Gift of Chattels & Clearance of House

Suppose a will leaves chattels to one person and the residue of the estate to another. The will is otherwise silent on the question below except that it contains the common provision that “debts, funeral and testamentary expenses” are borne by residue.

It has been suggested to me that if the legatee wants the chattels which are of value, they must also bear the cost of clearing the property - and if they are not willing to do that (perhaps because the cost of clearing the valueless chattels would exceed the value of the saleable ones) then their only option is to disclaim the whole gift. I’ve been referred to a posting on Practical Law which suggests this is the case.

This doesn’t sit comfortably with me, at all.

What is the answer in such a case, please? And is there any authority for it?

Thanks in advance.

There is quite a bit of case law on the topic of “expenses” as to who bears them.

However, generally speaking, wrt specific gifts if the PRs incur expenses maintaining/preserving the chattels such costs incurred between date of death and date of assent to the beneficiary are borne by the beneficiary and do not fall to be part of the PRs’ administration expenses. Wrt expenses incurred by the PRs re non-specific gifts these are administration expenses and thus are borne by the estate.

From a common sense perspective it would seem that the beneficiary surely given the gift of all the deceased’s chattels cannot simply pick and choose which to take leaving those unwanted behind for costs related thereto (eg payment for house clearance including these chattels) to be then borne by the estate.

May be worth a read of: Re Rooke [1933] Ch 970

Malcolm Finney

To add, that where the testator intended that the gift of chattels is a gift of all of them with no indication that the beneficiary can pick and choose then a partial disclaimer is not possible; basically, an “all or nothing” gift.

Malcolm Finney