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Perdoni v Curati appeal reignites domicile debate

The sister of a wealthy businessman has this week (15 October 2012) taken her claim to a stake in his £4m fortune to the Court of Appeal in a bid to overturn the High Court’s decision of last year.

17 October 2012

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Carmen Curati is battling with her niece and nephew, Sylvana and Roberto Perdoni, over the validity of two wills left by her late brother, successful restauranteur Piero Curati, who died in 2007.

Piero Curati made two wills: one in 1980 in England, where he lived; and a second in 1994 in Italy, the country of his birth. The dispute centres around whether the latter will revokes the earlier version.

Mr Justice Sales, sitting at the High Court in December 2011, ruled that UK law applied. This means that, under the terms of the 1980 will, Curati’s niece and nephew will inherit all of his wealth in England, valued at around £1.8m after tax.

However, if the later Italian will replaces the earlier, Carmen Curati will inherit all of her brother’s global assets.

At the centre of the case is the issue of domicile. Carmen Curati’s asserts that her brother never thought of himself as British, despite moving to the country in the 1950s. She argued that he continued to speak fluently the native dialect of Carpaneto and had intended for his Italian will to revoke his English one.

However, this week Curati’s niece disputed that claim. “Piero often spoke of his home being wherever my aunt was. My aunt always viewed England as her home,” Sylvana Perdoni told the Court of Appeal.

“Piero never spoke of wanting to live in Italy. I know from what he said that Piero considered himself British.”

She also told the court about Piero Curati’s character. “Throughout my life Piero always behaved like a big spoilt kid. If he didn’t get his way he would sulk terribly and his mood would darken so much it was almost unbearable.

“I recall one evening he was sulking about something. He grabbed the small dog that used to come to the kitchen step of the family holiday villa in Italy for scraps,” she said.

“I remember seeing him pick up the dog, throwing it into a black bin liner then throwing it into the boot of his car.

“Then with full knowledge that my mother, aunt, Roberto and I were watching horrified from the balcony, he drove down the drive to the end of the twisting road and he threw the bag over the cliff edge.”

The court has reserved its judgment to be given at a later date.

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Tax & Wealth structuring Wills, Trusts & Probate