The Court of Appeal has overturned a controversial High Court decision regarding a will which was unclearly worded.
The deceased had left his property, valued at £169,000, to his lifelong friends. He also left a pecuniary legacy to his brother and his friends. His will stated that the pecuniary legacies were to be gifts, valued at the maximum amount that would not incur Inheritance Tax (IHT). The RSPCA was to receive whatever was left after these distributions had been made.
The dispute arose because the man’s will stated that tax was to be paid out of the residue. The RSPCA submitted that this meant that the estate should not pay IHT and that the house was included as part of the IHT ‘nil rate band’. However, the High Court judge ruled that the relevant clause in the will meant that the pecuniary legacies should amount to the nil rate band in force at the time of death, namely £300,000. He held that tax was payable on the value of the house. This meant that the RSPCA stood to receive substantially less than it would have done had its own interpretation of the will been held to be correct.
The RSPCA appealed this decision and the Court of Appeal agreed with the charity's argument that its interpretation reflected the clear intention of the man’s will.
Click here for advice on leaving money to charity in your will.