Questions Of Cash: Forgery keeps it in the family


Q. On her deathbed, my aunt told me her sister had forged her signature to cash premium bonds worth £16,350. As an executor of her estate, I'm trying to resolve this. I established that the funds were paid into her sister's account. National Savings & Investments now accepts the withdrawal signature was not a good match and said it would refund the money, plus interest, into my aunt's estate. But to do this it needs my signature, plus that of the co-executor; the son of my aunt's sister. He refuses to sign. The police refuse to take action.
CM, by email.

A. NS&I says its investigations did not prove the allegation of fraud. It referred the matter to the police, who decided to take no action. NS&I says this is a family dispute and can only be resolved through a legal action against your co-executor.

Q. My father died in September and I have probate on his will. He had an ISA with Britannia Building Society containing almost £25,000. The local office took the pass book and at the beginning of January promised a cheque. I am still waiting and I am very unhappy as I wanted to invest the money in a high-interest account for my mother. AH, by email.

A. The cheque has now been issued, including further accumulated interest.

Q. My widowed mother is a Swiss citizen by birth and a British citizen by marriage. She is about to sell her house in England and return to live in Switzerland, taking most of the proceeds of the sale (about £800,000) with her to deposit in a Swiss bank account. She has made a will in England leaving bequests to family here and abroad. She intends to make cash gifts of £20,000 each to her grandchildren here. What would be her liability to UK and Swiss inheritance tax? MD, Wrexham.

A. Leonie Kerswill, tax partner at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, says: "Your mother's liability to UK inheritance tax on death depends upon her 'domicile' at that time. Domicile generally follows that of her father (where he was born) unless it has been abandoned for a different domicile of choice. If your grandfather was born in Switzerland and your mother always intended to return to Switzerland, she will have retained her Swiss domicile. Prior to January 1974, a married woman's domicile followed that of her husband. That rule is now abolished, but if your mother married before 1974 she retains that domicile unless she acquires a different domicile of choice – by returning to Switzerland. If your mother married after 1974, she could still be deemed to be UK-domiciled for inheritance tax purposes, if she has lived here for 17 of the last 20 tax years. Even after leaving the UK, she will still be deemed domiciled in the UK for inheritance tax purposes if she was domiciled in the UK at any time in the three years immediately before any gift, whether this was given in her lifetime or on death: UK inheritance tax would be due on her worldwide estate, not just UK assets. (This is subject to any assets settled on overseas trusts prior to becoming UK domiciled, or deemed domiciled). Change of residence and domicile to Switzerland means the Swiss inheritance tax rules must be considered. No inheritance or estate tax is levied at federal level. Inheritance tax is imposed by the canton in which a person last resided. Only the canton of Schwyz does not currently levy any inheritance or estate tax. In others, inheritance tax exists but descendants are exempt in most cantons."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; cash@independent.co.uk.

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