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Clare
Clare, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 34275
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practice since 1985 with a wide general experience.
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Hello, My mother-in-law is a life tenant to her late husband's

Customer Question

Hello,
My mother-in-law is a life tenant to her late husband's property and contents. Her husband was previously married and had two children who have been rather unpleasant to my mother-in-law.
The trustees have taken an inventory of the items in the house which have commercial value which I assume she has responsibility to maintain/keep the trustees updated if furniture breaks for example. What would her responsibility be for the other items not specified in the will or inventory? Can she give them to the residual beneficiaries early, or to charity or whomever she pleases?
Many thanks.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
Which part of the Uk are you in?
What is the specific wording of the Will regarding Contents?
When did her husband die and what other provision was made for her?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi there Clare,

He died in Essex, England in October 2012.

Two trusts have been set up, one for residual money once the bequeathed money had been paid out and one for the property. I will transcribe the most relevant statements from the Will:

6 a) i. "the Life Tenant" shall mean <my mother in law>

iv. "the Trust Fund" shall mean my property whether leasehold or freehold which I own from the date of my death and know as <mother-in-law's house she shared with her husband> free of any mortgage debt or charge secured thereon together with the furniture carpets curtains and other articles of household use or ornament therein not otherwise specifically gifted by my will or any codicil but if such property does not form part of my estate I give instead the property which I owned and last used as my principal residence before my death.

b) The Property Trustees shall pay the income of the Trust Fund to the Life Tenant for the Trust Period if the life tenant shall survive me by 30 days.

c) The Property Trustees may at any time or times during the Trust Period as to the whole or any part of the Trust Fund in which the Life Tenant has for the time being an interest in possession:

i. transfer or raise and pay the same to or for the absolute use or benefit of the Life Tenant or raise and pay or apply the same for the advancement or otherwise for the benefit of the Life Tenant in such a manner as the Property Trustees shall in their absolute discretion think fit.

ii. lend money or assets comprised in the Trust Fund to the Life Tenant on such terms (whether including provision for the payment of interest) as the Property Trustees think fit

iii. pay out of any proceeds of any sale of this property or any substituted property (purchased as a result of this sub clause) to purchase a freehold or leasehold property which will be held for the benefit of the Life Tenant on the same trusts to which this clause refers.

d) I declare that in exercising the powers conferred upon the Property Trustees in clause 6c above the Property Trustees shall be entitled to have regard solely to the interests of the Life Tenant and to disregard all other interests or potential interests under my Will.

e) Subject as above the Property Trustees shall permit the Life Tenant to occupy or use rent free any property or assets which or the beneficial interest in which is for the time being comprised in the Trust Fund subject to those conditions for the payment of outgoings insurance repair decoration and other matters as the Property Trustees shall from time to time consider reasonable.

f) Subject as above the Property Trustees shall hold the capital and income of the Trust Fund for <daughter 1 and her daughter> as shall survive me and if more than one in equal shares.

9 a) I give my Residuary Estate to my Trustees upon trust to pay the income to my wife <mother-in-law> for her life but contingently on her surviving me for 30 days and without becoming entitled to the income during that period except in the event and subject to that

b) Absolutely for such of my daughters <daughter 1 her daughter and daughter 2> as shall survive me and if more than one in equal shares

c) The Trustees may at any time or times as to the whole or any part of the property in which my wife <mother-in-law> has a life interest transfer or raise and pay the same to or for the absolute use or benefit of my wife or raise and pay or apply the same for the advancement or otherwise for the benefit of my wife in such manner as the Trustees shall in their absolute discretion think fit.

My mother-in-law has had a lot of pressure from daughter 1 and her daughter about the contents of the property (down to specific items of crockery). She has had so much hassle that she feels she must give them the contents now and replace with new furniture and contents by buying new items with her own savings. She hasn't received any income from any funds and has paid for the maintenance of the house also out of her savings.

Your guidance on her legal position would be gratefully received.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
How long had she and her husband been married?
What else (if anything) did she inherit?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi,

They were married for approx 5 years. She inherited a few items they purchased together eg Freezer, Sofa, etc but she isn't named as a beneficiary in the Will (other than being life tenant)

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
What is her financial position - and what was the extent of her husbands estate?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi, she is currently financially secure.

Her husband's estate was approx 50% money (from downsizing and savings) which has already been paid to beneficiaries (daughter 1 and her daughter and daughter 2 - mainly favouring daughter 1 and her daughter - which has caused fighting between the two daughters) except for a small residual and 50% property which has been held in trust for my mother-in-law's life interest.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
I need a little more information about her financial position as her husbands provision seems minimal
How long ere they actually living together?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I just checked the will and she was left the car (worth approx £3000). They were living together after they got married, so for five years.

She go remarried in her 70s so was self sufficient beforehand.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
HI
Are the daughters also the Trustees?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

No, was a friend of the late husband but due to the daughters fighting is fed up with it and handing it over to an independent trustee.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
That is a shame as the Will is quite clear - the Trustees must act in the best interests of the Widow and can ignore the interests of the daughters/grand daughter.
The beneficiaries have no right to visit the house if she does not wish the to do so - and if they contact her then the matter can be reported to the police.
In fact if she wished the Widow could still challenge the Will on the grounds that it did not make sufficient provision for her - at the very least she should have had the contents (less any sentimental items connected with his first wife)
It is possible that the threat of action could be sufficient to deal with the issue - especially since the Will as it stands gives the Trustee the right to cash in assets for her benefit to pay her bills
If she would rather simply be rid of the problem then I suggest that she asks the Trustees to fund a storage unit and places anything she does not wish to use there - and reminds the daughters that this is costing them and not her in the long run.
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks for the response. She is worried about the contents of the house that is a mixture of items on the probate inventory, other items of little value but from her husband's side (pots and pans etc) plus her own belongings. How should this managed by the trustees? She's worried that when she comes to pass the daughter's will lay claim to everything in the house (and be trouble for my wife) , hence why she's thinking about trying to close it out now.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
She is entitled to use the items if she wishes to - or not if she doesn't
If there are items she does not wish to have at all then she should notify the Trustees accordingly - they can then offer them to the daughters and f they are not wanted they can be disposed of.
If she wishes to minimise the problems for your wife your mother in law should keep a folder of receipts for any items that she purchases for the property
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi, so on her passing it is assumed everything ie all the contents of the house including personal belongings etc belongs to the daughter's and we have to prove what belongs to her? That sounds very unfair,and very impractical especially for items she's bought previously with no receipts..

The Will has made things very impractical..

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Sorry I should have made it clear
The Trustee and the Widow shoudl agree a list of items that belong to the Trust now - and countersign it - Those are the items that will belong to the trust!
Clare
Clare and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks, ***** ***** makes sense - will ensure this is done (the only inventory that exists today is the one for probate)

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Excellent idea
Clare