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To write a strongly worded letter to my stepdad's kids?

66 replies

lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:13

So this is a long story, but the skinny version is this:

My mum has lifelong physical and mental health problems and has a difficult marriage with my stepfather.

My stepfather jointly owns a house with his first wife with whom he has 4 now adult children. He continued to pay off the mortgage for her after they divorced, and lived with my mum in the house she owned. They ran into serious financial difficulties after both of them were unable to find work. It nearly ended the marriage. My mum eventually sold the house, paid off their debts and bought another house outright in a cheaper part of the country.y stepdad came with her after much debate,but this was on the condition he make some attempt to leverage the asset he owned within the ex wife's house, via sale or equity release (he was very reluctant to do this, he has always been very deferential to ex wife which has caused a lot of the problems in his and DM's marriage).

When stepfather made approaches to his ex, two of his DC told him they would never speak to him again if he 'forced' their mum to sell or release equity. She refused to consider it, so to preserve his relationship with DCs DSF dropped it. His and my mother's marriage never really recovered from this.

Fast forward to now - DSF has had a stroke and is substantially impaired. My mother is now his full time carer. Neither of them work so there only income is from early released pensions (small). They are not entitled to claim any benefits due to my dad's supposed 'asset' (half his ex wife's house) which he can neither access nor relieve himself of in order to claim benefits as this would constitute voluntary deprivation of capital. They have sought legal advice and apparently there is no way the ex can be forced to sell, share the property with DSF, or release equity to him.

My mother is going under with the stress of providing him with 24 hour intimate care, has no money to pay for respite care, and is talking about suicide. Her only leveragable asset is the home they live in, which she does not want to touch as she worries she will need it to pay for her own elderly care in due course. My sister and I are giving her what support we can, but we both have little money, young families and live at the other end of the country.

WIBU to write to my DSF's children and ask them to reconsider their stance on their mother's house and ask her to reconsider equity release given these changed circumstances? At the moment it seems like my sister and I are being expected to pay for their father's care in order to protect their inheritance, and it galls me enormously.

If the ex won't budge, would I be unreasonable to encourage her to divorce my DSF? I know this may seem incredibly harsh given how ill he is, but she simply can't afford to be married to him any more, she will either kill herself or lose everything she has trying to get him adequate respite care.

If she divorced him, his children would have to accept responsibility for caring for him, and hopefully their mum would then relent and release his money from their house so he can get the care he needs. This will never happen as long as the only people making sacrifices are my mum, my sister and me.

So AIBU to expect his kids to step up?

OP posts:

PurpleWithRed · 20/07/2017 23:17

What a horrible situation. If dsf owns half the house his ex lives in can't he equity release his half?


MaidOfStars · 20/07/2017 23:18

Yes^ He borrows against his half.


lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:19

It really is Purple - I'm so concerned. Apparently not, needs both their say so it seems due to the type of ownership they have.

OP posts:

Sprinklestar · 20/07/2017 23:19

I don't understand why he can't sell the house he owns half of. Why not? Can't he force a sale and his ex would have to buy him out?


lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:20

Besides which he is unlikely to do so without her permission even if he could...

OP posts:

Sprinklestar · 20/07/2017 23:20

Well maybe his ex should look after him then! Your DM can't ruin her own health. You need a good solicitor.


lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:22

Is this possible? My mum says not - as I understand it they both own the whole house and any decisions have to be joint & is that not right????

OP posts:

lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:22

Agreed Sprinklestar - but no money for one!!

OP posts:

Ellisandra · 20/07/2017 23:24

I am very surprised that there is no way the XW can be forced to sell - unless that was sewn up in their divorce which seems unlikely. Have they definitely taken proper legal advice? Not saying they have when what they mean is a quick chat with a friend who works in another legal field? I'm just imagining that your SF might have said the advice was he can't force a sale, because he doesn't want to.

I would certainly write to his children, but it seems very likely you won't get anywhere, so be prepared for that Sad


EssieTregowan · 20/07/2017 23:24

There must have been some sort of legal agreement when they divorced? A judge wouldn't grant he divorce without the assets being sorted.

You need to get some legal advice on your mother's behalf.


Tapandgo · 20/07/2017 23:25

His kids won't agree - it's them protecting their mum and their inheritance.
He needs to force the sale of the house, or her buyout of the property - or your mum has to recognise her opinion, wants and needs are not equal to his first wife.
Sounds intolerable.


lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:29

Her argument has always been that she's second best to the ex wife - it's made her so depressed over the years :( I should really have presses her to divorce him when she moved. They don't love each other, and now they're yoked together in this hoerible challenging situation :(

The legal advice they had was from CAB I think... There's no way mum can afford a lawyer...

OP posts:

Ellisandra · 20/07/2017 23:31

They most likely are joint tenants - they as a couple own the whole house, not separate shares (tenants in common).

If so, he can apply to split it into shares without her permission - the process isn't complicated, a solicitor would know how, but details here:

I don't know if you can do an equity release from a tenancy in common, without the permission of the other owners. I suspect not as that has complication written all over it for the lender!

