A shocking case was reported in the Financial Times this week of two step-sisters who were arguing over which of them should inherit their late parents’ house. The elderly couple had been found dead in their home, and it was not possible to determine who had died first.
The situation was complicated because the father had not made a Will, and his younger wife had made no provision in her Will for her step daughter. If the wife was deemed to have died first her share in the home would pass to her husband. Under the intestacy rules his estate would pass only to his daughter and not to his wife’s daughter.
If the husband died first, the wife would inherit the property and it then would pass only to her own daughter under her Will.
The Court decided that the Law of Property Act 1925 should apply which determines that the elder of the two is deemed to have died first. The wife’s daughter thus inherited the entire property to the exclusion of her step-sister.
This gordian knot would have been easier to unwind if both individuals had made Wills with express provision for both daughters.
Which of our clients have a Will in place? It is important to have an up to date Will, not only for IHT planning, but also to prevent family disputes as described above. Perhaps you can use this shocking news story as a conversation starter to prompt you to think about the division of your assets after your death.
If you want to take advantage of the 36% rate of IHT by leaving at least 10% of your net estate to charities, then your Will should include express provision for those gifts. STEP has recommended a draft clause to be used to achieve this goal.
Written by the Tax Advice Network