Q. Sadly my mother recently died and I had always understood that along with my sibling I would receive a share of her property when she passed away and it was sold. However, I have now been told that the property is going to my stepfather whom I have never had a good relationship with. I don’t understand how this could have happened and being her son is there anything I can do about it?
A. The death of a close relative is always a traumatic event and add to this that now what you thought all along was rightfully yours in the event of her death is now suddenly under threat of being taken away from you and given to someone else, feelings are bound to be running high. This may relate to whether the property was held by your mother and her partner – your stepfather as joint tenants or tenants in common. In the case of the former, when one joint tenant dies, his or her interest will automatically transfer to the surviving joint tenant or tenants. This means your mother would no longer have an interest that could be passed on, and your Stepfather could rightfully and legally walk away with the asset. Alternatively, if the property was held as tenants in common, your mother’s share would be distributable by her will as you had always assumed.
There may be other issues to consider, such as a proprietary estoppel claim (if you were promised the property) or an Inheritance Act claim (if you have not been adequately provided for under her will). You should along with your sibling seek legal advice as you may be able to launch a claim over this issue to clarify the position and secure what you believe is rightfully yours.