Be careful though... if they are joint tenants and she dies, he keeps the house with no IHT (I think - I'm a random on the internet not a expert!). If they split it and she dies, he only gets his half - the rest will go according to her will. I expect he would have no issue with that, but just to be aware.

If they didn't have a Consent Order on divorce, he can't get one now as he is re-married.

I'm surprised that he can't go to court to force a sale though.


lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:32

One of the reasons they got in such trouble financially is that my SF was secretly taking out credit so he could continue paying ex's mortgage for her after he lost his job :( mum was so gutted when she found out...

OP posts:

lelapaletute · 20/07/2017 23:34

Thank you Ellisandra I'll look into the links. I've just kind of taken my mum at her word this far..m maybe there's more to it, or some kind of loophole...

OP posts:

MadamePomfrey · 20/07/2017 23:34

What were the terms of your stepdads divorce? I too struggle to see how ex wife can't be forced to sell! Either the terms aren't as he has told you mum, and he doesn't have a claim in the house or there was a complicated clause in about ex wife's right to stay (which I struggle to see a lawyer agreeing/recommending) or he can claim but doesn't want the hassle from his family so is lying! The only option I can see is your mum seeking independent legal advice!! You writing to them won't change anything I can see. They know their fathers situation they could have helped they haven't a letter won't help in my opinion


CouldntMakeThisShitUp · 20/07/2017 23:40

she CAN be forced to sell.....your SF just didn't want to do it - probably wanted it all to go to his dc so he could cocklodge for free.


Ellisandra · 20/07/2017 23:50

I must stress again that I'm an internet random here, not a lawyer Smile
But I did do a Graduate Diploma in Law 10 years ago, and have ideas buzzing round my head from that Smile

Firstly - make sure they didn't agree something about not selling in the divorce (though I think he could anyway apply to vary it - no idea if that's likely to be successful though, I think not so likely)

If not - they may simply be co-owners.

In which case I think what he needs is an application under Section 14 of TOLATA (you can google with that acronym) to ask the court to give an order for sale. I've no idea if they can order agreement for equity release. I think he'd be expected to go to mediation first, too. Court would look at all circumstances - a big one is dependent children which doesn't apply.

Honestly though - even if Section 14 TOLATA application can be made, doesn't sound like he will. He doesn't need to, whilst your mum is looking after him.

I'm all for "in sickness and I'm hearth" - but not if a divorce is merited regardless of health.


quizqueen · 20/07/2017 23:52

People need to sort out their finances BEFORE they marry for a second time. One reason I will never marry again is I want to protect my assets for my kids.


JustKeepDancing · 20/07/2017 23:55

It sounds like a rather complicated legal situation, but just wanted to say - they'd be worth applying for Personal Independence Payments or Attendance Allowance (if +65) and the subsequent Carers Allowance element, council tax discounts etc that come after it. They absolutely are entitled to claim this regardless of the asset situation, they are not means tested, and so anyone eligible can apply. If they've been told they can't access any benefits at all because of the financial complications then whoever gave that information was incorrect. They can be tricky forms though, most CABs and Age UKs can give help filling them in.


Ellisandra · 20/07/2017 23:59

With regards to secretly paying paying "her" mortgage... are you sure it wasn't still a joint mortgage? He's still an arse for lying about it and doing it on credit, but he would have been liable for the mortgage, to the lender.

I'm looking from the other side here... 4 kids, and clearly your SF isn't that young - so more likely that his XW's earning capacity was compromised for child rearing. Him continuing to pay the mortgage may have been a perfectly fair agreement.

It's always useful to know both sides. If the kids stayed with her after divorce, and they agreed he would pay the mortgage, and she made no claim on his pension and in lieu kept the house - even informally - then morally (if not legally!) he might not be entitled to much.

It puts your mother in a shit position, but with regards to how he has made her feel second to the XW and your general tone suggesting you're not keen on him, I am rather biased towards thinking that your mother's husband is more at fault here than the XW!


Willyoujustbequiet · 21/07/2017 00:06

I don't think you've got the full story.

But regardless his children can't be forced to care for him.


Ellisandra · 21/07/2017 00:10

Just a further comment on equity release...
IIRC, the amount repayable on these types of releases very quickly rolls up.

It's not as simple as his XW agreeing he can do equity release on "his half" - it has to be a joint application.

So over the years, the amount due to be repaid could equal the value of the house. So she wouldn't just be letting him have his "half" - she'd possibly be just giving her XW the equity in the house that she might want for her care later in life. So basically - expecting an XW to do more than his actual wife wants to!

The fairest thing would be to sell up to release cash. BUT - as I said above, the XW having the house (even with him paying the mortgage) might have been a perfectly fair settlement, even if informal.


BeepBeepMOVE · 21/07/2017 00:24

Did stepfather pay maintenance for the 4 children? Or was the mortgage instead of that?


Lynnm63 · 21/07/2017 00:30

If he won't arrange to get his half of the house off his XW then your dm should divorce him for real. Let his kids look after him if their worried about their mum and their inheritance. Your mum has already bailed him out once.
You say they don't love each other well she has no obligation to bail him out again imo.

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