Saturday 3 December 2016

Home Economics: Answering your property questions

Published 15/05/2015 | 02:30

Leaving the family home in a will
Leaving the family home in a will

Our property expert answers questions over a will signed by a terminally ill mother and age limits for a person taking out a mortgage.

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Question: My mother got remarried at the age of 65 after being widowed. My sisters and I are not crazy about our new stepfather, believing him to be quite controlling, but she is happy. Now she has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and we are devastated. She revealed she had drawn up a new will on her remarriage and we had assumed the family home where they now live, would revert to us. Can our stepfather be left it in its entirety? We don't want to distress her, but this would be very worrying for us

Answer: It's positive that your mother made a new will as her marriage would have invalidated the old one, leaving an intestacy which is always messy.

Providing she was of sound mind, and not unduly influenced when she made her will, she is perfectly free to leave her property as she sees fit, says Niamh Moran of Carmody Moran solicitors. There is no legal right for you and your siblings to inherit the family home, however the fact that she went to the trouble of making the will suggests she wanted to give consideration to everyone she wished to benefit.

A will is not a public document until a Grant of Probate issues, so its contents will remain private to your mother until after her death, unless she wishes to share its contents with you. You could have a private word with her and she may be able to assuage your concerns in this regard but given her ill health, I appreciate this could be a sensitive situation to address.

Niamh adds: "If your mother disinherited you and your siblings, either completely or to a reduced extent, you can look to have recourse for proper provision by way of S. 117 of the Succession Act. These are complex applications and you and your siblings would need to take specific legal advice. It is also important that you would act quickly following your mother's death as tight deadlines apply.

"One other matter to bear in mind is that your stepfather also has rights under the Succession Act and can opt to elect for either his legal right share (in this instance where your mother has children that would be one-third of the estate), or his bequest under the will, if any."

Question: After 20 years in the United States I am moving back to Ireland with my new wife. She is 47 and I am 50. We need a mortgage of around 60pc of the value of the house we've chosen but were hoping to keep costs down by taking one out over 25 years. However, it seems I am deemed 'too old' for this, even though I have assured the bank that I will never retire and run my own online business.

Sinead replies: Banks have tightened up in many ways in terms of lending, but they've always been pretty strict on age limits. They would largely prefer not to be relying on retirement income - so often lower than 'working' income.

Ken Murray of the Association of Expert Mortgage Advisers says: "It is reasonable to expect age will play a part in the bank's criteria when determining whether or not a person is eligible for a mortgage and the term over which the mortgage will be repaid. It could leave them in a precarious position further down the line if they didn't. Some banks are still using 65 while the State is now using 66. In a general sense for a self-employed person, the majority of banks would probably consider that the person could work up to age of 70.

"In your case this leaves you with a repayment term of 20 years - which is not far off your desired term. You also need to ask yourself, while you want to keep costs down now, do you really want to have mortgage debt hanging over you into your 70s? You might need to be flexible with your mortgage term and agree to a compromise with your bank."

Try Bank of Ireland which allows loans to age 70 and KBC to age 68. You will also need to meet financial criteria and persuade the lender of your business's viability.

The Ryan Review

Yes, it's taken far too long, and no, it won't be sufficient, but credit where it's due - at least the Government is making shapes in terms of providing new sustainable housing in the private and public spheres.

The launch of a €3.8bn programme for 1,700 social housing units is welcome, although it has to be said it all sounds rather expensive. In South Dublin for example, €40.8m will be spent on just 203 houses, working out at over €200,000 per unit. Social housing, not normally known for its palatial proportions, will likely be of the high density variety, so builders will be lining up at those prices.

Separately, the proposed tax breaks on pre-1915 homes intend to inject life back into city living. Getting over the legacy of tenement buildings and creating vibrant, modern communities in the heart of urban centres is inspiring.

There are thousands of properties which could qualify and let's hope the initiative is pounced on by owners which sees 10pc of the investment in remodelling being written off over 10 years.

We are changing the way we live and with the majority of those in need of social housing singletons, apartments are clearly the way to go.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that many families would still prefer the traditional three-bed with front and back garden, and we should cater for them, rather than attempting to shoe-horn them into accommodation they don't want.

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