Beware clients bearing gifts

Making Gifts of Assets: the legal considerations


Michael Culver


£80, Law Society



This book looks at the legal pitfalls of acting for clients who want to give something away, and examines how advisers can avoid negligence claims. Giving something away, usually to a close family member, would appear to be a natural and generous gesture. Yet it can be both complicated and risky.

The first question to ask is ‘why?’. Clients do not appreciate being cross-examined and may not want to explain, or find it difficult to do so, but ask we must. A significant gift of an asset for no apparent reason should be a red flag to any lawyer.

Making Gifts of Assets

Culver offers excellent advice. The pitfalls for the unwary include questions of capacity, duress and undue influence by others, and plain dishonesty.

I was unaware of a leaflet that you can obtain from the Association of Lifetime Lawyers entitled Why am I left in the waiting room? This leaflet can be given to an expectant recipient of a gift, while you grill granny to see who is calling the shots. I was also unaware that some lawyers offer an ‘execution-only service’ – that is, they do the legal work in transferring a gift, but do not ask any questions. That seems questionable professional practice, to say the least.

Culver also delves into capacity, the role of attorneys and deputies, tax, bankruptcy and many other areas. There are also ample appendices, including Law Society guidance and practice notes. This is a very helpful and readable work.


David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury