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to investigate whether my grandfather's widow has diddled my mum out of her inheritance?

(144 Posts)
mrshibbins Mon 12-Oct-09 17:18:38

background:

My mother is an only child. Her parents were divorced acrimoniously when she was a small child and she did not see her father again after the age of 12 because he ceased all contact when he remarried - to a girl only 4 years older than herself. This has always been a source of much self-doubt and unhappiness for her.

He had no further children. He died in 1977 and left a widow and a property.

I only found out all this because about 5 years ago I conducted a search at the Family Record Office. I found out from the death certificate that he had a widow, and from the electoral register that she still lived at the same address. I wrote to his widow, explaining who I was, and asking to meet her to talk because I really wanted to find out what had happened to my grandfather so that I could put my mother's mind at rest in some way.

I heard nothing for nearly 3 months, then she telephoned me (but withheld the number). We arranged to meet in town (she would not let me go to her home) outside Tie Rack at Liverpool St Station and from there we went to a pub and had lunch. She was very defensive throughout the meeting. She told me that when they met he was a very successful electrical engineer and doing very well for himself financially. After marrying she moved into his house - still occupied by her.

They had no children together and she had no children of her own. He subsequently a complete mental breakdown from which he never fully recovered and that he died relatively young in his early sixties.

I asked her why she had made no attempt to contact my mother when he died and she became even more defensive and said she did not understand why my mother would want to know. shock I made several attempts to contact her since this time, but she never replied to any of my letters or cards.

Then my OH recently suggested that the woman never contacted my mother when her father died because no will had been made and that my mother would have had some legacy coming to her. And thought that this is why she refuses to be in contact with us.

So, I started investigating and sure enough, no will was ever lodged with the Probate Office. I have contacted a solicitor and he has said that my mother would in this case should have inherited 50% of the property (on the death of his widow) and that the next step is to make enquiries with the land registry to see who the flat was registered to at the time of my grandfather's death.

I have no desire whatsoever to turf the woman out of her home, or to say to her 'what you did was wrong' because she must have been in a state. BUT eventually, when SHE dies, I want to make sure that my grandfather's property and remaining possessions should pass to my mother, and not to anyone else.

Am I doing the right thing in pursuing this?

squeaver Mon 12-Oct-09 17:20:46

How does your Mum feel about all this?

bronze Mon 12-Oct-09 17:20:59

No will would mean the widow would get everything as next of kin. Can you check if he made a will perhaps there was one the stepmother is hiding in which something was left to your mother

MaggieBehave Mon 12-Oct-09 17:23:29

I'd get a solicitor to deal with it. I think that's a very fair thing to insist upon, that you won't turf her out of her home, but you won't it in writing that the home passes back to your family.

It's only fair and I think she'd be odd to argue with that when she has no descendants herself.

diddl Mon 12-Oct-09 17:27:16

Not useful to you, sorry, but my mum´s parents divorced, & she was never told by his new family when he died.

She read about it in the local paper.

There was no money involved to bother about, but any would have gone to his widow-not ex wife,and she would then obviously have left it to her children with him.

It´s possible that as the only child(?) your mum can claim on her late fathers estate.

arcticlemming Mon 12-Oct-09 17:29:02

No will doesn't necessarily mean widow gets everything - it's only up to a certain amount.
You don't say how your Mum feels about this - I certainly wouldn't get involved without her agreement personally. And If you do, I would second Maggie's point of getting a solicitor to deal with it rather than try and approach it yourself

LIZS Mon 12-Oct-09 17:32:18

Not sure how your solicitor can advise that your dm should have had 50% , back then I think it wodul have gone to the widow as next of kin. These days I think there is a financial cap on the widow's claim if there are other surviving relatives and the estate exceeds the limit. Given that he died 20+ years ago maybe the widow isn't keen to revive the past, unsure what reception she might receive and especially as she has no tangible links to you. It could well be that there is little left of his now anyway.

theyoungvisiter Mon 12-Oct-09 17:36:28

Bronze: "No will would mean the widow would get everything as next of kin."

