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The Generation Game

Those of a certain age will no doubt remember the Bruce Forsyth TV show ‘The Generation Game’ whereby two people from the same family (but from different generations) compete to win prizes. Well, for some families, the idea of pairing up with your mother or father extends further than just game shows. In fact, for certain cultures and nationalities it is very common for parents to live with one or more of their adult children and their families. What many of these families don’t do, however, is plan their  affairs accordingly to ensure that each member of the family is secure in the family home.

We recently advised a family in this unfortunate situation. In this case, a mother was living with her son and daughter-in-law and their children in the family home owned by son and daughter-in-law. Very sadly, the son passed away unexpectedly without leaving a will and his mother was seeking advice as to her position in the home and whether she had any legal right to stay there.

Unfortunately, due to the specific facts of this case, it is unlikely the mother would have any claim over the home should her daughter-in-law decide she did not want her to be living with the family any longer.

Furthermore, depending on the type of joint ownership they had in the property, the fact that the son did not leave a will means that their children may immediately inherit part of the property complicating matters for both the generations above. Dying ‘intestate’ can cause any number of complications such as this and is to be avoided at all costs if you intend to have any say over what happens to your assets on your death.

This situation could have been dealt with very easily by ensuring that the son and daughter-in-law had written wills to include a trust which would provide for the right for the mother to live in the house for her lifetime (or some other pre-agreed amount of time). This would not only have avoided the problems created by the intestacy but would have ensured that the mother’s position in the house was taken care of formally so that she had a right to occupy the home.

If you have clients that are living with parents or other relatives, we would strongly advise you to raise this issue with them before it’s too late. These situations are relatively straightforward for us to plan for provided clients take advice at the right time.

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