Beneficiary not wanting legacy but won't disclaim

I am dealing with an estate where we are the Executors.

A legacy of £5,000 has been left but the Beneficiary wrote to us to say he didn’t want it. We sent him a Deed of Disclaimer several times and he has just ignored all the correspondence.

The residue passes to a relative of the deceased.

I am unsure what to do since the legacy is only £5,000. This is a file I have inherited and the £5,000 has been sat in our account for many years (having earned some interest).

Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

Kalbir Badesha
Mullis & Peake

If the letter is sufficiently clear in its rejection of the legacy you should be able to rely on that- a deed is desirable but at the very worst the firm could plead that they has relied upon the terms of the letter in disposing of the money. I am assuming that you are satisfied as to the beneficiary’s identity and capability.

Partners to authorise!

Tim Gibbons

There is no specific format for a disclaimer.

Whilst it might be preferable for the individual to complete a deed of disclaimer, a letter clearly indicating the intention to disclaim is sufficient provided that it does not allude to any other formality or seeks to direct the legacy elsewhere.

The issue with a letter is that, generally, the beneficiary has not sought legal advice as to the effect of their disclaimer and there is a risk that, at a later date, they could seek to revoke the disclaimer, arguing that it was a “mistake”.

If, as stated, the beneficiary wrote to say they did not want the legacy, and has ignored all subsequent communications I would be inclined to the view that this supports the intention to disclaim and proceed on that basis, having made a clear note of the reasoning and keeping together all the communications in case there might be a subsequent change of heart by the disclaiming beneficiary.

The only caveat I would add is whether you are satisfied the individual received the follow up communications. Have you been able to verify that they continue to live at the address to which you have been writing? If they have lost capacity, or died, I would have expected that whoever was looking after their affairs/estate would have picked up on the communications and, if they wanted the legacy to be paid over, made contact.

Paul Saunders