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My father, his brother and his sister have had ongoing disputes over the years in relation to the family business which was founded by my grandfather. My uncle had done wrong and has severely damaged the business which ended their relationship with him. While my aunt and my father have tried to reconcile some sort of relationship with each other, neither had spoken to their brother for a very long time. My grandmother moved in with my aunt in 2011 when she became unwell and was later diagnosed with Dementia. My aunt and my father acquired Power of Attorney and a Solicitor firm organised my grandmother’s Will. This left her Estate between my father and aunt with an attachment to the Will explaining why my uncle had been removed. This was due to his hand in the demise of the family business. A medical expert approved my grandmother’s mental capacity at the time the Will was signed and the solicitors were named as Executors. My grandmother’s house was left unoccupied for a time and began to deteriorate so my aunt firstly asked a friend of hers Mr A, whom she had previously had a romantic relationship with, to move in. This was also to stop my uncle’s children from moving in and staking a claim on the property on his behalf. My aunt’s friend rarely stayed at the property and the house became to deteriorate further. He had agreed to pay my grandmother rent but to my knowledge my grandmother never received a rental payment from him. Once my aunt had begun to argue with her friend and wanted him out of her mother’s property, but she still did not want her estranged brother’s children to move in. I and my fiancé were renting a property in the area at that time when my aunt put it to us that she wanted us to move into my grandmother’s house. My aunt said that it would keep the house in the family and would be a happy home for ourselves and our future children. She kept pushing us to move in and my Grandmother agreed that she would love us to live there. We were doubtful that it was a good idea as the last thing we wanted was to get embroiled in the family drama but after a time I felt we had the support of my grandmother, my dad and my aunt and that it was the right decision for our future. My aunt and father were also adamant that no rent would need to be paid as we were deemed as “caretakers” and would look after the property on behalf of my grandmother. We said that we would move in but would invest our own money to renovate the property in a view to purchasing it for market value down the line. No rental agreement was put in place as it had been with my aunt’s friend and no objections were made by the estranged uncle about us living there rent free. We began work on the property and spent a total of approx £23,000 on the renovations (all receipts are accounted for). My grandmother passed away in November 2012 and shortly afterwards a New Will overriding the Feb 2011 will appeared. My uncle had visited my grandmother with a solicitor in July 2012 and had gotten her to sign a new Will which included his claim on the estate, etc. At this time my grandmother was suffering with her dementia and her mental capacity was in question. Her carers did not make a note of this visit so we were unaware of this until after she had passed away. We then received a letter to cease all work on the property and if we continued we would be taken to court for devaluing her estate. This in turn stopped any chance of us being able to purchase the property. We have lived in an unfinished house for the past two years while my father and his siblings have fought over the estate. We worked on the house for a year and a half which lead to a distressing two years not knowing whether we would be evicted and worrying that we would be left in debt for renovations we would never be repaid for. Mediation to resolve the issue finally took place between my father, his sister and their brother. The decision was made that the estate would be split between the siblings but there was no mention of remuneration for myself and my partner. My uncle’s solicitor stated that if we went after them for repayment of works they would sue us for rent payments not received even though it was agreed that no rent was to be paid. We even put forward a folder of all the renovation receipts along with witness statements pertaining to our agreement with family members but all were disregarded. We are not looking for more than we are owed. We just want to be compensated for the works we have done that have increased the market value of the property. We are a young couple who put our trust in family and as a result feel betrayed. We are still in the property but assume they will be asking us to move out shortly so that they can put the house on the market. What we would like to know is if we have a claim on the estate for the works we did to the property and do we have any rights?
1. At the outset, any one who improves or maintains another's property has the right to seek repayment of the monies expended upon those improvements as a matter of law. Secondly, here, as there was an arrangement that you would live rent free in the property as caretaker's provided you improved it with an option to purchase at market value afterwards, the estate of the deceased grandmother and the three beneficiaries are now estopped as a matter of law from resiling from the agreement that you can buy it at market value should you so wish, as you have relied to your detriment upon this agreement by carrying out the improvements and living there. So in this situation, you should formally write to the executor of the estate and the three brothers and sister and seek to buy out the house for market value. This is an alternative to seeking the return of the monies expended. You cannot have both options. YOu have to choose one option - either the buyout for market value right or the return of the monies expended upon the property (23K).
2. I would advise you to get yourself a solicitor and formally write to the three brothers & sister and seek your formal rights in relation to the case. Be aware that you should get a supporting barrister's opinion in support of your case which you can send to the other side to explain the legalities of the situation. The three brothers & sister will probably get legal advice of their own. This will speed up a settlement.
Would we be able to include legal costs incurred with the remuneration of works carried out?