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Gifts to Children – The law regarding double portions

What is a ‘double portion?’

A double portion is when you give a substantial gift to a child in life and also leave them a substantial gift in your Will.

For example;

  • You have a family of 2 children, Child A and Child B.
  • In life you give one of your children, Child A, a gift of £75,000 to buy a house.
  • In your Will you state that Child A and Child B are to receive equal shares of your substantial estate.

This would mean that Child A had received ‘double portions’ as they had been given a gift in life as well as in your Will.

The assumption against double portions

The law regarding double portions presumes unless otherwise instructed in your Will, that if you were to give a substantial gift in life, your intentions would be that this sum of would be deducted from the money received from a Will.

Case example

The case below is an example of problems that can be caused when a gift is given in life without proper instructions regarding double portions included in the Will. In this particular case the presumption of double portions was rebutted;

Case – Mr Frost

Mr Frost made a Will stating that his estate be divided between his three children; one share to each of his two daughters and the final share to his estranged son and his son’s three children.

Shortly after making his Will and suffering from cancer, Mr Frost sold his house for £350,000.

Mr Frost then moved into his first daughters house to be cared for, and as his condition worsened moved into his second daughters home to receive 24 hour care.

During this time, Mr Frost gave each of his daughters £100,000 out of the proceeds of the sale of his house.

Mr Frost died a few months later having given the gifts to his daughters but with the same Will in place.

As no additional instructions regarding the gifts were provided, this left the court to decide whether the money given in life should be brought into account as part of the daughters’ share of his estate or whether it was intended to be separate from the money given as part of his Will.

The Judge found that the gifts made in life did not have the characteristics of portions – ie they were not made with the intention of being deducted from the sums received by his daughters after his death but rather as recompense for the time and expense incurred by them in caring for their father.

The Judge decided that Mr Frost’s remaining estate should indeed be split as instructed in his Will.

Avoid issues regarding double portions

In the case of Mr Frost, if at the time of giving the gift he had updated his Will or included a Letter of Instruction to the Executors to be kept with the Will, his exact wishes would have been know.

If you want to give your children a gift in life, and protect their share in your Will, or if you would like some further information contact Pat Wright.

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