wouldn’t want our beneficiaries determined by the state, but the system is in place to deal with the vacuum created when someone fails to declare their wishes. You may assume that the estate would go to a surviving partner or children, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

For all its spectacle, when a celebrity dies without a will, it can bring much-needed attention to the importance of estate planning. You may not be as legendary as Tupac, wealthier than Prince or more universally recognised than Abraham Lincoln, but you can certainly be more prepared.

Do you stand to inherit from a Dutch estate? Allow us to assist you. Dutch Probate provides a legal trinity of expertise, representation and fieldwork to assist emigrants and expats of Dutch descent. To find out more, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can email or telephone +31(0)85-0604243 (select 0).