News · Sunday Times

Dick Francis’s heir kicks at ‘wicked’ tax

Hattie Williams and Anna Mikhailova

THE son of the crime writer Dick Francis plans to give his fortune to his children before his death to avoid “wicked” inheritance tax.

Felix Francis, 61, said he would rather give his money away to his family and to charity early than have them lose much of it in tax.

His anger follows a frustrating battle lasting more than three years to settle his father’s estate.

Dick Francis, a former champion jockey and one of Britain’s best-loved writers, died in the Cayman Islands in 2010, at the age of 89. He left a multimillion-pound fortune, with his two children, Felix, also a crime novelist, and Merrick, a former racehorse trainer, among the beneficiaries.

Felix Francis said: “It took 3½ years to sort out my father’s estate, and the only people who seemed to make any money were the lawyers and accountants.”

Felix Francis’s property portfolio includes a 400-year-old, seven-bedroom manor house in Oxfordshire, a two-bedroom flat in central London and a holiday home in the village of Noss Mayo, Devon.

He said the inheritance tax threshold was “set far too low”. Felix Francis, whose books are a continuation of his father’s work, added: “It is an abhorrence. If you have a house at all, you’ll be paying it to the government. Give it away or go live in Australia.”

Dick Francis became a bestselling crime writer after a successful career as a jockey (Chris Smith)

The first £325,000 of an estate is not taxed, but anything over that is taxed
at 40%.

In 2007 George Osborne, then shadow chancellor, promised to triple the threshold for inheritance
tax to £1m, but nothing has been done since he came
to power.

Francis said the policy on the tax “has destroyed some of the great houses of this country”.

He added: “If you look after your money and make provisions for your old age, you shouldn’t have it taken away.

“I hope the issue is a way off for me, but I’ll start thinking about giving things away early to my children.” He has two grown-up sons, Matthew, 35, and William, 28, and two grandchildren.

He said he planned to help his sons buy properties and pay his grandchildren’s school fees rather than leaving a pot of money to be raided by the chancellor.

Francis and his wife also support several charities, including Cancer Research UK, and he is paying pensions for people who worked for his father. “Loyalty to people who had done things for him in the past is absolute,” he said.

Felix has carried on writing his father’s thrillers, which are now credited as “a Dick Francis novel”. His latest book, Damage, was published in September. It is the 50th book in the Dick Francis franchise.

Link to article in the Sunday Times

PDF – Dick Francis’s heir kicks at ‘wicked’ tax

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