Question regarding the wording of a will

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  • FlugelhornFlugelhorn Forumite
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    That sounds very good @Sunshine2468 - good if you can help her, she will still be in the bereaved fog and perhaps thinking she manage it all - legal advice will be money well spent and it will save longer term problems.  
  • It’s a tricky situation.

    Due to the unfortunate, and arguably incompetent, choice of words used by the Will drafter, the clause could be interpreted as giving an absolute gift or a lifetime interest.

    It’s probably useful to obtain a copy of the Will-drafter’s file to see if it sheds light on what was intended. Then, if it did mean to create a lifetime interest, you can take action to prevent your step mother from stealing the property.
  • Sunshine2468Sunshine2468 Forumite
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    It’s a tricky situation.

    Due to the unfortunate, and arguably incompetent, choice of words used by the Will drafter, the clause could be interpreted as giving an absolute gift or a lifetime interest.

    It’s probably useful to obtain a copy of the Will-drafter’s file to see if it sheds light on what was intended. Then, if it did mean to create a lifetime interest, you can take action to prevent your step mother from stealing the property.
    Thank you for your reply.  I understand about the point of it saying that it is left to her ‘absolutely’, but I don’t really understand how the following part of the sentence ‘upon her death’ can be ignored?  

    Sadly there are no notes at the solicitors office to shed anymore light on things. 

    I did ring a STEP solicitor a couple of weeks ago, who allowed me to read the paragraph to her and her reply was ‘it’s a straight forward Life Trust’, so I’m assuming my interpretation is correct.

    I have left things for the time being, and my stepmom has now applied for the Grant of Probate, (although she only did so once my partner spoke to her and said how upset I was getting than she wasn’t talking to me about things or sorting anything).  

    I still haven’t been told anymore - although she did tell my partner she was either going to or has (my partner can’t remember which!) contacted an independent solicitor to query it - this was the reason I rang a solicitor myself as I felt like more was going on behind my back, so I felt I needed to know what the interpretation was.

    I guess my stepmom could still be given different advice, but the solicitor I spoke to seemed so sure, without hesitation, that I’m hoping it can all be resolved and my dads wishes carried out as I feel so sure this is his wishes.  I guess time will tell. 
  • Sunshine2468Sunshine2468 Forumite
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    Hello again,  it’s only me back with a little update and trying to ascertain whether I’m right to get anxious or if I’m just being impatient?! 

    So the Grant of Probate was issued on 28th August.  I did tell my stepmom a week later that it had been issued but she hadn’t received it at that point.  Since that time, despite reassuring my partner that she would keep me updated, she hasn’t mentioned it once.

    We are now two months further forward, she hasn’t mentioned it at all despite me seeing her most days, and I really don’t think she is doing anything.  She is now on a fortnights holiday from work and I’d hoped she would mention perhaps that she now has time to sort things out, but she’s just said she is busy sorting out her garden shed, so it doesn’t give me the impression she will be doing anything more.

    My question is should I be chasing this or could there be something I’m not aware of that means she can’t release the savings to me or sort the title deeds?  (I’ve read about giving creditors enough time to make a claim against the estate. I’m 100% sure there won’t be any creditors and presumably the fact that we were 9 months in before probate was applied for, that the time before probate would of counted towards that anyway wouldn’t it? Or am I misunderstanding how these things work?)

    I realise I probably sound awful, but I can’t explain how the lack of communication from my stepmom makes me so anxious and worried that she isn’t intending on following my dads will.  

    All the while she isn’t talking to me about it, causes me distress that we can’t close this down once and for all. I just need it done and dusted so we can move forward, but I am so in the dark, which is making me worry and I’m more and more convinced that she’s not remotely doing anything, because the will doesn’t say what she wanted it to say.  
  • Savvy_SueSavvy_Sue Forumite
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    The good thing is that you are still seeing your stepmum and helping her out, so hopefully she feels reassured that you do care about her and don't want to distress her. 
    My question is should I be chasing this or could there be something I’m not aware of that means she can’t release the savings to me or sort the title deeds? 
    The thing is, I'm not sure I understand what the will says: did your stepmother get the right to live in the house, plus the chattels, but nothing else, ie no money to support herself, maintain the house etc? If that's the case, does she have independent means to support herself, maintain the house? If she doesn't, she'd probably be entitled to claim more than has been left to her.

    And were you actually left any savings in the will, on your father's death, or do you have to wait until your stepmother has died? 

    Did you follow Alphatauri's suggestions:
    Alphatauri said:
    I agree you need legal advice ASAP. However, also consider the following actions which mean you will be notified if anyone tries to sell your Dad’s house or raise money against it.

