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Clarification of will

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obsessed | 15:43 Wed 25th Nov 2009 | Law
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My mother died last week and I have two sisters. One sister lived with our mother for 30 years and cared for her throughout her illness. Mum's wishes were that my sister would inherit the property for her lifetime and then it would pass to her grandchildren. My query is that her will was made 20 years ago and she then moved house. When she moved home she put my sister's name on the Land Registry Deeds which effectively means she has 50%. Mum's 50% will go to her for her lifetime, but do we have to apply for Probate. There is less than £500 in the estate and obviously we don't want to incur charges if we have to because there is no money for the funeral which my sisters and myself will pay.

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I am not too knowledgable about this but purely on an asumtion... if your mothers half of the house is worth more than the IHT threshold then inheritance tax would be payable.

I have assumed (possible wrongly) that all estates go through probate, which doesn't cost much anyway, even if the estate is worth £500. Don't forget the cash value may only be small but the asset of the half house is far greater!
Here's another point which I believe you should look into.
When your mum added your sister's name on the house deeds they could become either "Joint Tenants" or "Tenants in Common".
Being "Joint Tenants" is the more commonly held situation and they both hold responsibility for 100% of the property so that if one dies, the other is still responsible for the 100% and not the 50% which I believe you have assumed. Therefore, your sister could already be the 100% owner of the house according to the Deeds.
With "Tenants in Common", they both only own 50% of the property and can leave their half to who ever they wish when they die. The remaining partner would then still own 50% and the new partner would own the other 50%.
I'm 99% sure of the above situation but would suggest that you check it out with either a solicitor or the Land Registry (available on line). It would also help if you have the actual Deeds to the property.
It could also depend upon the actual wording of the Will.
I hope this helps and does not confuse the issue.
I believe an hour with a solicitor (for his recommendations) would be money well spent.
Question Author
Many thanks for your answers. I know that the Deeds show that they are "Tenants in Common" and as my Mum's will did leave her half to my sister she now has 100% but as the Deeds will have to be put in my sister's name for her lifetime we will go to a solicitor and clarify everything.
Wak's analysis is correct in that, with 'Joint Tenants', the function of the will is not relevant - the property automatically passes to the other joint tenant anyway.
However that is not the same thing as the value of the deceased's estate for probate purposes. 50% of the value of house will have to be declared to the probate office - so I believe you will have to apply for probate.
IHT will not be payable unless the value of the estate (effectively the same thing as half of the value of the house as your Mum had few other assets) is more than £325k.
As others have indicated, the value of the estate is a great deal more than £500, since the house forms part of the estate.

It's essential that the executors apply for probate otherwise the ownership of the your mother's share of the house will effectively remain 'in limbo'. That will cause considerable problems when your sister dies.

Obtaining probate is an easy process. You do NOT need to use a solicitor. Unless there are unusual complicating factors (which there don't seem to be in your case) anyone with half a brain can do the form-filling on their own. Probate Registry staff are incredibly helpful. The only payment is a £90 application fee but you might need a few additional official copies of the grant of representation. Since they're only £1 each (if ordered at the same time as the application is made) it will cost less than £100 to avoid some very complex problems in the future.

Speak to the staff at your local Probate Registry. They'll guide you through the process. You can find your local registry here:
http://www.hmcourts-s...robate/registries.htm

Chris

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