We tend not be very nice about the BBC around here. It is a state-created broadcaster that forces everyone to pay for it, etc. (Boo, hiss, throw rotten tomatoes, etc). But it does occasionally put up programmes of some value. In view of the popularity of shows in which the rich, famous or infamous track down their ancestors, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?”, there is a show that runs in the dead-zone of daytime TV, called Heir Hunters. It shows how various financial/legal professionals earn a living by trying to track down people who could inherit money from the deceased but who don’t know about it because there was no will signed. The actual commission or fee that these people charge for this work is not disclosed but the general effect of what these businesses are doing is positive, in my view. The reason for my saying that is that at present, if a deceased person’s estate has not be carved up in a will, then it is grabbed by the state.
A friend of mine who works in this area reckons that in his own, modest way, he is keeping private wealth out of the hands of the state by making sure that those who could inherit the money actually do so. Anyway, the popularity of the show suggests that inheritance of wealth is something that Brits of many backgrounds are comfortable with. Most of the people highlighted in the programme are not exactly the Duke of Westminster type.
The popularity of this sort of programme also, of course, speaks of the enduring interest people have in history, family traditions and roots. Like certain other passions and enthusiasms, it appears to be ineradicable, and woe betide the politician who attacks it, however indirectly, via taxes.