Spinster leaves pounds 7m headache

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A GENEALOGIST has been appointed to find relatives of a Scottish spinster who died shortly before her 100th birthday leaving pounds 7m, but no will.

Helen Lowe, from Edinburgh, had relatives in the UK, Canada, Australia and South Africa, according to Andrew Lowe, her second cousin and executor. A number of beneficiaries have been unearthed, but there are thought to be more to come.

"There could be dozens and we have to establish this before we can make any move. It is taking a lot of time and effort," said Mr Lowe, who cannot understand why the organised Miss Lowe failed to draw up a will.

"There is a genealogist piecing together the family tree and finding people who we have never even heard of. We think it will be a long time before this is disentangled," he said.

Miss Lowe became one of the first women chartered accountants in Scotland and started her own business in 1928.

Mr Lowe, who is in his seventies, said he knew she had been wealthy but was staggered to learn just how big her fortune was. He disputed reports that she led a miserly existence without central heating and went about in an old coat.

"She was as bright as a button and continued to work right up until she died in November last year. She wasn't frugal so much as canny," he added Miss Lowe never married after losing a sweetheart in the First World War. She threw a lot of energy into charity work said Mr Lowe, especially for the Scottish Women's Rural Institute, Help the Aged and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

However, Mr Lowe did not think the charities would get any money. He believed about half would go to the tax man, with the rest divided among beneficiaries.