I'm not a lawyer but I don't think that's strictly correct - intestacy is more complicated than this and other people may get a share of some of the estate. Some information is here but the OP's situation is quite complicated.

As the OP says she consulted a solicitor I presume she's clued up about this however many people assume they don't need to make a will as their estate will automatically go to their partner and I just wanted to point out that this is not necessarily the case.

mrshibbins Mon 12-Oct-09 17:37:52

The solicitor has said that if he left no will then the spouse would take:-

(a) All his personal chattels.
(b) £25,000.00.
(a) A life interest in half of what is left. His daughter (my mother) would be entitled to the other half.

A search at the probate office has showed that no will was lodged. I'm going to get the solicitor to see what the land registry says and then, if there is indeed a case - only then will I tell my Mum (it's a very emotional subject for her) and get her go ahead.

My mum has had a pretty hard life and has never been left anything by anyone. She was heartbroken when she never saw her dad again. I think she was very badly treated by her father (and by his widow who never encouraged any contact with my mother). I think she is due some kind of compensation ... even if it is just 50% of his house ...

Morloth Mon 12-Oct-09 17:40:55

Is any amount of money worth stirring this up?

Think hard before you do so. If the widow challenges your claim and wins then you are going to be left with a legal bill.

32 years is a long time.

Ivykaty44 Mon 12-Oct-09 17:47:31

Your mother may not want anything to do with this mans money - he may have been her father but that doesn't mane to say that she wants to have his money after he has died and the widow has also died.

Only you know whether this may upset your mother more - that she then has to fight to get her fathers money may upset her even further, as he didn't just will it to her sad

choccyp1g Mon 12-Oct-09 17:51:06

In 1977 the average house was only worth around £10,000, so unless he had a lot of investments, it would be likely that the widow would have correctly inherited everything anyway.

LIZS Mon 12-Oct-09 17:55:23

Info here suggests that there is time limit unless there are exceptional circumstances. If she didn't need probate(and she may well not have done) there may have had letters of administration issued. Remember property values in 1977 were very much lower than now and her perception of "successful" and "doing well" may not necessarily mean he was debt free at the time of his death. The widow may even have ahd money of her own. You really don't know the full circumstances and if there is anything worth the angst of pursuing, althgouh I'm not sure how you might find out for certain either.

mrshibbins Mon 12-Oct-09 17:59:41

Well, that's what I have to find out. It's the injustice and wrongness of it that rankles with me.

If you married man who had a young and vulnerable daughter, and your husband, subsequent to your marriage, for whatever reason of his own stopped seeing his little girl (nb my nana NEVER stopped him from seeing her - he just fell off the face of the earth, that's all)

- wouldn't you have encouraged him to resume contact?

- wouldn't you have thought it the only right thing to do to let her know her dad had died?

it's just WRONG IMHO.

Given that he didn't leave a will, and given that it was his house, there's no win or lose about it as far as i can tell, it's the law. And it's a simple case of her deception and fraudulently declaring that there were no other claims on his estate resulting in my mother getting nothing.

50% of the remainder means 50% of his house, and that now would probably amount to over £200K

I will keep you all informed as i find out more and this progresses.

mrshibbins Mon 12-Oct-09 18:02:23

LISZ I think that exceptional circumstances would surely include NOT BEING TOLD OF HIS DEATH until I found out a few years ago?

Morloth Mon 12-Oct-09 18:03:14

It would be 50% of the house's value when he died wouldn't it?

Just be careful that your Mum doesn't end up hurting even more over some money. It really will not be worth it.

Also you have no idea of the line your Grandfather spun this woman. I assume it isn't a new thing for men to lie to their current partners about their exes?

Lawyers are going to want to be paid, win or lose.

Asana Mon 12-Oct-09 18:03:53

Ahem, agree with squeaver. What does your mum think?

