We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Hunting for heirs

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.

3 comments to Hunting for heirs

  • Paul Marks

    If it is be nice to the BBC day I have something to contribute.

    A few days ago I was listenting to BBC radio and I heard Mark Tully (the veteran India correspondent) briefly speak.

    He only had a few lines, but he said that the late Prime Minister Mrs Gahdi had undermined the Indian economy (as had her father Nehru) with socialist projects.

    And that that Mrs G’s daughter in law (Sonia – now out of India for medical treatment) had forced the present government of India (although she is not even a minister) to commit themselves to Welfare State projects that India could not afford.

    And all out of a “concern for the poor” that was really POLITICAL (a matter of power) – not sincere at all.

    Of course the above will not come as a great shock to anyone here – but it was astonishing to hear it on the BBC.

    At least I was astonished.

  • RAB

    Funnily enough my 87 year old mum was going on about this programme at the weekend when we were visiting.

    “And don’t forget” she said, “we have relations in Australia we haven’t heard a word from in 80 years. They may own half of Queensland by now!”

    What is it that makes old folk so focused on money, when they have so little time left to spend it? :-)

  • Some few years ago my parents were contacted, out of the clear blue by a law firm, doing some heir-hunting. They were very cagy, at first, but they seemed to be asking about my father’s side of the family, specifically his grandmother Alice. They wanted to verify that Dad was her descendent, where he had been born, and that his aunt — the younger daughter of Grandmother Alice was deceased. It turned out that Grandmother Alice had a younger brother, and the last of his descendents, a childless widow had just died.

    We were kind of hoping that the estate didn’t land us with some leaky-roofed and crumbling country house, stuffed with ugly antique furniture that we could never get rid of because it was “family”. Turned out to be a tidy little sum of cash, the largest of the bequests in the will; but really not a whole lot. For their trouble, the law firm took a third, which IIRC was about standard.