The family of the Duke of Westminster deserves our sincere condolences for his untimely and sudden death (Obituary, 11 August). My parents died some years ago. They worked throughout their lives as general practitioners for the NHS. When they died they left their estate, the house they lived in, to my siblings and myself in equal shares. The house was sold at a sum slightly more than the inheritance tax threshold of the time; we paid 40% tax on the excess and divided the balance, after probate, between my brothers, sister and myself. We were content with our inheritance.
The duke’s estate has been widely reported as about £9bn: 40% of that could make a very useful contribution to the NHS, to schools, to social services. And yet, again widely reported, it is said that his heirs will inherit it all. While I have no doubt the tax arrangements are legal, they cannot be right or fair.
As long as ordinary individuals and families continue to pay their taxes, how can the rich not – and yet remain honoured by titles, befriended by royalty and applauded for their “generosity”?
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
• Simon Hattenstone wonders whether the “new meritocracy” is a sham, due to the scale of inequality in Britain today (G2, 11 August). The answer was provided on page 3 of the main paper, where you report that Hugh Grosvenor, the seventh Duke of Westminster, has just inherited £9bn at the age of 25 – taking precedence over his older sisters.
It’s really quite amazing. They’ve managed to grasp that no inheritance tax will be paid. Excellent. So they must have seen the reason for this. That Gerald didn’t in fact own the assets, he was the beneficiary of some trusts. Hugh now becomes the major beneficiary of those same trusts. The reason there is no inheritance tax is because there is no inheritance.