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Happy Families? Moving in with Mum


Living on your own can be lonely, especially as you grow older. For many families the logical answer is that an elderly parent sells their home and moves in with one of their adult children. But life doesn’t always go to plan and Sarah Young, Partner at Ridley & Hall explains the pitfalls: –

“I am increasingly coming across cases where family arrangements like this, made without the benefit of legal advice, have gone horribly wrong as a result of unforeseen circumstances.

In one case a mother sold the family home and used the proceeds of sale to pay off her son’s mortgage. She moved in with him and it was always intended that her name would be put on the deeds to reflect her share of the property, but that never happened. Her son sadly died some years later and because he had not updated his will his estate, which included the house, all went to his two young sons who were living with his estranged wife. On the face of it my client, the elderly mother, had no evidence to prove her interest in the property. She was confused about what had been agreed in the past and there were no bank statements or documents to prove it.

It took a lot of detective work to prove that my client owned a substantial share in the property and it was deeply distressing for her and the family to deal with the dispute immediately following their bereavement.”

The law in this area is not always straightforward. Whenever money is used to part fund the purchase of a property or is used to repay a mortgage on a property there is a possibility that a trust may arise giving someone an interest in the property. This can happen, for example, with couples who cohabit where the property is in one of the party’s names as well in cases involving parents and children. However strong the ties of love and affection between those involved, it is vital to have clear discussions about everyone’s intentions; who owns what? What should happen if one of you dies? Ideally those decisions should be recorded in a declaration of trust which can be drawn up by a property lawyer to avoid any confusion later down the line.

Sarah Young suspects that this is a problem that she will see more of in the future: – “The recession means that more families are having to live together for longer and, for financial reasons, it may make all sorts of sense for a widowed parent to move in with one of their children. But if that person loses mental capacity for example, who will be able to give evidence about what was agreed in terms of any financial transaction? Arguments between families can often arise not just over their inheritance but also over gifts and loans made by their parent during their lifetime. It may sound harsh, but it is best to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

sarah-youngSarah Young is a Partner with Ridley & Hall Solicitors, Queens House, 35 Market Street, Huddersfield HD1 2HL and specialises in will disputes, cases involving missing people and the Court of Protection. Sarah offers practical, friendly and cost effective advice. She understands the sensitive nature of cases which often involve disputes between families and has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.

For further information please contact Sarah on 01484 538421 or mobile 07860 165850.

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