Estate liability for leasehold service charges

We are acting in an estate dealing with a statutory Will. There is a conditional gift of a leasehold property that is occupied by the beneficiary. The Will gives no guidance as to whom should pay the service charges until the transfer can be perfected. These were paid by the deceased during his life time and the estate has continued to pay them but obviously would prefer not. Can anyone give any guidance on this please?
Frances White
Number One Legal

If you are able to access any of the papers relating to the statutory will application, these could indicate if the matter was considered, and the understanding, at that time.

Whilst any such commentary in the papers will merely inform you of the intentions and understanding, the “beneficiary” may decline to accept such view.

As a conditional gift, until the condition is satisfied, does the will give the “beneficiary” any intermediate interest in the property? If so, I would argue that the general service charges are a natural liability attaching to the occupancy.

If the “beneficiary” is given no interest pending satisfaction of the condition then, until the condition is fulfilled, I suggest their rights of occupancy, if any, are probably the same as before the testator’s death. Once the condition is fulfilled, however, the beneficiary will then be liable for the service charges from that date, regardless of when the lease is formally assigned to them.

Paul Saunders

It seems to me that an expense relating to an asset of the estate will be an administration expense until the asset is appropriated to the legatee. However I suppose it will also depend on whether the beneficiary had already acquired a right to occupy without paying the service charge themselves, during T’s lifetime. If they have no right of occupation then after the death of T, the beneficiary theoretically has no right to continue to live in the property, so could be given that right (pending appropriation in satisfaction of the gift in the Will) in return for accepting responsibility for the costs attributable to it.

Simon Leney
Cripps LLP