Lady Killearn’s estate and the inheritance causing media hysteria

Posted on: December 12th, 2017

The tabloid press always loves a good inheritance story especially when it involves a celebrity or high society.

The latest “story” in The Sun relates to Lady Jacqueline Killearn who died leaving her £626,000 estate to her “toyboy” lover from the 1970s and nothing to her children. The article reports in the headline that a family friend described it as “appalling” and no doubt that the beneficiary “will be delighted”.

Whilst this all sounds very exciting the news report is light on detail, but there are clues to the family history.

It is reported that Lady Killearn had left this comment “I have not made provision for my daughters… as I have made adequate provision for them in their lifetime”. This statement was probably set out in a letter of wishes which people often leave with a will. Such statements are not binding, but can help to explain the otherwise apparently bare terms in a will. The statement here may allude to lifetime gifts being given which, for the wealthy, can be a tax efficient way of giving away an estate to avoid inheritance tax provided the donor survives 7 years to obtain the tax full relief.

Her now married “toyboy” was described by Lady Killearn as her “partner” and is reported to own his own castle. His bequest is said to be “in thanks for his great help during my lifetime”. Such bequests reflecting lifetime loyalty are not that unusual provided no undue influence comes to light. That is suggested in the report and it remains to be seen if a challenge is raised.

It may surprise many that in this country you are in fact free to dispose of your estate as you see fit, but the report does highlight the benefit of good lifetime estate / tax planning and keeping a will regularly updated, to take into account any changes that the deceased would in fact want to take into account.

Chris Gambs is an Associate Solicitor in the Inheritance and Wills Disputes team at Coffin Mew.