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.
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