Latest Cases - November 2012

1st November 2012

Good afternoon, friends,

In this issue of Punters’ Verdict

  • Can your bookie do a ‘Prince Charles’ on you?
  • I don’t want to get all morbid on you. But…
  • What happens to betting accounts when you die?
  • Engage in a bit of digital estate planning…

Can your bookie do a ‘Prince Charles’ on you?

It can’t be much fun being Prince Charles.

Attending all those dull and worthy formal ceremonies can’t be easy. All that glad-handing, all that smiling and small-talk and all that public obsequiousness to endure. It must grate on the old nerves.

Then the poor soul has to dress up as an Air Commodore or a Colonel-in-Chief or an Admiral whenever protocol demands – a chest full of heavy gongs to tote no matter which costume the valet helps him on with.

It must be embarrassing – the State and ceremonial equivalent of John Terry’s exploits in the celebratory aftermath of last season’s European Cup Final. There he is on all the photos – rigged out in full club colours, shin pads, sweat bands and boots – brandishing the cup, reveling in the glory and pumping his fist despite not having kicked a ball.

And – probably the hardest job of all – Prince Charles has to plaster on the fake rictus grin at a moment’s notice and give the impression that he’s sincerely engaged with and absorbed in whatever circumstances, scenarios, activities or events he’s confronted with.

Lesser men might snap under the unyielding burden. But there are compensations – not least of them money. And plenty of it. The old smackeroos have a habit of falling rather easily into the future King’s clutches. He’s like a powerful magnet for lost or forgotten cash that doesn’t have a home.

You might have read in the papers just recently how he has earned more than £1 million in the last 6 years from people who die without a will. Under constitutional law dating back to medieval times, the Prince of Wales is entitled to the estates of people who die without a will in Cornwall. This year alone the law has netted his estate £552,000. Nice work if you can get it, your Highness. 

Trouble is most of us can’t. But there is another privileged group of people who often profit from death – and not just the deaths of folk in deepest and darkest Cornwall. I’m talking about people who might profit from YOUR death – unless you take some sensible precautions. I’m talking about your bookmakers.

I don’t want to get all morbid on you. But…

Now I don’t want to get all morbid on you. I don’t want you lying awake in the dark hours before dawn thinking about Death and when he might come a knocking on your door. But we must speak of this thing. He will get to each one of us. We know not when. But he is on his way – of that much we can be certain. And it is important to be prepared for his arrival.

Are you prepared? Have you taken the necessary precautions?

If you were to go down this very evening - clutching your chest and gasping vainly for precious air (forgive these black flourishes – I’m in an expansive mood) – would your loved ones be the people to benefit from the credit balances in your various betting and gaming accounts? Or would the money you have deposited and/or won simply fall into the hands of the greedy bookie?

I thought so. You’re just like me. None of my loved ones know which bookmakers I bet with. They have no idea of account numbers and passwords. They don’t have the first clue which bookmakers I’m in credit with.

If a grand piano fell out of the sky and splattered me across the pavement this afternoon then the various balances in my betting accounts would stay with the bookie.

My loved ones wouldn’t know where to look for my betting funds. They wouldn’t even know if there was anything worth looking for in the first place. Chances are they wouldn’t even be thinking about betting accounts. And at some point in the indeterminate future what was my money would become the bookmaker’s property.

Oh yes. I can hear the howls of outrage. And I agree – it’s a disgraceful state of affairs. But it happens to be true. Unless you take steps to ensure your loved ones will be informed about your betting accounts – and any funds sitting in them - in the event of your demise then the chances are they won’t be. The funds will just sit in your dormant account until sufficient time has elapsed for the bookie to do a ‘Prince Charles’ and appropriate the funds – one way or another.

What happens to betting accounts when you die?

Take your Betfair account, for example. What happens to your account balance if you suddenly kick the bucket?

Well, in the first instance nothing will happen. For the first 12 months – during which time you obviously won’t be using your account – the balance just sits there waiting (vainly in this instance) for you to start using it again.

If you don’t use the account for 12 months and your next of kin don’t come forward to claim the balance as part of your estate then Betfair will start to charge a monthly inactivity fee – slowly draining your entire balance.

If you were to start using the account again then these fees may be reinstated but – given that you are dead – that won’t be happening and your balance will inevitably disappear over time.

It will be a similar story with your other betting and gaming accounts. They will lie dormant waiting for you to return. But – when you don’t – the funds will, at some point, disappear into the ether.

Betting firms will expend a lot of energy telling you that they never appropriate funds in dormant accounts or that the funds are distributed to charity, regulatory bodies or the State. But the bottom line is that when your loved ones don’t know where to look they don’t get access to funds that are rightfully theirs.

Engage in a bit of digital estate planning….

The smart move is to make sure your next of kin know exactly where to look for betting and gaming credit balances in the event of your death – and know how to get access to the accounts.

The straightforward way of going about it is to provide them with a list of accounts and passwords – just in case. Or you could provide the relevant details as an addendum to your will. 

But if you don’t want to disclose such details right now – for whatever reason – there’s an alternative option available to you. You can use a service like My Digital Executor. They ensure that your accounts and assets are handled in accordance with your wishes in the event of your death. And you never have to give them your account passwords – so you’re not jeopardizing security.

You simply fill in a form – which you can maintain and update – where you outline details of your various accounts (betting and/or other digital accounts) and express your wishes. They refer you to a solicitor who will help ensure those wishes are legally honoured if and when the time comes.

The My Digital Executor service is just one option. There are other services out there that perform a similar function. It’s just something to bear in mind. Particularly – if you’re like a lot of punters – and you have hundreds and maybe thousands of pounds dotted about in accounts with multiple bookmakers.

Bookmakers already make enough money. You don’t want to give them additional opportunities to live like Prince Charles for want of a bit of digital estate planning.

I’ll be back with the Verdict next week.

The Judge

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