Pitt and Another v Holt and Another: ChD 18 Jan 2010

The claimant sought to unravel a settlement she had made as receiver for her late husband, saying that it had been made without consideration of its Inheritance Tax implications. The Revenue said that there was no operative mistake so as to allow the rule in Hastings-Bass to apply allowing the variation.
Held: For the rule to apply, there is no need to identify a breach of duty by trustees or their advisers, and in this case there was no feature which would militate against avoiding the Settlement if it were voidable rather than void. The court had be satisfied that she would not have entered into the Settlement if she had appreciated the inheritance tax consequences rather than merely that she might not have done so.
The claimant’s action had been as receiver, exercising a discretion under the 1983 Act, though she was acting in a fiduciary capacity, and the rule in Hastings-Bass was capable of applying.
It was wrong to reduce the test for Hastings-Bass availability to whether an error in law occurred. The incidence of Inheritance Tax was a matter which should have been considered, and the advisers had taken account of other taxes, and a compliance with section 89 of the 1984 Act would have mitigated the tax as was intended by the section. The settlement could accordingly be set aside under Hastings-Bass, though not under the law of mistake.


Robert Englehart QC J


[2010] EWHC 45 (Ch), [2010] STC 901, [2010] STI 1443, [2010] WTLR 269, [2010] BTC 235, (2010) 12 ITELR 807, [2010] 1 WLR 1199, [2010] 2 All ER 774


Bailii, Times


Inheritance Tax Act 1984 89, Mental Health Act 1983 94 99(2)


England and Wales


CitedRe Hastings-Bass; Hastings v Inland Revenue CA 14-Mar-1974
Trustees of a settlement had exercised their power of advancement under the section, in order to save estate duty by transferring investments to be held on the trusts of a later settlement. However the actual effect of the advancement was that the . .
CitedByng v London Life Association CA 1990
The venue selected for a meeting of the members of a company was too small to accommodate all the members who attended, and so the chairman adjourned the meeting to an alternative venue.
Held: The decision by the chairman was set aside on the . .
CitedMettoy Pension Trustees v Evans ChD 1990
Where a trustee acts under a discretion given to him by the terms of the trust the court will interfere with his action if it is clear that he would not have so acted as he did had he not failed to take into account considerations which he ought to . .
CitedOgden and Another v Trustees of the RHS Griffiths 2003 Settlement and others; In Re Griffiths deceased ChD 25-Jan-2008
A life-time transfer which had been made under a mistake as to the donor’s chances of surviving long enough for the transfer to be exempt from Inheritance Tax was set aside. Unbeknown to the donor, he had lung cancer at the time.
Held: Lewison . .
CitedSieff v Fox ChD 23-Jun-2005
The advisers to trustees wrongly advised the trustees about the tax consequences of exercising a power of appointment in a certain way. As a result a large unforeseen Capital Gains Tax liability arose. The trustees sought to set aside the . .
CitedWolff v Wolff ChD 6-Sep-2004
The court considered its ability to redraw a document where its legal effect was misunderstood. . .
CitedEdge and others v Pensions Ombudsman and Another CA 29-Jul-1999
The Pensions Ombudsman was wrong to set aside the decision of pensions trustees where that decision was properly made within the scope of a discretion given to the Trustees. He should not carry out an investigation where no particular benefit could . .
CitedHunter v Senate Support Services Ltd and others ChD 2005
The court set aside a forfeiture of shares for non-payment of a call. The decisions of the directors to forfeit the shares and to transfer the forfeited shares to the group holding company were flawed, though not improperly motivated, because the . .
CitedAbacus Trust Company (Isle of Man) Colyb Limited v Barr, Barr, and Barr ChD 6-Feb-2003
The court considered the Rule in Hastings-Bass, and specifically (1) whether the trustee’s decision is open to challenge when the failure to take a consideration into account is not attributable to a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the . .
CitedEquitable Life Assurance Society v Hyman HL 20-Jul-2000
The directors of the Society had calculated the final bonuses to be allocated to policyholders in a manner which was found to be contrary to the terms of the policy. The language of the article conferring the power to declare such bonuses contained . .
CitedGibbon v Mitchell ChD 1990
G executed a deed surrendering his life interest in a trust fund in order to vest the property in his two children: the deed did not have that effect because of two errors (one of which was ignoring the fact that his life interest was subject to . .
CitedAnker-Petersen v Christensen ChD 2002
Where a mistake is made as to the effect of an appointment under a trust it may be possible to invoke the court’s jurisdiction to rescind the appointment. Davis J considered Millett J’s distinction between ‘effect’ and ‘consequences’: ‘An example in . .
CitedStannard v Fisons Ltd; Stannard v Fisons Pensions Trust CA 2-Jan-1990
The purchaser of a business said that the company had made insufficient contributions to its pensions fund before the transfer, and sought payment of the sums underpaid. The defendants argued that, applying Hastings-Bass, unless that principle were . .
CitedBurrell and Sharman v Burrell, Shore, Tyrrell, etc ChD 23-Feb-2005
Shares were appointed by trustees in the mistaken belief that they attracted business property relief from Inheritance tax. They sought to set aside the appointment.
Held: Mann J applied the rule in Stannard v Fisons Pensions Trust and . .
CitedOgilvie v Littleboy CA 1897
Lindley LJ discussed the variation of a gift for mistake: ‘Gifts cannot be revoked, nor can deeds be set aside, simply because the donors wish they had not made them and would like to have back the property given. Where there is no fraud, no undue . .
CitedLady Hood of Avalon v Mackinnon 1909
Lady Hood made an appointment in favour of her elder daughter, in order to place her in the same position as her younger daughter to whom she had already made large appointments. But in doing so she (and her solicitor) had forgotten that she had, . .

Cited by:

CitedFutter and Another v Futter and Others ChD 11-Mar-2010
Various family settlements had been created. The trustees wished to use the rule in Hastings-Bass to re-open decisions they had made after receiving incorrect advice.
Held: The deeds were set aside as void. The Rule in Hastings-Bass derives . .
Appeal FromPitt and Another v Holt and Another CA 9-Mar-2011
. .
At First InstanceFutter and Another v Revenue and Customs; Pitt v Same SC 9-May-2013
Application of Hastings-Bass Rule
F had created two settlements. Distributions were made, but overlooking the effect of section 2(4) of the 2002 Act, creating a large tax liability. P had taken advice on the investment of the proceeds of a damages claim and created a discretionary . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Trusts, Inheritance Tax

Updated: 07 December 2022; Ref: scu.401868