Family fails to inherit after dispute over will and UK assets

Relatives of a wealthy physicist have failed in their bid to inherit hundreds of thousands pounds from his estate.

The physicist had several bank accounts, including one on the Isle of Man containing £250,000, and one in Jersey containing £500,000.

He made a will leaving some assets to his family but then specifying that the rest of his estate in the UK was to go to the Royal Society to set up a science scholarship programme.

The issue was whether he considered these two offshore accounts to be part of his UK assets. The family maintained that Jersey and the Isle of Man were not technically part of the UK.

The distinction was important because if the two islands were to be considered part of the UK, the assets would pass directly to the Royal Society. However, if the UK did not include the two islands, the physicist would be considered to have died intestate as far as those offshore accounts were concerned and the money in them would pass to members of the family.

The court ruled in favour of the Royal Society. The judge held that although the two islands were not technically part of the UK, it was necessary to look at all the evidence before deciding what the physicist had intended.

He had referred in his paperwork to his offshore accounts as English assets. The court was satisfied that he had intended to include them in the money for the Royal Society.

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