Inheritance Disputes - Lifetime Gifts

by Daniel Muckle

As a Dispute Resolution Solicitor, I help resolve a variety of disputes, but particularly ones relating to inheritance and property, as well as advising employees on their Settlement Agreement when their employment ends.

Part of the inheritance dispute work I do is to bring, defend, and ultimately resolve, claims to set aside transactions that people make during their lifetime. These are known as lifetime gifts and are usually challenged after that person has died.   

Quite rightly, people are generally entitled to do what they want with their property during their lifetime, provided it is not illegal or unlawful, and no matter how unhappy some people may feel about it.  

However, as with Wills, there are times when further investigation is justified, and properly results in the gift being set aside, and the property being returned to the estate of the person who gifted it.

A lifetime gift may be set aside if the person who made it did not understand what they were doing, or were at a disadvantage that was exploited. It may also be set aside where there is evidence they were coerced to make the gift, or where their relationship with the receiver of the gift is such that the law presumes it resulted from influence and calls for an explanation.

More unusually, it is possible to gift property that only transfers when the person who made it dies (outside the terms of any Will they may have made), but such a ‘deathbed’ gift can also be set aside if the strict requirements were not complied with, particularly where the giver was isolated, had difficulties communicating, or was heavily reliant on others.  

The risk of a lifetime gift being successfully challenged can be minimised by using a suitably qualified professional to handle the transaction, by properly documenting it, and by having a capacity assessment when appropriate.

As always, if a dispute does arise, advice should be sought quickly on how best to resolve it. This should usually include using Alternative Dispute Resolution such as Mediation, with court being a last resort, after all other attempts to resolve the dispute have failed. 

Find out how Daniel can help you with this and more dispute resolution matters - visit profile.  


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