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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Disclaimers: introduction

In general law, a beneficiary has the right to

  • renounce a gift made to them under a Will,
  • disclaim their interest under an intestacy.

A beneficiary may disclaim by written disclaimer or by conduct and the disclaimer must apply to the whole of the benefit. Critically, the beneficiary must not have received any benefit from the property being disclaimed, although they may accept one gift in a Will and disclaim another.

A disclaimer must be unconditional and the beneficiary cannot redirect the interest that is being disclaimed. The disclaimed benefit falls back into residue and follows the devolution of the estate accordingly.

A beneficiary who has disclaimed an interest under a will may subsequently retract their disclaimer provided no-one has altered their position in reliance on the disclaimer.

Example 1

If A is left a pecuniary legacy of £70,000 they must disclaim the whole amount and cannot purport to disclaim, say, £10,000 of it.

Example 2

If A received a pecuniary legacy of £20,000, and under a separate clause, a 1/3rd share of the residue, he could effectively disclaim the £20,000 without giving up the residuary bequest, (or vice versa).

Example 3

A is entitled to 1/3rd share in the residuary estate. He receives £500 on account. If he accepts this sum he cannot then disclaim his share in the residuary estate.