Question regarding the wording of a will

Hello, 

this is my first post - I have been a long time reader, but haven't really been able to find the answer to my question and so I thought I would post in the hope of getting some opinions (I realise I will need to get actual legal advice to be certain, but I am reluctant to do so as I don't want to go behind my step-mothers back, but this whole process has caused me so much stress that I felt asking on here for opinions might help me see whether my though process is even reasonable, before doing anything 'official').

My  dear dad sadly passed away in October and has left a will which says this exact wording relating to his property (which he owned in his sole name outright)...

'I give, devise and bequeath my freehold property known as (the address) aforesaid together with the remainder of all my personal chattels (as defined in Section 55(1)(X)  of the Administration of Estates Act 1925) to my said wife, (her name) for her respective use and benefit absolutely and upon her death to hold the same upon the trusts hereinafter declared concerning my residuary estate'.

It then goes on to confirm that I, as his only child, receive the residuary estate.

So because it mentions 'upon her death'  I assumed that means that there is in effect a life interest in the property for my stepmom, and once she passes, that the property is left to me.  However, my Stepmom feels that because it says that the property is for her benefit 'absolutely' that she can put the title deeds straight into her name and then just leave me a share in her will.  She is the sole executor of the will and is sorting things without a solicitor, so I am concerned she will just do what she wants to do.

Its heart breaking for me, as I know that my dad wouldn't of wanted the property to go to her children and not me, but I fear that could happen - or indeed if she ends up in a home or remarries (she is a lot younger than my dad), that things will change between us and I will be forgotten in twenty years time.

Obviously this is all only relevant if I am interpreting things correctly - that's why I wanted your opinion on the wording, as perhaps I am misunderstanding the whole thing anyway?

Many thanks for your thoughts        



 
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Replies

  • securityguysecurityguy Forumite
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    "However, my Stepmom feels that because it says that the property is for her benefit 'absolutely' that she can put the title deeds straight into her name and then just leave me a share in her will."

    It doesn't mean that.  It's a standard lifetime interest clause.  unfortunately, if she's trying to DIY the will this will end badly, because you're going to need a solicitor to sort the mess out.

  • JGB1955JGB1955 Forumite
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    AIUI she has a beneficial interest in the property, but no legal ownership - Legal estates and beneficial interests: what's the difference? - HM Land Registry (blog.gov.uk)
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  • xylophonexylophone Forumite
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    I assume that the will was drafted by a solicitor.

    I would suggest that you ask your stepmother to contact him for an explanation of this clause in the will.

    if she refuses, engage your own solicitor  and ask him to write to her concerning the mattter.
  • Sunshine2468Sunshine2468 Forumite
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    xylophone said:
    I assume that the will was drafted by a solicitor.

    I would suggest that you ask your stepmother to contact him for an explanation of this clause in the will.

    if she refuses, engage your own solicitor  and ask him to write to her concerning the mattter.
    Yes, the will was drafted by a solicitor and she has apparently already spoken to them as she thinks the will is unclear and apparently they agreed with her that it can be read either way. 

    She also said that she asked to see the notes from my dads original conversation when he wrote the will in the hope that that would bring more clarity, and they told her they can't find them and that the person that wrote the will no longer works there  because he wasn't any good!  
  • MalMonroeMalMonroe Forumite
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    I'm very sorry for your loss.

    You really do need to appoint your own solicitor - and quite soon. You say "I realise I will need to get actual legal advice to be certain, but I am reluctant to do so as I don't want to go behind my step-mother's back". That's very kind of you but she has gone behind your back. There doesn't seem to have been much point to your Dad making a will if his wife is just doing exactly as she pleases.

    Your stepmother doesn't seem to be being honest with you - I agree with what Marcon says.
  • FlugelhornFlugelhorn Forumite
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    Agree with @Alphatauri suggestions

    tricky situation, step mum is probably telling porkies and getting out of her depth, she may well genuinely have thought that the property would come to her as the widow and is shocked to discover that she really doesn't own it and it will be passed on to you rather than her children.  She may well be feeling some anger towards your dad and you and that can be hard when recently widowed. neither you nor your dad have done anything wrong but she probably won't see that. 
  • MalthusianMalthusian Forumite
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    Agree with @Alphatauri suggestions

    tricky situation, step mum is probably telling porkies and getting out of her depth, she may well genuinely have thought that the property would come to her as the widow and is shocked to discover that she really doesn't own it and it will be passed on to you rather than her children.  She may well be feeling some anger towards your dad and you and that can be hard when recently widowed. neither you nor your dad have done anything wrong but she probably won't see that. 
    At the risk of digressing into moral dilemmas, their Dad did do something wrong if he wasn't upfront with his wife about how he had written his Will. (It is of course perfectly possible that he was, but his wife misunderstood, or has a tin ear. But the OP doesn't seem to have been very familiar with his estate planning either up until the point he died.)
    The OP's question has already been answered; they need their own solicitor to safeguard their inheritance and ensure their Dad's wishes are followed. ASAP. It will be an almighty mess if their stepmum dies and her heirs think they are due to inherit the house. Avoiding that is not just in the OP's interest but theirs.
  • Sunshine2468Sunshine2468 Forumite
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    I'm so sorry, I tried to reply earlier, but I had been quoting individual posts and I don't know whether because I am a new user it hasn't worked as my replies haven't shown up? 

    Anyway,  funnily enough my stepmom did mention that she should sue the solicitor, but it was in passing and I'd doubt either she or I could afford the costs involved in doing that.  She does not appear angry with my dad - I think she is very upset about losing him and she isn't great with sorting finances (I've helped sort out all her bills since dads passing) so I'm sure she is out of her depth with this and now burying her head in the sand.  She still works and I helped sort out my dad's pension so she also now receives a widow's income from that, so I guess is in no hurry to sort the rest as that really only benefits me.

    The house was purchased from money from my parents divorce and inheritance from my grandparents - my stepmom didn't bring any money to the relationship, and obviously whilst they both contributed to other bills as both worked, I suspect my dad saw the house as his because of the way the house was bought?  I 'm not saying this is a correct way to look at it, but I suspect its the reason for the will to be written in this way. 

    Sadly, whilst I knew that my dad had left me money (as he told me years ago he had saved it as he wanted to ensure I was ok), the house was never discussed and I don't think they discussed the finances at all as a couple - it was also a horrible last few months before he died - we were all in denial - and none of us discussed any of this, as we none of us wanted to talk about life without him.

    Thank you all for all of your helpful comments, I realise I need to deal with this properly, I guess I just needed clarification whether I was reading the will correctly.  I'm going to try to talk to my stepmom again and say that we need to sort the title deeds out properly via the solicitor, as I really don't want us to fall out over this or go behind her back.
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