Latimer Hinks Solicitors is highlighting the dangers of giving financial gifts without taking care to protect the beneficiary.
The warning comes after a case in which a Midlands man was left having to repay a £61,000 cheque to the estate of his partner, after the High Court ruled he could not prove it was a gift.
After the court ruled the money must be treated as a loan and, therefore, would have to be repaid, 72-year-old Leonard Taylor must also pay legal costs of up to £100,000, after a failed bid to overturn the decision at the Court of Appeal.
Having been left the home he shared with his partner Doris Luker, 22 years his senior, along with her car and £28,000 in cash, the ruling means Mr Taylor may need to sell the house and car to pay for the case, which had been brought by the executor of the will (backed by charities who were also beneficiaries under the will).
Although unmarried, the couple lived together for 15 years at the home in Birmingham and Mr Taylor was his partners sole carer for the three years leading to her death in October 2003.
Andrew Way, Partner at Latimer Hinks Solicitors, in Priestgate, Darlington, said: "Had this couple been married, it would have been very different. The money would have been assumed, under the legal presumption of advancement, to have been an outright gift. However, as they were unmarried, the law presumes that the payment of the money implies an obligation of repayment, unless there is any evidence to the contrary.
"Giving money, particularly later in life or when the donor is ill, is not something which should be done without real care and attention, as well as professional advice.
"Far too often, gifts and even investments and how they are made, the contents of wills, or the passing of a business to new ownership following a death, can lead to legal wrangling and additional heartache, so it is important that people consider taking advice if they want to ensure that their objectives are achieved.