Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Death Duties Definition:

Tax payments due to the state, incurred and payable as a result of the death of the tax-payer.

All taxes, duties or fees payable to the Government or its agencies by the estate and by reason of any disposition of estate property.

Since England began imposing a probate duty or tax in 1694 on any application for probate or letters of administration, a variety of tax schemes have come and gone all designed to gather taxes from the estate of a person deceased.

Later, from 1780 to 1949, the British government switched its attention to the recipient of estate assets and a legacy duty or inheritance tax was imposed on every legacy received by a British subject.

Still later, as of 1853, a succession duty was charged upon the transfer of any real property as a result of the administration of an estate.

In Re Briggs, the British Court had before it a will which commanded the executor to pay all duties and it was held that this encompassed:

"... all duties to which my estate is liable by reason of any of the dispositions I have made in my will."

The same situation occurred in Re Borough except that the will before the court more specifically referred to the payment of all "death duties".

Justice Simonds wrote that death duties refers to:

"... duties payable in consequence of the death. That is to say, the estate duty which is payable in consequence of the death in respect of property passing on the death...."


  • Re Borough [1938] 1 All ER 375
  • Re Briggs [1914] 2 Ch. 413


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