    1. Get a copy of the register for your Dad’s home and check the registered owner has not been changed and that there are no new charges. This costs £3 https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry

    2. Sign up for HMLRs property alert service. Again it’s free and you get notification of any action relating to your Dad’s property. https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/

    3. check with your solicitor if you can lodge a restriction or something similar showing your interest in the property.
    That's all ESSENTIAL!
     
    You say your stepmother doesn't talk about what progress she's making (if any): maybe she's waiting for you to initiate the conversation. If she gets on well with your partner, is it worth talking to her together, asking whether she has seen that solicitor she talked about and what was said? 

    However, bear in mind that both you and she are near the first anniversary of your father's death: it's been an unsettling year for all the reasons we needn't spell out, and many of us have been overwhelmed by fairly routine 'sorting out' tasks. Be gentle to each other ... 

    Signature removed for peace of mind
  • Sunshine2468Sunshine2468 Forumite
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    Savvy_Sue said:
    The good thing is that you are still seeing your stepmum and helping her out, so hopefully she feels reassured that you do care about her and don't want to distress her. 
    My question is should I be chasing this or could there be something I’m not aware of that means she can’t release the savings to me or sort the title deeds? 
    The thing is, I'm not sure I understand what the will says: did your stepmother get the right to live in the house, plus the chattels, but nothing else, ie no money to support herself, maintain the house etc? If that's the case, does she have independent means to support herself, maintain the house? If she doesn't, she'd probably be entitled to claim more than has been left to her.

    And were you actually left any savings in the will, on your father's death, or do you have to wait until your stepmother has died? 

    Did you follow Alphatauri's suggestions:
    Alphatauri said:
    I agree you need legal advice ASAP. However, also consider the following actions which mean you will be notified if anyone tries to sell your Dad’s house or raise money against it.

    1. Get a copy of the register for your Dad’s home and check the registered owner has not been changed and that there are no new charges. This costs £3 https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry

    2. Sign up for HMLRs property alert service. Again it’s free and you get notification of any action relating to your Dad’s property. https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/

    3. check with your solicitor if you can lodge a restriction or something similar showing your interest in the property.
    That's all ESSENTIAL!
     
    You say your stepmother doesn't talk about what progress she's making (if any): maybe she's waiting for you to initiate the conversation. If she gets on well with your partner, is it worth talking to her together, asking whether she has seen that solicitor she talked about and what was said? 

    However, bear in mind that both you and she are near the first anniversary of your father's death: it's been an unsettling year for all the reasons we needn't spell out, and many of us have been overwhelmed by fairly routine 'sorting out' tasks. Be gentle to each other ... 

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply.  

    So my stepmom still works and also gets my dads widows pension which is enough to cover the bills (I know this as I sorted all the bills for her when dad first died) as well as letting her know she was entitled to the pension).   She will also receive her own work pensions once she retires (I don’t know when that is or how much they are, but they won’t be insignificant).  So in terms of providing for her I feel that has been covered, as she is no worse off than before he died in that respect. 

    The will leaves the property and chattels absolutely to her and upon her death to me.   As a totally separate clause I receive his residuary estate. 

    Whilst we do have a good relationship, both my partner and I feel very uncomfortable raising this, and even when we have it’s not met with transparency and we just feel fobbed off.

    My partner has said the same as you, to wait until the anniversary has passed, and I do agree, I guess I just hoped this fortnights break would allow her the time to sort things and I can’t help but feel that once that window has passed that it will then be left again for months.   

    My dads will also says that he wants his ashes scattered with ny grandparents, but again nothing has been done about those either. I think the whole thing is a ‘burying her head in the sand’ type situation, and I’m more of a ‘rip the plaster off’ type person, so I think we just  clash which leads to us both being unhappy, and for me very anxious. 

    One positive, is that last night I did do the two things mentioned above - the check on the deeds (which haven’t been changed yet) & the deed alert - I’d avoided it until now as I felt like again I was going behind her back, but it’s just helped relieve some of my stress and worry. 

    Thank you again for your helpful reply, it’s given me more perspective, and will hopefully help me be more patient and calm 👍
  • Sunshine2468Sunshine2468 Forumite
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    Hello, it’s me again!

    So I had a good conversation with my stepmom last night, but this morning I am anxious again and thought it best to seek clarity from you good people to allay my fears! 

    She told me that she had been worried about talking to me, but that she had finally gotten around to speaking to a solicitor herself who has confirmed that the property is as she thought, all hers. 

    She went on to say that the solicitor had confirmed that all of the money is mine, but the house is hers to do with as she wishes.  But that she believes my dad would want me to have my half and so she is going to put half of the property in trust for me and then is going to write her own will and tell her own four children exactly what they will be receiving from her half of the property, so there are no disputes later on.

