Home Economics: Answering your property questions
Q: I want to make out a new will since my husband's death early last year. He left everything to me, which includes the family home, his pension and some savings. My three daughters are married but my son is not and he minds me very well. I wonder if I can leave the house to him entirely as the girls all live in their own homes. I know it will cause anger though. Do I have to tell them or can they contest the will later?
A: First of all, you are quite right to make out a new will. It is very important when your circumstances change and a solicitor will do it for you very easily. You are entirely free to bequeath your estate as you see fit says Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors.
If you want to have your son inherit the house, there is nothing stopping you. Children are not legally entitled to a share in their parents' estate.
In terms of the conflict you foresee, there is a provision under what's termed an S.117 application (of the Succession Act 1965) whereby a child can apply to the court for relief if they show that the deceased parent failed to make proper provision for him/her during their lifetime or in the will. There is a high onus of proof in such an application and whilst the courts are reluctant to intervene in an estate, they can do so.
In this case, there may be adequate provision in the rest of the estate regarding the remaining assets and so there may well be no cause of action, however, it is worth noting that these applications can be made.
Whilst you mention not telling your children, doing so may actually prevent a contest down the line if you explain your wishes and reasoning behind the will.
Q: We're trying to draw up a budget for buying our first house which we think will be early next year. Apart from the mortgage itself, what other things should we take into account? We don't want to be caught unawares and be left with a bill we didn't anticipate.
A: You're correct to budget. Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase of your life and with it comes all sorts of associated costs. These include legal fees for the purchase itself.
It's worth negotiating with your solicitor (or a few solicitors) to keep conveyancing as low as possible. This is 'bread and butter' business to legal firms, but you can expect to pay one to two per cent of the purchase price.
The estate agent charges the vendor directly, so there is no cost to you for buying. You will need to provide a surveyor though, as the bank will insist on 'proofing' the house as a good risk.
This can cost several hundred euro but is money well spent as s/he will pick up any defects, snags or things that may not be immediately obvious to you.
Your bank will insist you effect mortgage protection insurance, which pays them in the event of either of you dying during the term of the loan.
They may offer their own product, but I find it's best to approach a broker, who can look at several companies and provide the best price. This type of cover shouldn't cost more than around €15 p.m. per €100,000.
Finally, if you have to move furniture and personal items from your current residence, build in the cost of a removal firm. Some charge per hour, others per job. Get at least three quotes.
The Ryan Review
A tetchy Minister Alan Kelly took broadcaster Matt Cooper to task recently over referring to his plan for new pop-up houses to solve the accommodation crisis as "prefabs". He'll probably not like 'pop up' then either.
Prefab stands for pre-fabricated and is precisely the right word. These good quality, low cost fast-delivery units are, indeed, pre-fabricated. Entire generations of school children spend their whole education in them, so it's hardly time to get pedantic over the name.
If it's good enough for kids, it's good enough for families who need urgent housing. But if anyone's going to take umbrage, it should be the taxpayer. There were 1,273 prefab school classrooms costing €20m a year in rent in 2013.
One school in Finglas, St Paul's, has been using them since 1977. The overall cost is far greater than if proper brick structures were built and the loans paid down instead.
"Money spent on a mortgage leads to the eventual ownership of the building, whereas forking out hundreds of millions in rent is dead money, benefiting nobody but companies that manufacture and rent out the prefabs."
That was Mr Kelly's Labour Party colleague and former Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn, in 2009.
Over in Mayo, Enda's constituency running mate, John O Mahony TD, opined: "Instead of spending scarce resources on temporary school accommodation - known to everyone as 'prefabs' - investment in permanent classrooms would have saved taxpayers' cash in the long run." But that was then, too.