Thursday 17 January 2019

Delays validating wills contributing to housing shortage, TD claims

Darragh O'Brien
Darragh O'Brien
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

DELAYS in validating wills is contributing to the chronic shortage of housing.

New figures show that it can take up to 20 weeks before families receive probate after a loved one has died.

This is causing financial stress for families and reducing the number of homes on the market, according to Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien.

Information supplied to the TD shows that some 30,000 people pass away in Ireland each year, with up to 87pc of them owning a home.

This means around 26,000 homes potentially affected by delays in probate.

A recent survey carried out by Royal London’s operation here in Ireland indicates that the overall waiting time nationally from a person’s death to the distribution of their assets is 16 months.

The Department of Justice has also confirmed that a group tasked with reviewing probate in Ireland, which was announced in June 2016 has still not been established.

These factors are likely to be contributing to the relatively high 9.2pc vacancy rate of 183,000 homes nationwide, Mr O’Brien said.

“In comparison to other countries, probate tends to take an inordinate amount of time to be processed in Ireland.

The data I have received through Parliamentary Question indicates that the average wait in Donegal is 20 weeks, its just four weeks in Cavan while Dublin has an eight-week average waiting time.”

He said in England it take on average between three and four weeks for a will to be validated, so-called probate.

The TD called for a streamlining of the probate process. He said a review of the process announced by the Department of Justice first announced in June 2016 has not yet been implemented.

“These waiting times have a broader impact on the housing market across the country as up to 26,000 homes per annum are caught up in legal red tape. This reduces the number of family homes available and increases the vacancy rate nationally.”

Meanwhile, Department of Finance officials are considering whether to close a loophole that allows wealthy people to pass on a home without paying inheritance tax.

Revenue stressed the loophole only affects a small number of people.

It comes after Revenue has decided not to appeal a High Court ruling in September that allows people to inherit the family home without paying inheritance tax, even when they also inherit other property.

The Government has previously closed off the option of people benefiting from the tax break if they inherited more than one property, or a share in more than one property.

But the recent High Court decision allows people to inherit a family home tax free, even if they are getting a second property, if the second property formed part of the "residue" of the will which the beneficiary would be entitled to at a later date, according to solicitor Susan Murphy of MakeMyWill.ie.

The Department of Finance said it was studying the judgment and any implications will be considered.

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