Legal Advice: We're worried our daughter in law will have a claim over the farm
Q My younger son announced his engagement at Christmas and is getting married next year. He farms the family farm with my husband, myself and our other son, who is unmarried. My younger son’s fiancée is not used to farm life and works as a nurse in the town. We like her well enough but worry that if anything goes wrong in the future she would have some claim over the farm which we want to leave to our two sons to carry on. How do we protect against this?
A I’m a little uncomfortable answering this question, because it’s bound to sound contrived in some way to the negative (in assuming something will go wrong even though they aren’t even married yet), and attempting to find a ‘loophole’ for you to avoid this lady’s legal entitlements in the event of the marriage not working out.
That said, I’m a ‘townie’ myself, but I know such things run deep, even outside of John B Keane country.
In the first instance, the engagement should prompt a round-table family discussion where you can bring your concerns up. Perhaps your sons share them, perhaps they do not and can allay your fears.
I asked Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors what her advice might be.
“This is often a concern for families especially with farms that go back generations. From a legal perspective, a spouse has the right to inherit a share in their partner’s estate and it depends on what other assets your son has as to whether these are sufficient to ensure the farm does not pass on.
"However, this is ultimately a decision for him. You can consider a trust in your will and its beneficiaries can be your sons and any future grandchildren. It is a complicated structure and one where taxation needs to be properly considered.”
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