Australia is now home to over 24 million people. In the last 30 years our population has grown by 30%. Finding people is an increasingly difficult proposition?
You will never get another moment than when you are taking instructions to prepare a will with a lucid client in front of you. Capitalise on that moment with these simple tips so that estate administrators are not faced with unidentified or missing beneficiaries.
OBTAIN AND INCLUDE MIDDLE NAMES
A middle name can be key, especially in cases where the first and/or surname is common. Consider a search for “Peter Johnson” versus a search for “Peter Maxwell Johnson”. The two scenarios present very different prospects in a missing beneficiary search.
INCLUDE THE CURRENT ADDRESS FOR THE BENEFICIARY
This is incredibly useful. It may seem unnecessary and cumbersome but knowledge of an address at the date of the will is usually the most critical piece of information for tracing beneficiaries at a future time.
INCLUDE THE MAIDEN NAME FOR MARRIED FEMALES
Marital status is not apparent in a name. If however, instead of Mary Hamilton, you draft the clause for a legacy to Mary Hamilton (nee Schultz), that makes a significant difference to later tracing her. Immediately we know this beneficiary was married at the time of the will with the maiden name Schultz, two vital leads.
INDICATE WHAT RELATIONSHIP THE BENEFICIARY HAS WITH THE TESTATOR
This provides a vital clue when mapping the deceased’s life and how the beneficiary fits into it. Is the beneficiary a friend, a niece or a cousin? Knowing this can provide a key indicator of an age range among other things. A niece will have a different age range from a brother for example. When we understand how they fit in, we formulate the appropriate strategy for finding them.
ALWAYS CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK SPELLING
One testator wanted to leave $20,000 to Grace Shephard. But Grace Shephard is not the same person as Grace Shepherd. Our search found an extraordinary number of people with this name or a variation of it. Beware of typographical errors to avoid a wild goose chase.
The value of adopting these measures increases with time. As the testator ages and eventually dies, so too do the beneficiaries. The prospects of establishing whether they were or were not the intended beneficiary are generally poor.
Every piece of unique information recorded in the will that differentiates your client’s beneficiary from the rest of the population increases your chances of ensuring you give full effect to the testator?s wishes.
Putting these tips into practice:
Did you know that we can help properly identify and locate beneficiaries as part of drafting a will? If your client does not know where or even who they wish to leave their estate to, then you can help them find out. We recently identified all first cousins for a solicitor drafting a will. We established who they were, whether they were living and if they were living, where they were residing. It was a worthwhile investment in the future administration of the estate.