You and the Law – 1st February 2011

Delivering bad news

A postman allegedly had an accident on my property nearly two years ago.  He says he tripped on the flagstones which form a small step up from my neighbour’s property.  I am not insured and wasn’t informed about this until nearly 12 months after it happened.  If they think it isn’t safe shouldn’t they have informed me sooner?  BB

The postman and his advisers have no duty to warn you about hazards on your premises.  But now you are aware of a potential problem you should take measures to ensure there are no further accidents.  Most people have occupiers liability cover under their house contents insurance, but if you are not insured you need legal advice urgently to see whether this claim against you has any chance of success.  If the flagstone is raised by more than an inch you may have to compensate the postman.

Trust selection

I have four small properties to leave to my son.  Would a trust of some kind be a protection against inheritance tax.  Would it mean that he would not be forced to sell if he were claiming any state benefit?  Who would have to serve on the trust, and what else is involved?  DJ

This is a complicated area and you should discuss what you have in mind in detail with a solicitor specialising in Trusts and financial planning.  A Discretionary Trust may be the answer as regards the question of state benefits but transfers of capital to a Discretionary Trust can attract an inheritance tax charge at half the death rate currently 20 per cent where the value exceeds the nil rate band.  And the trust may be subject to further periodic charges to inheritance tax every 10 years. 

While Discretionary Trusts can be invaluable in planning to mitigate liability for tax, bear in mind that a beneficiary under a Discretionary Trust has no enforceable right to any part of the property or its income.

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