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Woman wins dispute with charity over her mother's will

Posted: 29th January 2015   In: Wills, Trusts and Probate

A woman has won a legal dispute with a charity over the meaning of her mother’s will. It means she will inherit an extra £325,000.

The case involved a woman who made a will leaving her daughter all the tax-free money from her estate. The remainder was to go to the Woodland Trust charity.

When the woman died, her estate was valued at £680,805. This meant her daughter would inherit £325,000 – the full allowance available in the nil-rate band for inheritance tax purposes. The charity would receive the rest.

However, the daughter and the executors of the will argued that the nil-rate band should be doubled because the woman’s husband had died before her and so she was entitled to add his nil-rate band allowance to hers.

This would have the effect of doubling the allowance, and therefore the daughter’s inheritance, to £650,000. It would also reduce the amount going to charity to only £30,805.

The charity argued that the woman had written in her will that her daughter should receive the tax free part of the estate available “at the time of my death”. This suggested that she did not intend the daughter’s share to be enhanced by an increase to the nil-rate band made after her death.

The judge found in favour of the daughter and the trustees. He said that the natural meaning of the will meant that the woman wanted her daughter to inherit as much of the estate as possible without incurring tax liabilities. Only the money that would be subject to inheritance tax was to go to the charity.

That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Please contact Ben Rossor about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.