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to back my Mum up over this?

(51 Posts)
Bulmers Tue 09-Aug-11 11:33:55

My Grandmother in Germany died recently and my Mum is over there trying to sort everything out.
Although not married she'd been living with a man for about 18 years. They lived mostly in her flat but he still kept his furniture, appliances and some clothes in his own flat upstairs to hers. Due to their failing health her partner's son arranged for them to move into a new flat. The move happened while my GM was in hospital and she sadly died before ever living in the new place.
The partners son has sent my mum an email saying she owes him well over £3k! He's broken it down into moving costs (fair enough, her stuff was moved) but also for wardrobes he had made, sofa, chair, blinds etc. The costs are all halved between my GM and her partner.
Moving costs aside my Mum said she's not going to pay. The partner is still living in the flat and there's been no offer of giving my Mum the furniture they expect her to pay for.
There's a big, beautiful display cabinet of my GM's in the new place which they've not offered money for. His isn't there so I assume that's been sold.
Also, there are some items of furniture from my GM's old place that we have no idea where they went, or if they were sold. If they were, we haven't seen a penny.
There are some other small items of my GM's that seem to have gone missing too.

I fully agree that my Mum shouldn't have to pay for furniture for someone else to use and sell but am I missing something here?

lels99 Tue 09-Aug-11 11:36:33

Nope she definitely shouldnt have to pay. Did you GM leave a will for the rest of the stuff?

biddysmama Tue 09-Aug-11 11:37:03

if she was with a man for 18 years then she was as good as married, does that not make him her next of kin (common law husband?) so liable for her debts etc?

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Tue 09-Aug-11 11:39:44

Is your mum trying to sort out more than your gran's estate in Germany ie is she arranging a funeral or repatriation of your gran to the UK for a funeral service?

Tanif Tue 09-Aug-11 11:40:03

If I were your mum I'd ignore it. It's non-enforceable anyway. Or send a return email billing them for the things that have gone missing and with a list of half of the new goods on the list that your mum would like to take home with her. Your mum should be given space to grieve, not have to worry about petty things like this.

DoMeDon Tue 09-Aug-11 11:40:14

Are they keeping everything of your GM's?

Am not sure really. If your GM asked for these things and he paid in good faith, why should he be out of pocket? Can they be paid for out of GM estate?

I see the other side that they are keeping all the furniture so why should you pay for it!?!

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Tue 09-Aug-11 11:40:30

Not in UK law biddy.

nickelbabe Tue 09-Aug-11 11:42:10

biddy - no, in law, there is no such thing as common law husband - GM's belongings beliong to GM alone and should be returned to the family.

redskyatnight Tue 09-Aug-11 11:43:44

I'm assuming that your mum is your GM's heir (i.e she did not make a will leaving anything to her partner).

I'm guessing that her partner took on the moving and furniture costs "on the assumption" that your GM paid her half. Sadly, she was unable to do this, so it actually seems quite reasonable that this cost should be paid from her estate.

However, if your mum does inherit all your GM's things - you will subsequently need to do some sort of evaluation of what belongs to her and what to her partner, or some sort of 50/50 split. TBH in view of the lengthly relationship, the most agreeable thing to do would be for the partner to waive the costs in return for keeping most of your GM's things, and your mum perhaps choose a few personal items to keep.

DamselInDisarray Tue 09-Aug-11 11:44:19

Biddysmama: There is no 'common law marriage' in Germany, just like there is no such thing in the UK. If someone wants the rights (and responsibilities) of marriage, they have to actually get married.

What does your GM's will say?

Bulmers Tue 09-Aug-11 11:47:04

Nobody seems to know where the will is. My Mum said GM's brother is executor of the will but I'm not sure if he knows anything about it.

I'm not sure if the same common-law principles apply in Germany.

TBH we're not that bothered about the furniture, clothes, linen, crockery etc that didn't get moved, or is being used by him but it seems they want to have their cake and eat it.
My Mum and her DH have been going in the past few days and going through all my GM's stuff and taking all the personal stuff that has nothing to do with the partner.

I know it was all arranged for the benefit of my GM as well as her partner and had she been alive she would have paid her half but I just don't see how they can claim the money back without at least offering my Mum something in exchange. If it's such a financial issue surely they can sell it and keep ALL the proceeds?
I think even if my GM had lived and paid her half, our side of the family would still be screwed because if she still died before her partner, he would have kept all the furniture then his family would have sold it and pocketed the money after his death.

diddl Tue 09-Aug-11 11:47:50

Isn´t any missing furniture is likely to have been sold by your GM before she died?

I would pay for moving costs, but that´s it-especially if the partner will now get the use of the new furniture.

Also, the move/new furniture was not solely to benefit your GM, but also the man she was living with.

ZillionChocolate Tue 09-Aug-11 11:48:01

redskyatnight's suggestion sounds sensible. Given that this is in Germany, you need some advice from someone who knows what the law is there - DamselInDisarray maybe?

redexpat Tue 09-Aug-11 11:54:12

This is quite a specific question. I think you need to seek specialist legal advice. Start with CAB and go from there. I don't suspect there are many people on here who know about German law.

Bulmers Tue 09-Aug-11 11:54:44

My GM had arranged and paid for the funeral years ago so there's no issue with that, although the service was only on Friday and my poor Mum's being knee-deep in this shit ever since.

I do understand that the partner's son paid all this upfront under the assumption that he would receive half from his father and half from my GM (and she wold have paid her half, no question about it).

