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Home Economics: Our property finance expert answers your questions


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Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Question: I am recently separated and it has been a terrible time emotionally and financially. I am continuing to live in the family home for the next while, but it holds many bad memories. I'd love to change my surroundings and I know you don't normally deal with questions like this, but I have very little money, maybe €500. Would you have any advice?

Answer: I'm delighted to get a design related query! I often talk to interior designers with solutions for small budgets on the radio, so I asked around and the collective wisdom runs on changing up your bedroom as probably the most important thing to restore mental health.

Reclaiming a sanctuary space can be healing, while inexpensive. You could start by changing the bed's aspect, put it against a different wall, or none. Change its direction, even if it only allows one sided access (there's only you to sleep in it after all).

Spend money on new bed linens, as high quality as you can afford. Foxford woollen mills or Thomas Ferguson have lovely examples, but Dunnes Stores also do Francis Brennan's range - you'll get a duvet set for under €100. Sometimes the 'hotel' feel can be luxurious and remind you of happier times.

A sheepskin mat (Ikea, €25-€45), or thick pile rug is soothing when your feet hit the floor in the morning and textured throws and cushions can add warmth and colour. Paint a feature wall, in a zany colour; you only have yourself to please, and nobody else's opinion to take into account. Jewel colours like dark green, sapphire blue and zippy yellow are in. Finally, clear out the wardrobes and chuck out everything you haven't worn in a year.

Question: I am 71 and my wife is 80. To date, I have no official will made. We are married 46 years and have an adult son and daughter, both in their 40s, adopted since birth. My intention was to make my will completely to my wife in the event that I pre-decease her and in the event that she pre-deceases me, I leave my will to be equally divided between my son and daughter. Please advise me if I am making legitimate arrangements.

Answer: You are making perfectly legitimate arrangements, although you have left it rather late!

Making a will is really essential although I know many people believe that 'everybody knows' who should get what, or that it's 'obvious' that their children, for instance, will inherit in equal proportion, but that's not how the law sees it. If it's not written down in a formal document, you are doing yourself, and your children, no favours.

Dying without a will is known as being 'intestate', a legal status. Where this happens, nobody can dispose of, or claim, your assets until they are legitimately given permission to do so by a court. This is a lengthy, expensive and tedious business, and completely unnecessary. Lawyers will garner a bunch of your money that you might have earmarked elsewhere.

So I suggest you visit a solicitor with all due haste. What you propose is completely straightforward, so will take minimal effort. I note in your question you refer to yourself in the singular. It is you and your wife who hold equal claim to the estate, so you both need to make a will together. This may simply be your email language and, if so, I apologise.

That your children are adopted makes no difference in terms of what they can inherit. They come under the Group A threshold which entitles each of them to inherit up to €335,000 (including any and all gifts you may have given them during their lifetime). If your assets are valued at more than €670,000, tax is payable at 33pc on the balance.

You can mitigate against this by also leaving assets/money to your grandchildren, if any. They are each entitled to €32,500 or the equivalent, tax free (Group B). This is a tax avoidance measure (as opposed to tax evasion!) and is a very good idea.

Best of luck and long life ahead.

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The Ryan Review

Irish mortgage holders have always paid more for their loans than Europeans — at the moment, the gap is 1.49pc on average rates, fairly significant given they’re on the floor generally.

Covid-19, among other things, has polarised thoughts on household finances. Throw in a bit of boredom, and more borrowers are having a look-see on better value.

Only around one per cent typically switch every year, but the Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors (AIMA) says 23pc of enquiries to member brokers are about moving loans. Fixed rates are especially popular, with the certainty they bring and there’s good value in three to five-year products. Some lenders, offering overpayment flexibility without penalty, are also proving popular, said the organisation.


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