Be careful with Gifts to Children

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    When writing a Will it is highly possible that there will be a gift to a minor contained within it, or the possibility of a minor inheriting under a per stirpes clause. It is worth considering what actually happens with such a gift and who should act as a trustee in such circumstances.

    Money can bring out the worst in people as Claire Sproston found out after discovering her father and stepmother had stolen the inheritance she had been left in her grandfather’s Will.

    Miss Sproston’s grandfather, Benjamin, passed away when she was just 13 and had made a Will naming his six grandchildren as Beneficiaries, each receiving an equal share of his £50,000 life savings. Miss Sproston’s inheritance was placed in trust until she turned 18.

    When she reached the landmark age, Miss Sproston enquired about the money only to be told by her father, Nigel, that he changed the trust and she would have to wait until she was 21 to receive her inheritance.

    It was only after Miss Sproston consulted her cousins that she realised something was afoot and that her father would not have been able to alter the terms of the trust. She promptly went to see a solicitor who discovered the sad truth; her inheritance had gone.

    Nigel Sproston and wife Jane were found guilty of fraud at Cardiff Crown Court and jailed for ten and nine months respectively. The couple lied to solicitors and an investment company as well as forging Miss Sproston’s signature in order to get their hands on the £13,000 inheritance.

    The Telegraph reported that Nigel Sproston, who pleaded guilty to fraud, told police he “spent £2000 of it paying off debts, £5000 on a holiday for myself, gave £1500 to charity and the rest just got frittered away.”

    His wife denied the charge but was found guilty nonetheless.

    Speaking after the verdict, mother-of-one Miss Sproston, now 22, said:
    “I’m still denying to myself, really, that either of them could have done what they did. When I first found out what my father had done, he told me he did it out of anger because we were naughty as kids.”

    “My dad has never told me what he did with my money. I don’t know if I will ever get it back.”

    Although the subject is a difficult one to raise with clients there should always be a discussion about the suitability of the trustees. If there is any doubt they should consider appointing a professional trustee to manage the fund. When asked we usually appoint Kings Court Trust Corproation.

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    Matt Walkden Will Writer

    About Matt Walkden

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