According to today’s Daily Mail, former nurse Joan Edwards used the words “I Bequest all my estate both real and personal to… whichever Government is in office at the date of my death for the Government in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit” in her Will and as a result it appears her executors made the decision to share £520k between Tories and the Lib Dems. The executors, in their absolute discretion, took it to mean that it should go to ‘whichever party’ was in power. One commentator on the BBC this morning pointed out that the “loot” should perhaps have gone to the NHS, where Ms Edwards had worked most of her life and not a political party. Ironically Ms Edwards expressed no real interest in politics during her lifetime and when she made her Will ,Labour, following a landslide victory had just won a second term in power.
It’s not unheard of to leave money to the Government but it has been often with the express intention that it used to pay off the national debt. In 2010-11 the Government received over £1million as a gift to the nation, much of it through bequests in Wills. The Daily mail questioned how a gift intended for the public good from an ‘intelligent’, church-going woman with ‘little interest in politics’ had ended up in their coffers in the first place. Gift clauses to political parties are usually more defined. Given that a Will and the value of an estate become part of the public domain once a Grant of Probate has been issued how could any government believe that the public would take a supportive view of their actions on this issue. How are gifts to political parties for the public good?
We are often asked to write Wills by clients who seem in hurry to make a Will and we ask “why now?” A very common response is “No major reason but I just don’t want the Government to get it”. When you explain that it is not as automatic as they think that the Government will get they are often surprised but such is the strongly held view of many that if they don’t make a Will it will go to ether the Treasury’s coffers.
What is the moral of the story?
Primarily in making your Will you need to make your intentions very clear. Wills and probate Solicitors should make detailed notes of their discussions so that if a dispute arises then they can rely on their notes to guide the executors. What can I say, choose your executors wisely as they will be the persons who ultimately make the decisions when it comes to distribution. If you want the Government to benefit from your Will you need to specify the intended purpose of the gift.
So if you don’t want the government to get it make sure you have a Will that clearly states who gets what. If you would like to discuss making a Will or would like to review your existing Will then contact Eilish Adamson 020 8956 2655 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.