23 March 2018
This morning the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the RSPCA’s appeal that its benefactor, the late George Mason, intended his estate to pass free of inheritance tax.
Paul Hewitt, who led Withers’ team acting for the RSPCA, said ‘The RSPCA has always been committed to honouring Mr Mason’s Will. Today’s decision reflects his true intentions.
‘We believe it is clear that he wanted to benefit his friends, his brother and the charity and avoid anyone paying inheritance tax. His friends and brother still receive legacies totalling £300,000.’
The Court of Appeal unanimously agreed. Lord Justice Patten said ‘The Will does not disclose a misunderstanding of inheritance tax nor does it permit the clause to be construed as [the barrister for the friends and brother] contends.’ They wanted to increase the value of their legacies from £300,000 to £469,000, which would have triggered an inheritance tax liability of £112,000 (payable out of the RSPCA’s share).
The RSPCA tried to resolve this matter including repeated offers of face-to-face meetings but these offers were refused and Lord Justice Neuberger described the trial judge’s costs order against RSPCA as ‘simply wrong in principle’.
In a statement to the press, Mark Watts, the RSPCA’s chief executive said “The RSPCA will continue to respect the wishes of its benefactors. It will not lightly surrender legacies left in good faith and in the belief that the funds will be used to combat cruelty to animals.
“We remain extremely grateful to Mr Mason for his generosity in remembering our work for animals which has continued since 1824.”