Ronnie Corbett 'spared children six-figure tax bill' by selling family home
Ronnie Corbett may have been forced to sell his seven-bedroom South London mansion, moving instead to a nearby bungalow, to save his children a six-figure inheritance tax bill, friends of the family suggested yesterday.
The comedian, who died on Thursday, unaware that he was to have been knighted in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours, sold Fairways, his family home of 33 years, for £1.27m (€1,598,610), in 2003. He then purchased a smaller property, several hundred metres away, for £250,000.
Friends suggested the couple may have used the seven-figure windfall to distribute cash to their two daughters, Emma and Sophie, under rules that allow parents to pass on money without incurring a 40 per cent inheritance tax charge, provided they survive for seven years after the gift is made.
Corbett’s wife, Anne Hart, 82, is said to have railed against the unfairness of death duties, publicly confronting the then shadow chancellor Ed Balls, in 2013, at the Pride of Britain Awards.
Reports yesterday suggested that she had told Mr Balls that she and her husband had supported their daughters, Emma and Sophie, after “unlucky marriages”, adding: “He [Ronnie] has given people all this wonderful entertainment and we have already paid thousands and thousands in tax. The little bit we’ve still got left we want to be able to leave to our girls.”
Corbett, who died aged 85, after suffering from motor neurone disease, purchased Fairways, a handsome Arts and Crafts mansion, in Croydon, in 1970. The seven bedroom house borders the Addington Golf Club, where the comedian was a member.
Roy Griffiths, a businessman who purchased the house from Corbett, said the couple had been “very sad” to sell, but wanted to pass money on to their children. He said: “I think selling the house allowed him to rent a house and give the money to his daughters, to avoid inheritance tax.
“I think he was very sad to sell it. It was clear. I invited him and Anne up to the house for dinner afterwards, and they wouldn't come. They said it's got too many memories.” Mr Griffiths sold the house for £1.7 million, in 2011, to Oritsé Williams, a singer in the pop group JLS.
After selling his home, Corbett rented a three-bedroom bungalow owned by the golf club, before buying the property for £250,000, in 2009, after his friend, Ron Noades, the late Crystal Palace owner, bought the course. Mr Noades’s widow, Novello, said she believed the couple had wanted to downsize.
She said: “I’ve known them for thirty years. After he bought the golf club, my Ron sold them the bungalow. Both were very fair, honest men, and it was sold for a fair price. “I think like most people they didn’t need such a big house any more. He was a lovely man, a big family man too. The Noadeses and Corbetts were very close friends.”
Ms Hart, who was married to Corbett for more than fifty years, revealed yesterday that the comedian had used a small ventilator to help deal with the onset of motor neurone disease, but had required round-the-clock care in the weeks leading up to his death.
She said: “It became a 24-hour job, with Ron getting gradually weaker. He was not in pain, and up to the last 48 hours, he was fully conscious and aware of everything.
She said that she would read old letters that Corbett had sent to her in New Zealand, where she was starring in Annie Get Your Gun, adding: "They made me weep. Ron wasn't just my husband, and the love of my life. He was also my best friend."
Ronnie Corbett was plotting a surprise return to the BBC just a week before he died, one of the corporation’s comedy commissioners has confirmed.
Sioned William, Radio 4’s comedy commissioning editor, said she had ordered two new programmes from the comedian, who died on Thursday, and had been in contact with him only last week.
Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent, who worked with Corbett for many years, including on The Two Ronnies, are understood to have written two new versions of the comic’s famous armchair monologues. Following his death, the corporation is abandoning the project.
Ms William told the Telegraph: “I was delighted to commission two special programmes for him to perform in his inimitable style.
“Sadly, he was not able to record them and now we have lost his unique warmth and comedy timing, we won’t continue to work on them without Ronnie.”
Interviewed on Radio 5 Live, she added: "Only last week I sent a message to him saying, 'don't worry we'll wait for you, get well,' and it's incredibly sad it to think that won’t happen.”