Double Portions and Lifetime Gifts: Should Children be Treated Equally on Death?

Year Published: 2020

It comes as no surprise that siblings have an expectation to be treated equally in life. This is also the case when considering leaving gifts in your Will and gifts that are given to children during your lifetime. Helen Kelly, Head of our Trusts team, discusses the lifetime gifts and the double portions rule in this blog.

Should Lifetime Gifts be Taken into Account?

It is not an obligation to leave your estate in equal shares to your children in your Will nor, in fact, to leave anything to them at all.  However, there is a tendency for adult children to expect to receive an equal share of the estate of their parent under the Will, along with an allowance to be made when distributing the estate for all gifts their siblings might have received during their parents’ lifetimes.

Suppose the parent had been helping each child with a deposit on their first property purchase. The parent might want to ensure that those children yet to be helped on the property ladder receive an equivalent payment under the Will. The parent can of course include a specific provision in their Will to cover this point for clarity.

However, what if the Will is ambiguous and left equally between the siblings. Do the siblings that have received a lifetime gift from their parent receive both the lifetime gift and an equal share of their parent’s estate? The double portions rule may be able to assist in this situation.

What Is the ‘Double Portions’ Rule?

The law states that “any gift by a parent to establish a children in life is assumed to be on account of the child’s share of their parent’s estate on death”. This lifetime gift or ‘portion’ is brought into account when distributing the estate.

The child that received the lifetime gift should produce evidence that the gift was not intended to be on account of a portion of their entitlement on their parent’s death. In some circumstances, such payments are not considered as portions and instead can be seen as an additional gift.

Avoid Confusion – Revise Your Will

If you are considering making substantial lifetime gifts, it is advisable to review your Will with your solicitor to consider the extent to which the gift is to be regarded as ‘on account’ of the gift under the Will, and/or whether the Will needs to be changed to reflect it. Also, it is important to consider leaving a statement with your Will setting out your intentions for the gift, i.e. is it to be, instead of or as well as any gift made to the same child in your Will?  Setting out the position clearly will save potential arguments that can be costly.

If you would like further advice on lifetime gifts, or more information about ‘double portions’, please contact Helen Kelly on 0161 475 7685 or email [email protected].

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