Why baring all may be best for the kids

Elderly parents wanting to benefit children or friends before they die need to consider the consequences, and be clear and open about their intentions if they want to avoid family fights and court battles.

A recent case highlighting this problem revolved around the will made by Richard Frost in September 2007, when he set out that he wanted to leave a third of his estate to each of his daughters, Linda and Susan, and a third to his son and his grandchildren.

Shortly afterwards he moved in with his daughter Susan and sold his house for £350,000.  Then, knowing that he was dying of bowel cancer, he made gifts of £100,000 to each of his daughters out of the proceeds of his house sale. He died a few months later in March 2008 and, as a result of the gifts made during his lifetime, his estate was worth only £135,000.

The executor of his will, Mr Kloosman, did not know whether Mr Frost intended the gifts to the daughters to be treated as payments on account of the gifts under the will and so he asked the Courts to decide the matter.

The judge was persuaded that Mr Frost made the gifts to the daughters to show his gratitude to them for looking after him and to compensate them for the expense incurred in doing so, and she ordered that the estate should be distributed as set out in the will without regard to the lifetime gifts.

Said wills and trusts expert Kalpa Prajapati, of Greenwich-based solicitors Grant Saw : “No one will ever know for certain what Mr Frost intended.  He may have assumed that it was obvious that the gifts to his daughters should be brought into account in distributing his estate equally, but it is just as likely that that he never gave the issue a moment’s thought.

“What is certain is that he left a legacy of ill will and division amongst his family by not stating his intentions.  If he had taken advice and made a properly informed decision, his family might have found it easier to accept the outcome.”

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.