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Responsibility for costs of maintaining a property occupied by "Life Tenants"

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  • Responsibility for costs of maintaining a property occupied by "Life Tenants"

    A relative died in 2015 naming 2 friends as executors. The three of them shared a house, which my relative and one of the others owned.

    The relative`s will is rather brief but includes "A and B (... "the joint owners") both have an interest in XXXXX aforesaid the legal estate of which is vested in the said A and me....In the event that I predecease one or both joint owners I declare that they may continue to occupy the relevant property for so long as they wish during their respective lives or the life of the survivor of them and afterwards I devise all my interest in the relevant property to...." three beneficiaries. Also, "All the remainder of my estate both real and personal and whatsoever or wheresoever situate I devise and bequeath to ...." said beneficiaries.

    There is no mention anywhere of a Trust or Trustees.

    1. Who should be paying for all the maintenance of the property, including contracts for boiler, plumbing and electrical systems, council tax etc?

    2. The executors are elderly and used a solicitor to help them with the Grant of Probate (only the executors` names are on this). This took 14 months from the date of death (!) the solicitor blaming the delay on a colleague who worked for his firm but left suddenly leaving work undone. Should the beneficiaries have received a distribution of funds when the Grant was issued? Should they automatically be sent the accounts showing how the estate was valued (under 200,000)? This solicitor is being paid from the Estate, is it purely down to the Executors to decide if his costs are reasonable and how long he should continue to be employed? He has repeatedly said he does not act for, and cannot advise, the beneficiaries.

    3. Recently the solicitor has contacted the beneficiaries stating that "this firm acts on behalf of the Executors....A and B. The Will....provides for our clients to have a life interest in XXXX which, following the death of the survivor of them then reverts to you. We are now instructed to write to you with an offer that our client`s (SIC) would be willing to sell their interests in the property to you .... We are currently arranging for a valuation of our client`s interest" Again, who should be paying for the solicitor, surveys, valuations? Do both their interests have a monetary value?

    4. The executors are moving into Care Home/Sheltered Housing so no longer able to personally occupy the house. Does this end their "life interest" before either has died?

    I hope someone can give definitive answers, preferably with examples from statute or cases. It seems to be quite a particular situation. I am grateful for any input.
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  • #2
    Maintaining the property is the responsibility of the life tenant/s even when they move into care.The executors responsibility is to ensure that the terms of the Will are maintained.

    If the the executor with life interest can no longer occupy the residence, then they would be best to withdraw or continue maintaining it with the other owner B. However, it seems that that B now wishes to offer his part of the house to the Trust rather than continue maintaining it, as he is required to do with the executor with life interest,

    The valuation being obtained by the solicitors is their responsibility, but do take care that (a) the property has been well maintained (inspect it) and (b) the value reflects that the 50% owned by B is a fair one as far as you are concerned, but there is no value owned by the executor who wishes to give up his life interest, or continue maintaining the property. Your own valuation may be advisable if you feel that the figure seems excessive..

    As it is B who wishes to sell his part, then the costs of that should be paid by him. The transfer of the part owned by B should be a simple matter for the solicitors to deal with, but you should be represented and protected by your own solicitors to make sure that matters are correct in the transfer to yourself.

    Overall, it is your inheritance that you are discussing and you should have received a full account of the original Probate from the acting solicitors, who seem to be rather lax in their dealings in this case.

    Don't bother looking for examples ( preferably with examples from statute or cases.) as you only need concern yourself with the facts as they are now, when YOU are in the driving seat.

    I hope this helps


    • #3
      Thank you that helps a lot.

      "Rather lax" is a much kinder description of the solicitor than I generally use. Obstructive and incompetent in equal parts (although I wonder whether one is a cover for the other).

      Unfortunately, none of the Remaindermen live nearby. At our last visit the property was looking "dated". As house prices are rising I doubt it has lost value since my relative's death but may not have been maintained to its best.

      The easiest way forward may be to simply sell the whole property rather than purchase B's 50%? I don't know whether it is difficult to sell a property when ownership is split like this. Although when I checked Land Registry had no record of the property as it was purchased 45 years ago and neither executors nor their solicitor had updated since my relative's death.


      • #4
        It will be more costly if the property has not been registered and may take a little longer. However, selling it will produce an actual value to be split 50/50 after costs and keeps it simple.


        • #5
          Well our solicitor has received valuations for the life interests, both of them!

          If the remaindermen are not inclined to buy the life interests and the property is sold, do they have to wait until the last surviving executor passes before the funds will be distributed? We are wondering whether to instruct our own survey, just to be happy with the valuation. Or simply have it valued?


          • #6
            AS I mentioned earlier -

            ( As it is B who wishes to sell his part, then the costs of that should be paid by him. The transfer of the part owned by B should be a simple matter for the solicitors to deal with, but you should be represented and protected by your own solicitors to make sure that matters are correct in the transfer to yourself. )

            I believe that you should obtain your own value if you are unsure if their value may not be correct, as in some cases, valuations may be 'leaning' in their favor, particularly with the condition of the property having been let go.

            This is where the solicitor can help, but you do need their expertise to deal with this and I am a little surprised that you dont seem to understand this and have not sought their help already. They will be able to advise you on when you can expect to receive inheritance from the documentation presented.


            • #7
              We have appointed a solicitor but due to distance (one of the beneficiaries lives overseas) and more recently Covid, we have never been able to meet face to face. Lots if email chains as we try to work out what we actually want to ask him.

              We have also let things slide because we did not want to harass elderly executors whom we regarded as family friends. With hindsight this has been a mistake as they have turned everything over to solicitors who have been less than helpful. I am grateful for your information and advice which backs up what I believed


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