Family discussions are needed over new wills
Ensuring a fair share
Q. My elderly mother married again 15 years ago, which means I have a stepfather. The house they own is in joint names, and my mother says she cannot discuss what should happen to the property when they die. Could she make a will without my stepfather knowing?
A. If they own the house as beneficial joint tenants, whichever of them outlives the other will inherit the whole house. This will happen even if the deceased joint owner has made a will, either openly or in secret, leaving their share to someone else. So unless your mother and stepfather make wills and divide their ownership of the property, becoming tenants in common, it's likely to be pot luck whether you or your stepfather's family will eventually inherit it. People who remarry need to make wills in order to pass down something to their own families. An open discussion between both sides of the family may be the answer.
In search of uncle's estate
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Q. My uncle died 18 months ago, leaving my mother and one surviving brother. I've tried to find out if he left a will, but the Probate Registry says it never went to probate. Is there any way I can find out for my mother whether there was a will and whether my uncle left any property?
A. I suggest you contact your surviving uncle, since he may have wound up his brother's affairs. You could also pay a fee for a search to be carried out on the Certainty National Wills register. If the deceased uncle left only small sums (under £5,000) the banks will probably have released any monies without requiring evidence of probate. If he didn't leave a will your mother will be entitled to a share of anything he left. I'm assuming someone has been to his house and taken over his affairs. If necessary, and in the absence of a will and executors, you could apply to the Probate Registry to take on this role.
Tax on inheritance?
Q. My mother died in 2005 leaving us her house, and the names were changed at the Land Registry. My uncle continued to live in the house until he died this year, and it has now been sold. Will there be any tax to pay on the proceeds?
A. Any inheritance tax liability would have been dealt with when your mother's will went to probate. If your mother gave your uncle a right to occupy the home then there could be further inheritance tax to pay if the value of the property, when added to the value of your late uncle's estate, is in excess of the inheritance tax allowance (currently £325,000). If the property has increased in value since your mother's death and you or your brothers or sisters didn't live in the house as well, it's possible there will be capital gains tax to pay on the increase.
Tracey Wright is a partner and head of the Wills, Trusts & Probate team at Nash & Co Solicitors LLP, Beaumont House, Beaumont Park, Plymouth. Tel 01752 664444 or email email@example.com Website: www.nash.co.uk If you have a legal problem, write to You and the Law, Room 101, Western Morning News, Studio 5-11, Millbay Road, Plymouth, Devon PL1 3LF, or leave your query on our Legal Adviceline 0117 964 4794.