Frankly though, I think YABU. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with your mother and her mother i.e. your grandmother (providing the latter is still alive). If your mother wishes to chase after an inheritance after all these years, then she may do so of her own accord. The fact that your mother has or may have made no attempt to find her father or make a claim should tell you that perhaps she wants the matter to rest.

My father died intestate. I had little contact with him in the final months of his life given that I ran away from home 2 months before he died and he severed all contact with me. He left behind what some might call a fortune in assets. I have never sought to claim anything from his estate though any inheritance I could have claimed would have left me well off. I would be massively pissed off if I found out that any child of mine was trying to chase a claim, regardless of whether it was on my behalf or not.

My advice - don't stick your oar in. Simples.

megapixels Mon 12-Oct-09 18:04:30

How do you know that she didn't encourage him to resume contact? Maybe he just didn't want contact, so there was nothing she could do is there? Tbh I think it's you who is feeling wronged on your mother's behalf. She may not want to have anything to do with it.

Ivykaty44 Mon 12-Oct-09 18:07:55

No - the death registers are free to view - so they could have been searched periodicly, I dont think it would count that "we wern't told" as ignorance doesn't often stand in the law - I maybe wrong it is only a theory

Asana Mon 12-Oct-09 18:08:36

From your latter posts, it sounds like you've spun yourself a classic "Robin Hood" tale of injustice. Even if it turns out to be true, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. You weren't the one abandoned, and by all accounts, you are projecting your feelings on your mother without trying to find out how SHE feels. You may find that you get little/no thanks for your Robin Hood efforts, both from your mother and anyone else affected by this. However, you will get lots of thanks from the lawyers who will charge you the earth for a situation which may leave behind negative ramifications, both financial AND non-financial.

diddl Mon 12-Oct-09 18:08:39

Sorry if I´m reading this wrong.

Your grandfather married a 16yr old?

Perhaps she didn´t feel able to be a stepmother to a 12yr old.

And at that young age,it might not have occured to her to suggest what contact her new husband did or didn´t have with his daughter.

Perhaps he told his wife not to tell his daughter that he had died?

Also,if your mum was married & with a house of her own by the time he died, why would he think that she needed anything of his more than his wife?

mrshibbins Mon 12-Oct-09 18:09:00

You're wrong Asana - my mother did try to find him several times, but she's not very world savvy or procedure savvy and never knew where to start or had the money to pay anyone to do it for her. And it never occurred to her to make any claim just as it never occurred to me. When I did my initial research and found out what had happened to him she was very sad but also very happy to KNOW.

Megapixels and Morloth - the widow was she says totally aware that he had a daughter but according to her did not 'see why my mother would be interested' and that was her reason for not encouraging any contact, or trying to find my mother when her Dad died.

Morloth Mon 12-Oct-09 18:12:44

'see why my mother would be interested'

So doesn't that imply that your Grandfather has indeed spun her a line? I get that you are angry and quite righteously so. But there isn't any point directing it at this woman, it won't help your Mum hurt any less and may stir up stuff that she would rather wasn't.

When it gets nasty (and it will) how is your Mum going to handle that?

mrshibbins Mon 12-Oct-09 18:13:59

Didl - he didn't die immediately after his marriage now did he? That 16 year old had turned into a 45 year old by that time.

How can a dead man tell his 45 yr old widow not to tell his daughter he had died? He wasn't capable of telling anyone anything at that point even when he was alive as he was alcoholic and senile.

My mum was divorced and looking after three small children at that time and was very poor. And whether she was married, divorced or had won the lottery, it's irrelevant to the Law of Intestacy at that time, which the widow broke by not informing the authorities that my mother existed.

megapixels Mon 12-Oct-09 18:15:22

It looks like she, rightly or wrongly, wondered why any child would be interested in a father who did not want anything to do with her. I hardly think that makes her the world's worst person.

I think everything depends on your mother. Maybe you can put out a small hint about the property issue and see what she says. If she doesn't seem interested, or gets upset at the suggestion (which I think is *highly probable*), just drop it.

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