Gift of Books to Indian Universities

I would welcome the views of the members as to how I should advise the Executors to proceed in the following circumstances.

The deceased died in July 2016 and owned a large collection of academic books.

By his Will he leaves certain of these books to four Indian universities and the Will contains the usual provision enabling the costs of transportation of the books to India to be met from his residuary estate.

The Executors are themselves retired academics and, having identified the relevant books, have had these placed in storage. Storage charges are obviously accruing.

The shippers have estimated that the delivery of the books to Delhi will cost approximately £4,000. Unfortunately, they cannot make the delivery to Delhi until such time as someone has been appointed in Delhi to receive the books and who can then make arrangements for the distribution of the books to the four universities concerned.

The value of the books is approximately £500. Two of the universities concerned have failed to reply to the Executors and the response of the other two is described as being “lukewarm”.

Appointing an agent in India to receive and then distribute books is, I assume, likely to cost a few thousand pounds. There is no guarantee that the nominated universities will actually accept the books.

The residuary beneficiaries, both relatives of the deceased, will naturally be concerned about the costs which will be incurred in trying to give effect to the deceased’s wishes.

I am tending to the view that the Executors should dispose of the books within the UK, against an indemnity from the residuary beneficiaries to deal with any potential claims from the Indian universities as a result of the non-delivery of the books.

Before I recommend this course of action, do members have any suggestions on what ought to be done in the circumstances?

Mark Diomede
Mowll & Mowll

Are you satisfied that the 2 universities from which you are awaiting a response (i) still exist, and (ii) that you have the right contact details?

As the other universities are “lukewarm”, I wonder if they would rather have the proceeds of a sale of the books than the books themselves? Perhaps you might offer to arrange for the books to be sold and the proceeds remitted.

As a sweetener, the residuary beneficiaries might want to share the “saving” arising from not having to ship out the books, provided that the universities agree to the proposal within a defined time scale. This might help focus minds.

If this does not enable the situation to be resolved, although nit ideal, the suggested fall-back position might need to be adopted.

Paul Saunders

I note that deceased appears to have been part of the academic community, the Executors are retired academics and the bequest is to Indian universities. I also assume, given that the value of the books is only £500, that they do not take up an enormous amount of space and that although clearly books weigh a lot, a crane is not required to carry them.

Why do the executors not email their contacts in the Indian academic community and identify working academics in the relevant discipline at the relevant universities and get them to arrange for someone to take them back with them next time they or one of their colleagues comes to the UK for a conference. That way they would be dealing with people who know how valuable/ important these books really are, rather than university administrators who probably have no idea.

Commercially this situation makes no sense but maybe commercial criteria are the wrong criteria to apply. If you can hook into the academic network this thing can probably be sorted out informally a lot quicker and a lot more cheaply. The Executors are probably better placed to do this than you are. In the meantime maybe the Executors can hold them in their homes until they can be collected.

If the value of the books is only £500 the cost of your time on this issue is likely to be more than the value of the books. Given that starting point, I would suggest a more informal and pragmatic approach to the issue. If the books were worth £500,000 clearly a much more formal approach would be required but in fact they are only worth £500 and that limits the level of expense that is justifiable.

Ian McKeever

Ian McKeever & Co Consulting Actuaries