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The curious case of the Bishop and the Chinese vase

Elizabeth Field investigates the importance of up-to-date valuations of personal chattels

13 March 2012

People often like to make gifts of their personal items for sentimental, rather than value, reasons. However, unexpected tax consequences can arise – particularly where the item’s true value is not appreciated at the time the gift is made.

A recent example of this was the tale of the Bishop of Grimsby and the Chinese vase. The vase was owned by Mrs Robertson Rodger, had been passed down several generations of her family and Mrs Rodger had apparently assured her niece, Jennifer Watson, that she would inherit it. However, instead of including a specific legacy of the vase, Mrs Rodger’s will contained a flexible gift of chattels with a non-binding side letter requesting her executors (among whom was the Bishop of Grimsby) to pass the vase to Jennifer Watson free of inheritance tax (IHT).

True worth

When Mrs Rodger died in March 2011, the valuer acting f...

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