Imagine being asked to move back to your childhood home to help provide financial support for one of your parents. Imagine also having to give up your own home to do this and in the process losing the right to buy it at a discounted rate from your landlord. Tempted? Neither was a recent client of ours until her father promised her that if she did this he would leave the family home to her in his will. It was an offer she simply could not refuse but one she sincerely wished she had when he died and the promised gift did not materialise.
Sharon Leanne Bell
Partner & Head of Estate & Trust Disputes
Advising the client on her rights following her father’s death was Sharon Leanne Bell in our Estate and Trust Disputes team who worked hard to bring about a happy ending to this sorry tale.
As Sharon explains
"In the mid-1990s our client was renting a property that had been acquired by the Department for Transport which hoped to one day demolish it to make way for a planned bypass. She was happy where she was and when the bypass plans fell through she would have jumped at the chance to buy the property when the Department for Transport offered to sell it on for a heavily discounted rate. However, she was made what appeared to be a far more attractive offer.
In return for moving back into the family home and using the money she would have spent on rent or a mortgage to instead supplement her father’s pension, our client was promised that the family home would be passed to her when her father died.
It was a wonderful opportunity which our client had no doubt her father would honour, particularly as she knew from various conversations she had had with her father, and with her mother before she had died, that it had always been their firm intention that the property should one day be hers.
Initially the arrangement worked well but problems were encountered when our client’s brother committed suicide and her father made a series of lifestyle choices which she did not agree with. By the time of his death in 2016, our client and her father had been estranged for a number of years and consequently the terms of his will had been changed so that the family home was now directed to go to his third wife.
Our client was obviously hugely distressed by this, particularly as by the time of her father’s death she had been living in the property for over twenty years and it had become a settled home for her and her three children, one of whom is disabled.
While there was evidence to support our client’s claim that the property had been promised to her – including testimony from her father’s second wife who had always understood this to be the case – there was also evidence to suggest that she had not relied on this to her detriment and that given her estrangement from her father it was to be expected that the terms of his will might have been changed.
Neither our client nor her stepmother wanted to see this matter end up in court so we embarked on a series of mediation meetings to try to thrash out an acceptable deal. Through this process everyone was able to see the range of possible outcomes that could be imposed if the matter could not be settled, which included everything from the outright transfer of the property into our client’s name to the complete dismissal of her claim and her ultimate eviction.
Through hard negotiation we eventually came to a compromise which saw our client’s stepmother agree to let her have the property in return for a relatively small payment, which our client was able to fund via a modest mortgage.
This was a fantastic result given the risk that our client could have lost her case if the matter went to court and allowed everyone involved to come out of the process feeling that they had been dealt with fairly."
We Can Help
If you have been promised an inheritance which has failed to materialise, please call us on 020 3551 8500 or use our Contact Us form to see if a claim for financial recompense may be possible. You will not be charged for your initial call and the cost of any services we provide will be agreed with you in advance and may be capable of being funded under a conditional fee agreement or a deferred payment arrangement.
Sharon can also help to defend claims of entitlement to an inheritance and deals with a range of related disputes, including those concerning trusts, disagreements between beneficiaries and executors and matters which require the involvement of the Court of Protection.