Interpretation of "Residence"

We have the following scenario:

We are dealing with the administration of Mr S. He had a flat and two garages - separate titles for each of them. One of the garages was in the name of Mr S’s late wife’s brother’s name. He died in 1997 and in his home-made will left his sister (Mrs S) a cash gift and “all my residences and my personal chattels…”.

The flat was transferred to Mrs S but not the garage which was never dealt with. It appears to have been used by Mrs S following her brother’s death and then her husband on her death. The flat that was gifted is in a block and the garages are separate from the individual flats.

Would the interpretation of the gift of “all my residences” include the garage? I feel there must be some case law to clarify this.

Samir Hussain

I was involved in a matter several years ago, in which the deceased made a specific devise of the property in which they resided at the time of their death. The circumstances of the property in which they lived at the relevant time were much the same – a flat and garage under separate Land Registry titles.

Counsel’s advice was sought, and the question came down to whether the garage was used as a part of the residence – i.e. did the deceased use it for their car or otherwise as an extension of the flat (e.g. storing possessions which might otherwise be put up in the loft). In that instance, a neighbour was allowed to use the garage and counsel advised that it fell outside of the gift.

I suggest that, when considering if how the garage in the case now raised should be dealt with, the first step is to consider the circumstances as at the date of the brother-in-law’s death. Whilst this might not be determinative, it may well help inform the decision.

Paul Saunders