ASK TONY: A friend asked me to hand out £45k in his will – but his sister won’t touch it because she doesn’t want to lose her benefits
I was executor for a friend who died. Once the legalities were completed and the property sold, there was £90,000 to be shared equally between his son and daughter, as per his will.
I made a cheque out to each. His son cashed his, but the daughter says she doesn’t want the money as she will lose her benefits.
She wants the money given to her brother’s children, but her brother has said he doesn’t want them to have it. He believes she should bank it as that was their father’s wishes.
So now the money is sitting in the executor account in my name.
What is my position legally? Can I give it to anyone the daughter wishes, or has it got to go to her? I just want to bring the whole matter to a close.
G. J., Herts.
Unwanted cash: One reader has been put in a difficult position after the intended recipient of money left in a will is refusing to cash her cheque because it would affect her benefits
What a bizarre situation and how difficult for you, who is caught in the middle.
I know the benefits system can cause muddles, but can it really be better to turn down an inheritance to protect benefits?
I asked Ben Tyer, of GLP Solicitors in Bury, Manchester, to take a look at your situation.
He says that as executor, you are responsible for distributing the estate of the person who has died in accordance with the terms of their will.
Mr Tyer says a beneficiary is not obliged to accept an inheritance. But paying it to someone other than as directed in the will, without the legal formalities, is a breach of duty and could expose you to a claim later. So watch your step.
The usual option in a case where beneficiaries wish to alter a will is to use a Deed of Variation. This would allow the beneficiary to vary her entitlement and redirect the money to whomsoever she chooses.
But there is a possibility that this could be seen as a deprivation of capital by the daughter which could possibly result in a withdrawal of her benefits.
The daughter may prefer to ‘disclaim’ her inheritance entirely, meaning her share will pass to the next person entitled.
Unlike a Deed of Variation, a disclaimer is not effectively transferring all their interest to another person, so is less likely to be considered as a deprivation of capital, enabling her to retain her benefits.
Mr Tyer concludes that should the daughter refuse to accept payment or fail to co-operate, her conduct itself could amount to a disclaimer, thereby allowing you to distribute the money in the way described above, bringing the matter to a close.
Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. Here are some from last week’s report about how house prices are falling in many desirable parts of the country, yet rising in less glamorous areas…
My partner and I are looking for our first home together. We chose not to rent and instead live with my partner’s family to save up for a deposit, which has taken us around four years.
But it’s nearly impossible to get a decent home in a good area. I feel like we’re in limbo.
S. M., Birmingham.
I bought a house in Hertfordshire 35 years ago and I wish I’d bought in Walthamstow instead. The prices in London have gone ballistic in the past few years.
Obviously, people cannot afford to live there now, so they’re moving further out. So it makes sense that the towns on the outskirts of London are now rising in price.
O. C., Hertfordshire.
In Durham we’ve got a problem where every middle-class retiree with a bit of money is buying up properties to let to young families.
That’s how they get priced out of the market in the first place.
E. D., Durham.
When my husband and I were looking to buy a house in 2014, we found we couldn’t afford anything bigger than a two-bedroom terrace in Harpenden or St Albans, Herts, where we’re from, so we had to move to Luton.
Although we had reservations, we live in a beautiful three-bed semi-detached house with a big garden on a private road. It was the best decision we ever made.
B. L., London.
Working in London, but living in an area outside that is within an hour’s commute, is the best option.
If you live in one of these areas now then your house will be worth a fortune within a couple of years.
P. M., Maidenhead.
My husband and I are both disabled and have serious mobility problems which makes it difficult for us to manage stairs and distances.
We booked a Christmas break with Shearings Holidays on the understanding that we would have a ground-floor room. We were later advised that we were to have a room on the third floor and would have to manage stairs. This just wasn’t an option for us so we decided to cancel.
We have received back half of the £549 we spent, but feel we should receive a full refund.
J. C., E. Sussex.
Your letter raises a number of issues, not least the provisions of the Equalities Act.
This says businesses should make reasonable adjustments to provide equal access and opportunities to disabled people.
Shearings has now listened to the calls from when you made your reservation.
It was agreed that the hotel does not have ground-floor bedrooms, but that you would have a room on a low floor.
This is shown on your booking — which also mentions mobility problems and that you would be taking a walking frame, needed a room served by a lift and must have a shower rather than bath.
Shearings’ help department followed up the booking with a call to you in order to understand your specific needs. Following a lengthy conversation, you refused a first-floor room which was the lowest one available, but then agreed to go ahead with the booking.
The agent also warned that the coach had stairs, but you said you could manage these.
However, it seems you had a change of heart because you then decided to cancel the booking.
This initially incurred the cancellation charges, which is why you didn’t receive a full refund.
Having looked at your case again Shearings has now decided, as a goodwill gesture, to repay the total amount.
I sympathise with the problems you have faced, but after hearing Shearings’ side of the story I suspect your enthusiasm for the holiday perhaps overrode consideration of more practical issues.
Incidentally the general manager of the hotel concerned put a note on Trip Advisor warning that the hotel may not be suitable for people with limited mobility.
This was put up on February 25, 2016, some four months before you made your booking.