English TV host Sir Bruce Forsyth left his kids with nothing when he died last year. Picture: AFP Photo/Justin Tallis
English TV host Sir Bruce Forsyth left his kids with nothing when he died last year. Picture: AFP Photo/Justin Tallis

$20 million and nothing for the kids!

LAST year, English TV host Sir Bruce Forsyth died at age 89, leaving his entire $20 million fortune to his third wife, Lady Wilnelia Merced.

It meant his six children - Debbie, Julie and Laura from his marriage to first wife Penny Calvert, Charlotte and Louisa from his second marriage to Anthea Redfern, and son Jonathan Joseph from his marriage to Ms Merced - were left with nothing, at least officially.

But Sir Bruce, who was an outspoken opponent of inheritance tax, may have found a way to outfox the government.

His wife, who will inherit the lot once funeral and other expenses are paid, won't have to pay any inheritance tax due to a law regarding bequests between spouses.

And once she inherits the cash, she'll then be legally able to give away up to $1,158,680 tax free per person as gifts, The Mirror reports.

If he had left a direct inheritance to his children, they would have been forced to fork out thousands in tax, with the Mail on Sunday reporting any sum of money over $579,340 which wasn't left to his wife or a charity would have been subjected to a massive 40 per cent levy.

Sir Bruce previously spoke about his disagreement with the system, telling Radio Times in 2015 it was "over the top".

"I think your inheritance should go to your children more than back to the country that you've lived in," he said.

"I'm not saying you don't owe the country something, of course you owe your country a lot for living there all those years. But I think it can be a bit over the top."

His nine grandchildren will also inherit $178,258 each, which has been placed in a trust which they can access once they turn 21.

Two other unnamed executers of his estate will each receive $35,651, according to Mail on Sunday.

However, some of Sir Bruce's relatives hit back at claims he designed his affairs intentionally to avoid paying tax, with son-in-law Richard Matthews dismissing the claims as "utter tosh and speculation" last year, according to The Mirror.

Sir Bruce most recently hosted British reality TV show Strictly Come Dancing, but his showbiz career spanned more than seven decades.

He married his third and final wife, Lady Wilnelia Merced, a former Miss World, in 1983.

The 60-year-old is also expected to inherit the couple's joint properties.

alexis.carey@news.com.au