As if often the case nowadays, the younger relatives of families move in with their older parents or family relations to ensure that they are looked after in their old age.  Most people do this as a duty to their family or to their loved ones and do not expect anything in return. Alternatively, some people see it as a payout to receive some inheritance from their elderly relative.  It is important to consider any consequences there could be when inviting relatives into the home to look after you. When the younger family member moves in with the older party, they must ensure that they are not entitling them to a higher percentage of their assets than they ever envisaged.

In a recent case a wealthy retired historian, Bill Taylor, “persuaded” his nephew Roger Taylor, his partner and their children to move in with him. Roger and his family moved into his property in the east wing of his grade two listed home in Callington, Cornwall. They had moved from Sheffield and paid no rent for the property.

Bill’s wife Audrey had recently died and understandably he had become unnerved and worried about his safety following a recent theft at his property where a lawnmower had been stolen from his farmhouse. Bill Taylor had lived in the house for many years with his late wife but after her death and the theft at the property, he decided that he did not want to be left alone.

Bill was worth approximately £1 million and held a Will distributing his wealth between charities and various other family members.

The relationship between Uncle and Nephew was never easy, even before they began to share a house in August 2001. Roger and his family stayed at the property for a significant period of time and in 2009 Roger discovered that his uncle had no intention of leaving him the house in his Will.  Fireworks erupted.

In this time sadly Bill Taylor passed away. Following his death, Roger Taylor argued that his uncle had promised him the £800,000 property and that this would not be included in the terms of his Will. This was contested by the Executors of Mr Taylor’s estate as there was no evidence to suggest this had been the case.

However, a judge ruled in Roger Taylor’s favour last year. The case then went to the Court of Appeal.  It has now come to light that Judge Jeremy Griggs has accepted that a bargain has been struck and that Roger Taylor awarded the whole of the property.  This is even though there is no firm evidence to suggest that Bill had ever promised his home to Roger and even if he had it was obvious that it was a disproportionate result in favour of Roger.

Since the property made up the bulk of the £1 million estates, the ruling meant that the charities named in Mr Taylor’s Will, who he had intended to leave £650,000, and his other relations, who he intended to leave the remainder of the money, would not receive any money.

Who would have thought that the theft of a lawnmower would lead to Mr Taylor’s estate not being distributed in accordance with his Will?

It is clear that if any client is in this situation that they should not be making promises to their relatives.  Even if promises have not been made the indications are that if any suggestion is made that the property would have been left to the relative then this may be enough for them to inherit regardless of the content of a Will.

Further, it must be considered that there may be a claim against the estate from the relative living with you as they may be entitled to show a dependency upon the person (link to Inheritance Act 1975) especially if the person has offered them accommodation for a number of years.

If this is a scenario for any of our clients they should seek our advice on the best way to protect their estate and ensure that it is distributed as they would wish in their Will.

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