I just struggle that we are expected to pay for furniture for someone else to use, furniture that they are free to sell.
I don't know how much is in my GM's bank account but I think my Mum will clear that out today when she has an appointment with the bank (she's had full access to the account for a few years) but I doubt there's a huge amount in there.

Bulmers Tue 09-Aug-11 11:58:28

diddl, my GM was in hospital for nearly 3 months before she died, her partner only moved into the new place a few weeks before she died so she didn't get the chance to dispose of stuff herself.

Her partner had been in hospital for about 5 months before he moved into the new place so his family had a few chances to go into both flats while they were both in hospital.

Unfortunately my Mum doesn't have money herself so can't afford to engage a solicitor.

SecondRow Tue 09-Aug-11 12:19:46

Debts can be inherited in Germany (ie they are not written off when someone dies) so your Mum probably is liable to pay for the stuff (unless she formally declined her whole inheritance within a certain period of the death, and she won't have done this if there was a likelihood of a net positive inheritance coming to her). However, this would surely imply that she has then inherited your GM's share in the items, so could insist that the partner buys her out or sells the stuff again and pays her back her share.

If there is nothing in writing this makes it more difficult - people in Germany love having written contracts for everything and they are enforceable. If your Mum can't afford a lawyer I would suggest she puts in writing her understanding of the situation so far and ask the partner/son to sign it too, as an initial claim to her share of the goods. I don't see how they can fail to understand that if she pays for half of it, she owns half of it. Then maybe it will bring it home to them that they will either have to let the debt go, or sell the stuff again.

If you google expats in germany you will find forums where there are people with more legal knowledge who might be able to advise, however I believe a lawyer might be unavoidable. Does your Mum speak German/is German?

Bulmers Tue 09-Aug-11 13:04:01

Thanks for your input Ladies, it helps to see different angles.

My Mum isn't German, nor does she speak more than a few words. My GM, although German born and raised in Germany held a UK passport from the 20-odd years she lived in the UK.

AFAIK:
moving was the partner's son's idea. He found the place and arranged the move.
he arranged the new furniture. It would have been discussed all around to start with and my GM would have agreed to pay her half - assume this isn't in writing though.
She didn't have any input on what was bought or how much was spent.

I can see the son's POV that he bought all this stuff with my GM's knowledge so why should he now be out of pocket but the other side of me says that his father paid his half and gets enjoyment out of the stuff. If we pay, who gets the enjoyment out of our half?

I also think 'tough luck' - what do you expect when you buy furniture for an 87 year old? But I think I'm just clutching at straws with that one hmm

"If your Mum can't afford a lawyer I would suggest she puts in writing her understanding of the situation so far and ask the partner/son to sign it too, as an initial claim to her share of the goods. I don't see how they can fail to understand that if she pays for half of it, she owns half of it. Then maybe it will bring it home to them that they will either have to let the debt go, or sell the stuff again."
That's a good point. Unfortunately my Mum leaves tomorrow and the son isn't back from holiday until Saturday. Not sure the partner can sign his name as he had a serious stroke about 5 months ago. I will pass this on to my Mum for sure though and see what she thinks.

Finallygotaroundtoit Tue 09-Aug-11 13:23:36

'what do you expect when you buy furniture for an 87 year old?'

Spot on Bulmers.Sorry to say I smell a rat.

Your DM was in hospital for months before the move she supposedly agreed to. Every elderly person I know would rather have their own 'things' than buy new - especially if they are good quality. Is new furniture even your GMs taste?

An0therName Tue 09-Aug-11 13:32:13

what Tanif said - just ignore it - and as they are not going to coicide what can they do - this is assuming there is nothing in writing

Bulmers Tue 09-Aug-11 13:34:38

The move was actually agreed to a long time ago - before GM went into hospital and before the partner had a stroke. GM's flat was on the 3rd floor, no lift. The new place was 1st floor with a lift and lots of communal facilities. It was a move we all thought would be great.

The new furniture is 'nice', but I'm not sure why it was bought. Her own furniture was old, a little bit dated but was very high quality and in perfect condition. Her 2 sofas wouldn't have fitted in the new place but one of them would, and it was a bed-settee (but really comfortable).
I don't understand why they didn't take as much of the old stuff as possible (partner's stuff was also old but high quality and in excellent condition) and just buy the absolute minimum.

diddl Tue 09-Aug-11 13:36:33

Can they prove that your GM wanted the furniture-or even to move?

Depending on her health at the time, is it odd that he moved without her?

Birdsgottafly Tue 09-Aug-11 13:36:43

It doesn't matter what the law says, you should try to do what is right and your GM wanted. That involves tracking down the will.

"If we pay, who gets the enjoyment out of our half?", your GM may have the money to cover the expense and can you honestly say that she would not want her partner for 18 years to get the enjoyment from the new furniture at the end of his life?

Has she ever said to your DM that there will be an inheritance for her? It isn't an automatic right.

Just because they didn't marry doesn't mean that the relationship was anything less, in your GM's eyes and they were setting up a new home together. Is there not any neighbours or friends that could also shed some light on the situation?

lilmissminx Tue 09-Aug-11 13:42:04

Just curious, but did they not have any kind of joint bank account? I think they are cheeky asking, as you rightly pointed out, they could sell the furniture and use cheaper if they need the money. Their timing is insensitive. The will is essential before anything else is done. If there is provision for her dp in there it may solve the problem.

Birdsgottafly Tue 09-Aug-11 13:44:50

Was the partners family supporting and helping them, as an elderly couple with failing health?

How much time has any of your GMs side of the family spent over there, helping with the move?
If the money is in the bank account, and his side of the family is going to struggle, then tbh, personally, my conscience wouldn't let me keep it.

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