Home economics: Sinead Ryan answers your property questions
Over Christmas we were clearing out the attic and found a will, which looks valid, belonging to my late uncle who lived in the house before us (we bought it off my cousin when he died). To our astonishment, it looks as if he left a piece of land to myself and my sister when he died in 2003.
This would have been of great help to our family at the time but we were told there was no will made and the estate was eventually divided up between his two sons. What is the situation now, if we get this will validated?
Can we apply for the value of this land (long since sold off) from our cousins, who are quite wealthy?
A. A great deal of time has passed which won't help your situation.
Let's get some stuff out of the way: the fact that your cousins are 'quite wealthy' makes absolutely no difference. Valuing the land now is entirely subjective, as so much has changed with land values in the intervening 15 years.
You have three options: the first is to leave well enough alone. Yes, you were left the land, and it is possibly rightfully yours, but the process you could be entering into, especially if it gets legal, could negate any value it carries.
Option two is to open the channel of communication with your cousins, which may eventually lead to an offer for your rightful share.
The third option, according to Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors, is to head down the legal route. "If a will turns up after assets have been distributed, an application should be made to the Probate Office to lodge the will and revoke the previous grant of administration that was issued. This can cause great difficulty and end up in litigation to attempt to redistribute the estate.
"Unfortunately there is no comprehensive wills register which would be of great assistance in determining whether someone has ever made a will. Probate and solicitors fees to reapply would pertain as if it was a first-time application."
Q. I never married, choosing a career instead and built up quite a bit of money for my old age. I am now 81. I would like to leave my house and money to my two nieces (sister's offspring) in my will, also unmarried, who have been wonderful to me, visiting every week.
If possible I would like them to live in my house together, if they wish. Would this also mean they wouldn't pay a lot of tax on what I leave?
I have around €90,000 in the post office and the house is worth around €340,000, I think. They have been almost like daughters to me, so I would like to see them treated as such.
A. You are obviously very close and have a great relationship with your nieces. Although they are 'like' daughters to you, in Revenue terms they will not be treated as such, unfortunately.
Capital Acquisitions Tax is payable on accumulated gifts and inheritances and the tax-free threshold allowed for a niece, considered as a Group B donee, is just €32,500. This means each can receive this amount (whether it's in property or cash form is irrelevant), but they would have to pay tax at 33pc on the remainder. Based on your current valuations, this would amount to €65,505 each.
Have a word with your nieces; they may not actually wish to live in the house and may be happy to sell it and pay towards the tax, still leaving them with a very substantial inheritance. You can also make them a gift of €3,000 each per year at any time which is tax exempt under the Small Gifts Exemption.
More than anything though, please make a will either way. You definitely don't want a situation where you pass away without one and you may find more than two relatives fighting for a share.