How to administer estates in complex circumstances
12 February 2018 by James Bird
Although it is not something which anyone likes to think about, what happens to your assets once you pass away is something which should be considered every now and then. Your wishes might be straightforward currently but circumstances do change and unfortunately, so do relations.
There have been a few stories in the news about families who have fallen out after the passing of a loved one where arguments have arisen about what happens to the estate, most commonly the property. In most instances, your property is the largest and most significant asset which you might own. Although you may think your Will is simple with your estate passing equally to your children, when the time eventually arrives there could be problems with splitting up the estate and the property having to be sold. This is when complications can arise.
Sometimes there might be someone (or even one of the beneficiaries) living in the property with the deceased at the time they pass (for instance they might be caring for them). This can then cause problems if they have no other property of their own to move into. One example of this in the news involved three brothers disputing shares of their mother’s estate. One of the brother’s lived with his mother in her home acting as primary carer whilst the other two had moved out and become highly successful doctors. Their mother’s Will left her estate equally between the three brothers but the one who acted as carer refused to leave the property demanding a higher share of the estate (worth £1.8 million). The other two brothers meanwhile wanted him to move out so the property could be sold and the estate divided accordingly. Problems arose here as they were trying to force the brother out of the house which would mean that he would be homeless at least until the property has sold and the proceeds distributed.
So what could the possible options be in such circumstances? Below is just a quick brief rundown of some of the possible ways ahead:
- One person buys out the other (ie purchases their share). In some instances, it might be possible for the beneficiary who wants to keep the property to buy out the other beneficiaries’ share of the property. This could even be done by way of mortgage depending on the circumstances.
- A private agreement is reached between the beneficiaries. If one beneficiary lives in the property then it might be possible for an agreement to be made such as the beneficiary is allowed to stay in the property for a few years before the property has to be sold. This might be more appropriate where the other beneficiaries are happy to wait for the property to be sold.
- Court action and forced sale. Sometimes beneficiaries do not have a good relationship or they might need their share of the estate sooner rather than later. In which case this could lead to applications being made to the court for an order to force the sale of the property and remove whoever is residing in the property. This is a much more expensive route to take and could further damage relations depending on the circumstances.
The above are just a few examples of possible courses of action to take if issues arise during the administration of an estate involving a property. Of course not everyone’s circumstances are the same and so there could be a more suitable solution tailored to the situation.
It is always recommended that you seek legal advice when dealing with the administration of an estate, especially if it gets complicated. At Fisher Jones Greenwood we are more than happy to help with administering the affairs of the deceased and offer a free initial 1 hour appointment should you wish to come in an discuss the matter further. Please contact the team on 01206 700113 or [email protected].