A LAW firm has urged people who are making their will to be more clearer about their intentions.

Latimer Hinks, based in Darlington, says a recent case highlights the confusion which can arise when lifetime gifts are given to the same people who are due to benefit under a will.

Bosses at the company have used the example of Richard Frost, who made a will that divided his estate into thirds, with daughters Linda and Susan each receiving a third, and the final part left to his son and grandchildren.

Soon after making the will, Mr Frost sold his house for £350,000 and moved in with his daughter Linda.

Weeks later, knowing he was dying of cancer, he made cash gifts of £100,000 each to Linda and Susan.

When Mr Frost died in March 2008, his estate included the remaining £137,000 from the sale of his house.

However, confusion then arose over whether Mr Frost had intended the gifts to be advance payments to Linda and Susan for their shares set out in the will, and the question was raised whether he wanted them to inherit a third of the remaining £137,000 in addition to the £100,000 they had already received.

Law states that when a parent leaves a substantial share of his or her estate in his or her will to children and then gives a large life-time gift to one of those children, the gift will usually be treated as part of the child’s inheritance.

However in this case, the judge decided Mr Frost had intended the payments in addition to the children’s share under the will, and therefore ordered that Linda and Susan should each receive a third of the remaining £137,000.

Natalie Palmer, solicitor and partner at Latimer Hinks, and a specialist in Wills Probate and Trusts, said: “Parents wanting to benefit children before they die need to consider the consequences, and be clear and open about their intentions if they want to avoid family fights and court battles.

“Nobody will ever know for certain what Mr Frost intended.

“He may have assumed that it was obvious that the gifts to his daughters should be brought into account in distributing his estate equally, but it is just as likely that he never gave the issue a moment’s thought.”

“What is certain is that he left a legacy of ill will and division among his family by not stating his intentions.

“If he had taken advice and made a properly informed decision, his family might have found it easier to accept the outcome.”