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Charity Succeeds in Challenging Lifetime Gift

Charities are well known for taking robust action when they consider that their interests have been impaired. In no case is this more obvious than when a charity discovers that a legacy which it has been expecting to receive under a will is at risk.

In a recent case, the nephew of an elderly woman claimed that she had promised him that her house would be his on her death. She had given him the deeds to the house and told him that 'this will be yours when I go'.

He claimed that this constituted a valid gift in anticipation of death and contested his aunt's will, which left her estate to a number of animal charities. The 'gift' was made a few months before the woman died. The claim by the charities that by the time she made the gift she no longer had mental capacity to do so was rejected by the High Court.

The charities appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court overturned the original decision, noting that for such a gift to be a valid gift in anticipation of death, it is necessary for it to be made for a specific reason and 'in contemplation of death' in the near future. In this case, there was no such intimation that the woman's death was imminent.

The bequest to the charities in her will was therefore valid.

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