A Cambridgeshire family has successfully changed the inheritance rules of their family trust which conveyed a life interest in their property to future generations.
The property Trumpington Hall which is set on a 3,200 acre estate in Cambridgeshire, has been in the Pemberton family for the past 300 years.
Under the terms of the trust, the spouse of a family member would have a life interest in the property on the death of their partner. However, the term ‘spouse’ would not have included civil partners or spouses in a same sex marriage.
The property is currently occupied by Richard Pemberton, his wife Helen and their three children. The family have successfully petitioned to the High Court for an extension of the definition of the word spouse, with regards to their inheritance rights over the property, to include any civil partner or spouse in a same sex marriage. Lawyers acting for the Pemberton family told the Judge that the changes would bring “a huge moral benefit” to future generations.
The Judge noted that the whole family agreed the changes to be in the best interest of both their immediate family and the wider Pemberton family. Currently, the trust granted the beneficiaries substantial capital gains and inheritance tax benefits. If a new trust were to be formed, these benefits would be lost. By varying the current trust, the benefits were retained while opening up the class of beneficiaries to include any possible future gay partners or spouses. The duration of the trust was also extended to 2141, and additional powers were given to the trustees.
Judge Hodge stated: “The proposed settlement is a fit and proper one for the court to approve.”
Trumpington Hall was originally purchased by Sir Francis, an ancestor of Richard Pemberton, in 1675 for 1,000 guineas in gold. Richard Pemberton took over the estate in 2007 and since then has made substantial improvements, including a 28 acre solar farm and the planting of 15,000 new trees. Scenes from the ITV drama Grantchester starring Robson Green and James Norton were filmed there.
This would appear to be the first case that involves varying a trust to recognise civil partnerships or gay marriage. Victoria Lambert, founder of the Daughters’ Rights pressure group which seeks to end gender discrimination, described the Judge’s progressive attitude as “heartening”.