Husband's last gift costs widow £300k

Husband’s last gift costs widow £300k: Wife is facing court fight over tax bill for tragic JD Sports heir’s home

  • Heir to sporting empire JD Sports died from bone cancer at the age of just 29  
  • A year before they married he gave her a half-stake in his £1.8million home 
  • After his funeral, his family realised the gift would attract an inheritance tax bill of as much as £300,000

The tragic heir to a sporting goods empire landed his future wife with a huge tax bill by giving her a share in his house.

Tom Makin, whose father David helped found JD Sports, died from bone cancer aged just 29, leaving behind Kirsty, 34, and their two young daughters.

A year before they married in 2018 he gave her a half-stake in his £1.8million home in Bury. But after his funeral in 2019, his family realised the gift would attract an inheritance tax bill of as much as £300,000 because the couple were not married when the transfer took place.

Had Mr Makin simply left her the property in his will there would have been no levy following his death.

Tragic father: Tom and Kirsty Makin with their girls

So, in an unusual case, his estate’s executors are seeking to persuade the High Court that the gift can be posthumously rescinded. The legal claim is technically against Mr Makin’s parents and his wife, although they are not contesting it.

The claim says: ‘That gift has created a liability for inheritance tax of £300,000 that would not have been incurred had the house been solely owned by Mr Makin and passed under his last will.

‘Mr Makin made the gift by mistake in that he believed that would not create an inheritance tax liability on his death.’ His executors want the gift officially declared a mistake along with the annulment of any documents indicating the couple were joint tenants of the house.

Kirsty Makin speaking about her late husband. Tom Makin, whose father David helped found JD Sports, died from bone cancer aged just 29, leaving behind Kirsty, 34, and their two young daughters

If they succeed, Mrs Makin will not have to pay £300,000 to keep her own home.

A source close to the case said: ‘This is an entirely private family matter with no difference of opinion between the parties.’ Mr Makin’s father, who is 57, was a teenager when he opened a sportswear shop in Bury in 1981 with John Wardle, 76.

JD Sports – the J and D being their first names – grew into an empire of more than 900 outlets as the market for ‘athleisure’ clothing exploded. The company bought out chains including Blacks and Millets.

The founders gave up control in 2005 but then set up Footasylum, which they sold to JD Sports for £90million. This made the Makin family £50million, half of it for Tom and his sisters, Claire and Amy. He had already received £4.2million when the firm floated on the stock market.

Mrs Makin met him in 2008 on her first day at work at his father’s business, and helped him through a long fight for life that began when he was 21.

He had gone to a physiotherapist for what he thought was an injured leg, only to discover he had bone cancer.

At their wedding he told his bride in front of their cheering guests: ‘You may not know, Kirsty – but you were by far my biggest motivation to get better.’ Soon after their return from a honeymoon in the Maldives Mr Makin was told he had just six months to live.

Their £1.8million family home 

He died in June 2019, when their youngest daughter was just a few months old, and her elder sister still a toddler.

Mrs Makin wept as she said of her husband’s death: ‘The most devastating thing is telling your three-year-old daughter her daddy has died. I told her he’d gone to heaven, and he couldn’t come home.’

The six-bedroom house at the centre of the case has a 25-metre pool, gym, steam room, full-size snooker table, hot tub and library. The Makin family declined to comment last night.

The family and their friends have been raising money for the charity Sarcoma UK.

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