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What you leave behind

When we leave this world, we leave behind those who we care for, and various property. In this page we want to look at what we can do to influence each being well looked after. We also want to look at what arrangements can be made in advance and the effects of actions we may make within our lifetime on those we leave behind.

Few people like to talk about or plan for their death, however if they do not, then it is harder for others and in some cases may be detrimental to their long term well being.

The Will

Writing and updating a will throughout our lives is a good idea, even if it is very simple, as in the case of a couple who merely has a simple form based will leaving everything to the other. Some may feel this serves no purpose in tat this may in their jurisdiction be the default situation, when no will is left, however life for those left behind is far simpler, at a difficult time, when all is clear. Formalities completed quicker and any money held up or other complications quickly overcome.

Leaving it until you see your end approaching may present you with more difficulties than you realize, you have to work out who is to be your executor and carry out the details of your will, you need to have it witnessed when you sign it and if you want any special provisions you may not have the time or ability at that time to fully research them. In some cases you may wish to create a trust, to administer what you leave behind, establishing this either while you are alive or within your will. If done earlier it may save a lot of taxes on your death.

We had a project a few years back looking at setting up a will registry, where copies of wills could be lodged, and it is still our intention to do this at some point or arrange a joint venture with others who can provide this at a sensible price.  Self Build LLC has  been asked to look at this, and to se what they can come up with, with the suggestion that it could be a part of a joint venture partnership package, as could setting up discretionary and other tusts.


You can establish a trust while you are alive, and appoint trustees, which could include yourself with defined trustees to add when you are no longer here or a means of appointing them. There area lot of different types of trusts, an it is not a simple subject to look at in detail on this page.

One type of trust is a discretionary trust, this has objectives but it is up to the trustees to administer and make sure that the  proceeds are used according to the wishes of the person to set it up. These have definite advantages in that your wealth cannot be taken over so easily by others. Let us look at the case of a dependent survivor or handicapped or special need child that you leave behind, there is a risk that the authorities may see what you have left for their care, as a windfall for them, they can have it and use it as they wish, providing the same care as they would to anyone else. On the other hand if the amount you left was in a discretionary trust, then the trustees would look at each need that arose separately and use it towards improving the lives of those you defined. Suppose you left a house for the person to be accommodated in, with discretionary trust owning it, it is for their occupation, but left to them it may be taken by the local authority or others in exchange for  providing a home for them. There is some evidence to suggest that a windfall opportunity may also motive the move of the person you left behind out of their own home and into a provided room,  often far poorer accommodation.

You also may want to look at what happens to the left overs, can the trusts be further used to help others or do the proceeds at a point get transferred to another trust or project to do some good. 


There are two problems that people have in setting up a discretionary trust, understanding how to do it, and having someone they know will survive them who is trustworthy to administer the trust. Our solution to this is a new organization that people can join. This will have  standard documents available, explanations and case study situations as well as having a secondary role of providing a panel of trustees. We will also identify solicitors who will give a first advice session for free to members, so that people who need extra legal advice will be able to get the project in hand. Research has been going on for several years, but we have set no timescale as to when this will come about.


Life logbook

When you are no longer around, will those you leave behind be able to find everything, all the documents, money, bank accounts and other items. We did a study back around 20 years ago looking at what happened when bank accounts were not used for some time, particularly when a person died. We found that the banks moved the cash to an account of theirs and eventually after a period it became the banks money. While each account probably had a small amount in it, this provided the banks with a large extra income stream. As executors have no training, and are often the people upset at the time by our passing, it is not surprising that they overlook lots of accounts.

We wrote to al the banks suggesting database to help people to locate the money that had been overlooked by executors, the feedback we got back was all negative some even admitted that they shredded all information after a few years, so would be unable to identify who the previous owners of some of the money they now had was.

The solution we believe is in two parts a log book that you record all the important facts like account numbers addresses, and the like that you can kept up to date and have available, the location being mentioned in your will. The second in the future is to record this in a format that can be held at the will registry.

Some people are interested in taking this a stage further and including an asset list, so that ob their death certain assets don't just disappear, or the executors being told belong to another person.

The solution we propose

Although this project started in 1997, it has in part been been delayed by a change in the terms of reference, as we had originally intended to fund this as a free public service funded by the TV channel. Since that point we have looked at other ways to run this. Ideally it should be a free service to users, as many people are not sufficiently interested if they have to pay for it, but this is difficult to achieve without funding it from another project. It may be that the group initially needs to be more focused for those who have concern, and desperately need this, such as parents of handicapped and special need children. More recently the wider application of this area, in relation to the will registry and more has been looked at again and we have asked self Build LLC to look to see if a joint venture consortium projects could be formed to provide this service, and run the club we envisaged.

The   organization referred to above could have a number of roles

  • Provision of free public information
    • website
    • publications
    • log books formats available
    • will formats available
    • trust forming documents available
  • Member services
    • trustees register
    • trust monitoring
    • troubleshooting help for trustees
    • group support for any trust threatened
    • residual trust provisions
    • list of solicitors willing to provide first advice for free
    • will and logbook registry
    • work books guiding members through the processes, of both setting up trusts and being a trustee.

Passing wealth on

The Independent Inquiry Society looked in depth a few years back at how in the UK and USA wealth is passed on and who it benefits or harms. This is not a complete report on this but a few points that the study raised.

A lot of wealth in most families is only created by property, mostly real estate, but also some other s such as company or business ownership.  This is usually the home that a person acquires and lives in. In areas where property prices are higher, over time the families become wealthier by this means, while in areas where property was cheaper families did not. In more expensive areas, salaries were higher to allow for paying property cost in peoples lifetime and in effect this was accumulated and handed forward.

As families have become smaller, the number of people sharing wealth left over has been fewer and as property prices have risen the sums greater, the effect is that the sums inherited have become far more significant. 

It was also significant that a larger percentage of people outlive those who they had expected to leave their wealth to, and had no one or useful purpose defined and the state inherited what they left. With more people choosing to stay single or not to have children this is likely to be an ever increasing number. Many of these people have not made a will and are missing the opportunity to do some good, at no cost to them in their lifetime.

Money or support given by very wealthy people to their children in their lifetime or beyond, often has a negative effect, they don't have the need to do anything, no will to succeed, and often do not value what that are given. Historical these people were sports people or had other challenges in their life, while today some may just party it away, or see shopping as their occupation. People who have no challenges to overcome or dreams that have to be worked at to fulfill, are usually unhappy, and often result to creating their own problems, addictions of various types coming high on the list. Failure to continue the funding or to fund at a ever higher level is seen negatively and attempts to put it right is often seen as a challenge to the right to live their own lives.

Friction can often result amongst those left behind, as wills often are only a distribution list and rarely give explanations. The feeling can also be that some assets have gone missing.

With more people being divorced and remarried the inheritance path is often effected, when a person dies often the majority of their assets go to their surviving spouse and on his or her death to the children of that person, leaving some of the children of the first person to die disinherited. 

While we may think of money left as a windfall, it also has a considerable effect often on the later parts of a person life, they can have an old age wealthy or struggling, depending on what inheritances have come their way and dependent on the order that various others have passed away.