A former Royal Navy pilot turned solicitor is helping to save the families of war veterans millions of pounds in inheritance tax after spotting a legal loophole.
Philip Reed has prevented grieving families from taking a big financial hit by proving the death of their loved one was linked to original war wounds – even if they died decades later.
Mr Reed is partner with Stephens Scown LLP which has branches across Cornwall.
He said he carried out hours of painstaking research into military and medical records to help families make use of the little-known inheritance tax exemption for death on active service.
Mr Reed has acted for the families of a number of ex-service personnel who were injured in the Second World War.
In his most recent case the client was injured in the Second World War and suffered a lower leg amputation because of injuries inflicted during combat.
The gentleman in question went on to lead a very full life, but suffered multiple hip replacements on the opposite side to the amputation.
He died 67 years after suffering the initial injury.
Mr Reed said: "My client's hip replacements, together with the normal cardio-vascular difficulties experienced by amputees and a gradual lack of mobility, was sufficient to show that the original injury had contributed to the eventual causes of death recorded on the death certificate.
"I was able to prove that two of the causes of death, namely a urinary tract infection and pulmonary emboli, were related to problems cased by his original injuries."
In this particular case the family were saved £400,000 in inheritance tax.
Mr Reed said he was also able to preserve the double tax relief for the veteran's widow, which will save a further £130,000 from her estate when she dies. He said he has worked on similar cases and has saved clients amounts of up to £1 million.
Mr Reed said: "The death on active service exemption to inheritance tax is a specialised field and is often overlooked by families and solicitors.
"It can take quite a lot of research to establish a link between the original injuries and cause of death.
"We all owe so much to our servicemen and women and I feel that the effort involved in these cases is always worthwhile as it can help to keep the veteran's estate intact for their family."
According to the rules Second World War veterans are not the only possible claimants.
The exemption could also apply to service families with relatives who have served in other conflicts such as Aden, Malaya, Korea, Northern Ireland, the Falklands and more recently in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.