Snigger

The sons of an English expat who left his £389,000 fortune to the British National Party in his will are battling in the High Court to claim the money.

When Northumbria-born Joseph Robson died in Alicante at the age of 81 in March 2010, he bequeathed his entire estate outside Spain – worth £389,000- to the British National Party, leaving his two sons, Jeremy and Simon, with £135 between them.

After their father’s death, Mr Robson’s sons launched a legal challenge to his will, insisting that their father was barred from giving his money to a British political party, because he had not been a registered UK voter in the five years before his death.

20 comments on “Snigger

  1. No. His estate in Spain would have been distributed according to Spanish inheritance law. But inheritance is one of those things where domicile matters. So his non-Spanish estate would have been distributed according to the law of his domicile, the UK, and thus according to his will.

  2. I’m sure there must be some obvious case law as to what happens when a bequest is illegal … Except most of the stuff on a quick google appears to be about bequests for masses.

  3. I’ve never understood why it is even possible to challenge a will. Nobody has a right to inherit anything, however disappointing it may be if you don’t. Inheritance is a windfall you just may or may not experience. If you don’t- move on, bad luck old chap, and all that.

  4. @Ian, it’s not done that way in many civil-law jurisdictions. No idea about Spain but it’s probably similar to Germany – where certain first-degree relatives cannot be (entirely) disinherited. Rather, if they are they can sue for a legally-defined portion to which they are entitled. Whether they choose to do so (e.g. children on the first parental death might let the whole estate pass to the surviving spouse despite being entitled to some portion) is another matter.

  5. @Tim, why would one, having left the UK, not do everything possible to lose ones domicile at the earliest opportunity? I don’t think any other country has this concept. I managed, after several years of trying, to get HMRC to write me a letter confirming that I had left permanently and severed all my ties with the country, on pain of various bad stuff if I ever came back and didn’t tell them.

    Suffice to say I no longer get pestered by them.

  6. Hadn’t noticed the “estate outside Spain” in the OP so Tim’s no doubt correct on domicile. Or maybe. Rajoy’s bunch of leeches are enthusiastically trying to find ways of getting their teeth into foreigners’ external money, so nothing would surprise me. But what would I know? I’m a French resident.

    @Ian
    It’s trying to answer the same problem the continental systems answer with inheritance laws. There’s a lot of cases where the children do have a legitimate claim on the estate. Family farms, businesses etc. And the extended family where generations swap around responsibilities & liabilities over time is still not uncommon.
    So Dad willing the lot to the meals on wheels lady with the big norks might not be the fairest outcome.

  7. @Ian, well, I suppose one might challenge a will if there’s any murkiness over whether the thing being bequeathed actually belonged to the person; eg as BIS points out, for a family business (much as in a divorce case) one might realistically and fairly claim that having put in 20 years work on an understanding of eventual inheritance one was entitled to a share. I mean, fair enough, there is an issue there, and you’d all be better off signing a contract from the outset saying “I will only be working for you because I expect to inherit a share when you cark it” but then by the same token we’d all be a lot clearer if we signed contracts at the time of marriage setting out exactly what belongs to whom should the marriage fail; nevertheless, most people don’t.

    Also, the fact that people who die are often old and often suffer from mental problems ranging from confusion to full-on dementia means that there could be some fast work pulled at the last moment, hence the “being of sound mind” requirements. If you reckon you can prove they weren’t of sound mind then I reckon there’s a case.

    Finally, wills can be superceded by other wills, which then mysteriously disappear. Again, that might be cause for a heartly legal battle.

    Whichever way, it’s nearly always the lawyers that win, so I suppose in the final analysis you’re right; there’s no point challenging them.

  8. @sam, and such pre-marital contracts are often not valid anyway.

    Incidentally, in German law a contract for a future bequest is also invalid. The intention of that is to stop teenagers selling the right to their eventual inheritance, but I guess it also stops inter-family contracts on inheritance.

  9. The age is wrong if he was “Northumbria born” – 1081 is more plausible than 81 since Northumbria ceased to be an independent kingdom 1059 years ago.

  10. It seems to me that the BNP is having a laugh here – the law says that prohibited donations must be returned to the donor or their agent. But the BNP’s learned friends must have found a counterargument.

    I wonder what the BNP intends to do with the money if allowed to keep it. One thing the charitable trust it’s redirected the money to can’t do with it is give it to the BNP.

  11. The recipient’s learned friends don’t necessarily have a counter-argument, the court might well hear them out and call it for bollocks. People make all manner of daft arguments in courtrooms, the civil courts are after all the only places where, believe it or not, even more bare-faced lies and tendentious bullshit argument is spoken than the House of Commons.

    If the recipients cannot legally accept the gift then it’s up to the court to determine where the money goes, precedent would suggest the next of kin. If the recipients cannot legally receive the gift in the first place, it is hard to see how they can accept the gift then give it to someone else.

    If the deceased’s testament cannot be legally enforced that is his problem, and he should have thought of it earlier.

  12. “”His solicitor should have told him that he needed to be on the register,” Mr Harrington said.”

    Possibly. So sue the solicitor. Legal costs come from the BNP and/or the solicitor’s insurers, rather from the estate, depending who wins. Which may explain why the BNP is challenging the will rather than suing the solicitor.

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