    I am happy with this scenario, as I think it’s fair that after 30 years of marriage that she should be entitled to do as she pleases with half of the house. 

    My only worry waking up this morning is if I don’t contest this (as I said earlier before I was told by a solicitor that the property is mine upon her death), that whilst she might set up a trust for me now, is there anything to stop her later on deciding to revoke it? Say if she remarried or wanted to sell the house etc? 

    I just want this whole situation tied up neatly so that I no longer have to worry that further down the line my dear dads wishes are overlooked.  Is there a way to ensure my stepmom is binded by this property trust and can’t turn around later and revoke it?

    I was so relieved last night that this was finally being resolved and I could have a good ongoing relationship that I desperately want, but I just need reassurance that this half share in the property trust will mean my half is safe regardless of whether she changes her mind later on!  Am I able to get this reassurance, or if I agree to her understanding of the will, am I basically saying she can change things whenever she wants, as I think that will leave me with a constant fear that my dads last wishes could eventually be ignored. 

    Many thanks again for any help 👍
  • edited 3 December 2021 at 10:36AM
    MalthusianMalthusian Forumite
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    edited 3 December 2021 at 10:36AM
    She told me that she had been worried about talking to me, but that she had finally gotten around to speaking to a solicitor herself who has confirmed that the property is as she thought, all hers.
    I bet they did. As I understand it, her solicitor has said that the house is hers absolutely (i.e. everything after the word "absolutely" can be ignored), and your solicitor (the one you rang in August) has said that she has a lifetime interest in the house and it will revert to you on her death (i.e. the word "absolutely" can be ignored). Mandy Rice-Davies applies to both their learnèd opinions.

    Your stepmother has proposed a compromise that is exactly half way between the two. And if you are happy with that compromise that is probably much better than trying to go to court for the whole lot (for either of you).

    You need to get back in touch with your solicitor. You and your stepmother will need to agree to a Deed of Variation. You will also need to appoint trustees to the trust and hash out the terms, e.g. who is responsible for the maintenance of the property, whether she has the option to sell and use some of the trust's half of the cash to buy a new property, etc.

    If you vary the Will in the way she has proposed, such that half is held by a life interest trust with you as the beneficiary on her death, she will not be able to unilaterally revoke that.


  • Sunshine2468Sunshine2468 Forumite
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    She told me that she had been worried about talking to me, but that she had finally gotten around to speaking to a solicitor herself who has confirmed that the property is as she thought, all hers.
    I bet they did. As I understand it, her solicitor has said that the house is hers absolutely (i.e. everything after the word "absolutely" can be ignored), and your solicitor (the one you rang in August) has said that she has a lifetime interest in the house and it will revert to you on her death (i.e. the word "absolutely" can be ignored). Mandy Rice-Davies applies to both their learnèd opinions.

    Your stepmother has proposed a compromise that is exactly half way between the two. And if you are happy with that compromise that is probably much better than trying to go to court for the whole lot (for either of you).

    You need to get back in touch with your solicitor. You and your stepmother will need to agree to a Deed of Variation. You will also need to appoint trustees to the trust and hash out the terms, e.g. who is responsible for the maintenance of the property, whether she has the option to sell and use some of the trust's half of the cash to buy a new property, etc.

    If you vary the Will in the way she has proposed, such that half is held by a life interest trust with you as the beneficiary on her death, she will not be able to unilaterally revoke that.


    Thank you so much for your reply, that’s really helpful.  My DH has come home from work having spoken to one of his colleagues who seems to know a lot about this sort of thing, and is saying much the same as you have. 

    We are going to speak to my stepmom again tonight and explain that we need this done properly and from the sounds of it we will both need solicitors, to act independently for each of us - it’s that right? Or have I misunderstood 

    thank you again, I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to me. 
  • MalthusianMalthusian Forumite
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    We are going to speak to my stepmom again tonight and explain that we need this done properly and from the sounds of it we will both need solicitors, to act independently for each of us - it’s that right? Or have I misunderstood

    Yes. Both of you need to ensure your interests are being looked out for.

    One of you is giving up a very large sum of money (albeit mostly on death in the stepmother's case), although neither of you will ever find out who it is if you stick to the proposed compromise.

    Because your father's solicitor bodged the job, there are quite a few things that you and your stepmother will need to agree between you, like who is responsible for the maintenance on the house. (IMO, the simplest solution is for her to be responsible, but she may try to argue that you should contribute as you will eventually benefit from the house not falling into disrepair.) Normally, when a competently-written Will leaves assets to a lifetime interest trust, these things would be set out in the Will to save the beneficiaries from arguing about who has to hold the baby, but they haven't been in this case.

    If you both take legal advice then nobody can argue later down the line that you didn't know what you were doing and try to claim the full value of the house on the basis of the original bodged Will.

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