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Warning over ‘deathbed gifts’

A legal expert is warning anyone who may have concerns over whether a ‘deathbed gift’ is valid to seek expert advice.

A deathbed gift is a decision taken by someone as they near the end of life, that gifts part of an estate to another party but is not written into a formal Will.

Stephanie Kerr, a Litigation expert, warns that a recent High Court case has thrown the spotlight on such gifts and how it is possible for parties to take advantage of them.

In the case, a pensioner claimed he had been given his sister’s £900,000 property before her death, even though this had not been mentioned to any third party and there was no proof or evidence of the gift.

In certain instances, deathbed gifts can indeed be valid, if certain conditions are met, but in the recent high profile case the court rejected the claim that such a gift had occurred.

Stephanie Kerr added: “Deathbed gifts are fairly unusual, and can be valid if a few conditions are met: the donor must contemplate their impending death, the gift must take place after death and can be revoked until that point, and the donor hands over the assets such as title deeds and keys in advance.

“In this case, none of these conditions were met, and the court criticised the claimant for displaying a ‘shameless sense of entitlement’ and ‘riding roughshod’ over the rights of other family members.  The claimant was also required to pay a sum in relation to rent to the Estate which he had received from renting out the property.

“This shows the importance of seeking legal advice if you believe a deathbed gift may not be valid, or if you have concerns that an executor is improperly benefiting from an estate.”

For further information on ‘deathbed gifts’, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Stephanie Kerr, Disputes & Litigation Solicitor