I’m feeling out of my depth and frankly very concerned and scared about what will happen to me and where I will live in the near future.
I am 55 and a full-time live-in carer for my mother who is now receiving palliative care and not expected to live longer than six months.
I have lived at the address for nine years and have been caring full-time for my mother for the last three years.
Inheritance worry: Could my siblings force me out of my mum’s house when she dies? (Stock image)
I have not been able to work in this time, have no income, receive no benefits and have no savings. My late father and my mother have supported me financially.
I am youngest of five children, and the others each have a secure roof overhead, two owning their properties outright.
We are due to have a family meeting to discuss issues relating to my mother’s care, funeral and what will happen to the house.
My mother’s will was made over 30 years ago and states upon her death that the house will be sold and split five ways between the children.
In the past two years my mother has been adamant that I stay in the house upon her death as I have nowhere else to go and she wants the house to stay in the family.
The will was not changed to accommodate her wishes. Time has gone on, and while being an administrator of my father’s estate and caring for my mother, we never got around to it.
Now it is too late to change it and would seem in bad taste and I’d be uncomfortable with it. I have power of attorney for financial affairs for my mother.
As our dear mum’s health declines, I am becoming ever more anxious and unsettled with worry about becoming homeless.
I’m just wondering where I stand on having to move out of the family home or am I entitled to stay as I have been caring for my mother and have nowhere to go on to?
Would my family have to take me to court if I had no choice but to stay put and they wanted to sell the house?
Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: I’m really sorry to hear of your circumstances and that your mother is so seriously ill.
After all your years of devoted caring for your parents, it must be very upsetting to have to worry now about the potential upheaval of moving – and at worst whether you will have anywhere to live – on top of bereavement.
I hope your siblings are sympathetic and do not try to force you into any immediate decisions or action.
Below, an experienced lawyer explains your options regarding your mother’s will and what might happen if she cannot change it before she dies.
Also, as you have no income or savings and are not on benefits, a financial expert looks at what help you might be entitled to now and in the future.
Richard Marshall, partner at law firm Hay & Kilner, replies: This is such a difficult situation, and I appreciate that the uncertainty around what will happen on your mother’s death must be causing great concern at an already worrying time given her poor health.
Richard Marshall: If your mother is well enough it would be best for her to seek legal advice to update her will
Can the current will be changed?
As a starting point, the will is the legal blueprint for what happens to the assets someone owns on their death.
Whilst it may be a difficult conversation, if your mother is well enough it would be best for her to seek legal advice to update her will.
If done properly by an appropriate professional, there should be no issues around the validity of the will or any possible allegations that you have influenced or coerced your mother.
In these circumstances it would also be advisable for your mother to have a medical assessment to confirm that she has the required mental capacity to make a new will.
If this is not possible, then your mother’s current will takes effect on her death.
Can you alter the will after your mother’s death?
Your siblings could agree to allow you to live in the property, but it would be best to have this formalised to give you certainty around your rights of occupation.
If your siblings are agreeable (and all over the age of 18 with the ability to make decisions for themselves) then you can all agree to vary the terms of your mother’s will after her death.
By way of example, this could be done to give you a right to live in the property for the rest of your life rent free, and then when you no longer need to live in the property it can be sold and the sale proceeds will pass to you and your siblings accordingly.
As long as this is done within two years of your mother’s death it is a very effective way to redirect her estate.
As you will appreciate, your siblings could be deferring their entitlement to their share of the sale proceeds for the rest of your life (and arguably the rest of theirs) so they may not be agreeable to this.
Can you claim a greater share of the estate?
If your siblings were not agreeable to this, then you could consider making a claim against your mother’s estate on the basis that you were being financially maintained by her.
Alternatively, if your mother had promised that the house would be yours ‘one day’ and you had relied on this promise to your detriment then you could bring a claim on this basis.
There needs to be evidence of any such promise which can make these types of claims difficult.
If you have made a financial contribution to or invested in the property you may have a right to a greater share of the property beyond what you would receive under the terms of your mother’s will.
Bringing any type of claim against an estate is very specific to the circumstances in question.
