Q&A - We left each other a life interest in the house. Now my husband has died,can I sell up?

Q:        My husband and I severed the joint tenancy in our home some years ago, and, in our wills, left each other a life interest in our respective half shares as we understood this would prevent all of it being swallowed up by care home fees, if the survivor of us needed residential care. The house goes to our children when we’re both gone. My husband died a few months ago and I’ve done nothing to administer his estate, but I am considering selling the house to buy a smaller one. Can I do this?

A:        Having a life interest in a house is not the same as owning it. You can live there as long as you want, or, if you move out, you are entitled to the income it produces. You are not, however, entitled to all of the proceeds of sale if it is sold. 

Whether you can sell it and put the proceeds of your late husband’s share towards the purchase of another property depends upon the terms of the trust created in his will. The terms may well provide the power for the trustees to sell and reinvest the proceeds in another property for you at your request, but the trust would still own a share in the new property.

In order to proceed with any sale, the executors of your husband’s Will need to obtain a Grant of Probate from the Probate Registry. As a result of Covid 19 there are currently long delays with applications, so the executors should not delay in lodging the application.

Trusts can be very useful tools in arranging your affairs, but it is imperative that you understand the implications prior to entering into any trust arrangement, and it is always wise to seek advice from a qualified solicitor.

This question has been answered by Victoria Wilson, a Partner with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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Victoria Wilson

Victoria Wilson


A Partner and Head of our Probate, Wills, Trusts and Tax team