It can also be very expensive and a time-consuming process, particularly if your siblings challenge a claim.
It would therefore be important to obtain legal advice if you were to consider making any such claim.
Can your siblings force the sale of the family home?
If your mother did not change her will, and you did not bring a claim against her estate, then your siblings could agree to allow you to live in the property until such time as it was sold.
This would give you the chance to find alternative accommodation and use your share of the sale proceeds to fund this.
If there are sufficient assets in the estate, then you could have the property in satisfaction of your share of the estate so long as there is enough cash or other assets to ensure your siblings receive their entitlement from the estate.
Failing this, if you did not agree to move out, the executors named in your mother’s will may force the sale of the property, and apply to court on the assumption that you have not acquired any rights to occupy the property during your mother’s lifetime.
What action can you take now?
Unfortunately, this is not a straightforward situation. If your mother is unable to change her will you may be best placed to obtain some legal advice sooner rather than later to fully understand your position and what options would be best for you in the circumstances.
Liam Bradford, technical advice support officer at Age UK, replies: First and foremost, you should speak to an advice organisation such as Citizens Advice or Age UK Advice and request a full personalised benefits check.
What benefits could you claim?
As you currently have no income or benefit entitlement, it’s likely you’ll be eligible for universal credit which is the main means-tested benefit for claimants under state pension age (currently age 66).
This would give you a monthly income of £324.84 and can be backdated by up to one month – though backdating is at the discretion of the Department for Work and Pensions, and you would have to state why you couldn’t claim sooner.
However, universal credit is made up of various ‘elements’ which includes an additional personal allowance for those with caring responsibilities.
So, you should also be able to claim this part of universal credit if you provide at least 35 hours’ care per week AND your mother – the ‘cared for’ person – receives a ‘qualifying disability benefit’, in this case attendance allowance as she is over state pension age.
This would provide you with an additional allowance of £163.73 per month.
Additionally, you may also be entitled to claim carer’s allowance, a benefit which has the same conditions of entitlement as the universal credit carer element above but with the further requirement that you are not earning more than £128 net per week.
This would boost your income by an extra £67.60 per week and can be backdated by up to three months.
Both the universal credit carer element and carer’s allowance can be claimed at the same time, although carer’s allowance will be treated as unearned income for universal credit purposes and be deducted on a pound for pound basis.
What could you claim on behalf of your mother?
As both the universal credit carer element and carer’s allowance require the cared for person to be receiving a ‘qualifying disability benefit’, if this is not the case currently you can look into making a new claim for your mother.
You can do this as you have power of attorney for financial affairs for your mother.
Which benefit can be claimed will be determined by the age of your mother. As she is over state pension age it will be attendance allowance.
Considering your mother is not expected to live longer than six months, any of these claims can be fast tracked under what is known as ‘special rules’ cases.
What if you have to leave the family home?
If you are unable to stay in the family home and end up facing homelessness, you should contact your local council – this will be the district council, if you live in a part of the country which has a county council as well.
STEVE WEBB ANSWERS YOUR PENSION QUESTIONS
Councils are responsible for helping people who are homeless and threatened with homelessness, so long as they are also eligible for help under immigration rules.
British citizens are usually eligible, unless they have recently returned from abroad.
The council will assess whether you meet this condition and whether you are legally considered homeless or threatened with homelessness.
To be legally threatened with homelessness, it must be likely that you will become homeless within 56 days (eight weeks), although councils are encouraged to be flexible where someone clearly at risk of homelessness but does not yet meet this definition.
If the council accepts that you are homeless or threatened with it, and also eligible under immigration rules, it will have a duty to take ‘reasonable steps’ to help you.
This duty normally lasts for 56 days. The steps taken by the council will vary from case to case but may include attempting mediation with your family or providing financial or other support to help you into private rented housing.
If you are still facing homelessness after 56 days, the council will decide whether to provide further help based on your wider circumstances.
This means the reasons for your homelessness and whether you are considered a priority case.
Age UK has produced a leaflet on homelessness to help clients understand their rights and what to do if they receive a negative decision on their case.
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