My father has had Parkinson’s for the last 10 years but it has only recently got debilitating.
My brother and his wife moved down to be close to him and ended up moving in with him.
My dad has recently written a will in which my brother and myself are left equal shares of his house, however, on death the property is held in trust with the condition that my brother can live there indefinitely, rent free and cannot be evicted.
Unhappy about a will: My father has favoured my brother and I want to renounce my inheritance (Stock image)
Obviously this means that I may never realise my inheritance if my brother decides never to leave.
My dad had my brother ring me and tell me which came as a bit of a shock as I have never really thought of inheriting under the estate.
I have thought about it long and hard and it definitely feels as though I have been unfairly treated.
My brother is capable of work but chooses to work very few hours because they don’t currently pay rent or bills and will obviously not have to on dad’s death.
I feel so annoyed, not by losing money but by what I feel is deliberate favouritism.
I feel so strongly that I am considering disclaiming the inheritance and resigning as an executor. I think I would rather go without the money.
Is this possible and is this an unwise decision?
Tanya Jefferies, of This is Money, replies: It sounds like your father’s health has taken a serious turn for the worse lately.
At such a difficult time, learning news that makes you feel he is showing favouritism towards your brother has understandably upset you a great deal.
But while the personal hurt involved here has to be acknowledged, you have have raised many important legal and practical questions and ask whether the course of action you propose would be wise.
This is Money asked a lawyer who is experienced in these issues to answer you below, and we wish you well.
Michael Prendergast, partner at Dickinson Parker Hill Solicitors, replies: Any parent who finds themselves in the same situation as your father is always going to have a difficult balancing act in trying to be fair to all their children.
It is never easy trying to keep everybody happy.
Michael Prendergast: You can leave your share of your father’s estate in your will to whoever you choose, even if your brother outlives you
It appears that your father is trying to be fair to both you and your brother but at the same time is trying to recognise the sacrifices your brother and his wife are making in providing him with ongoing care.
The fact that your father asked your brother to call you indicates to me that he realises the situation is not perfect and has tried to address the issue now rather than waiting for you to find out in the event of his death.
This is a very sensible way to approach the issue and gives you the opportunity to process this information whilst your father is still alive.
The law does recognise that when a child cares for one or both of their parents, they may receive what could be perceived as a greater share of an estate.
In this case, it seems your father has tried to keep things equal as best as he can. It is not completely unusual to see this type of will when one child provides the bulk of the care.
If the will has been professionally prepared then I am sure the solicitors who carried out the work will have gone to great lengths to make sure there has been no influence on your father by your brother.
How do you challenge a will
What are the most common grounds for contesting someone’s will? Read more here.
So, on the basis of what you have said, it would be hard to challenge the terms of the will on the basis of any kind of undue influence.
These types of trust arrangements are quite technical so I would be surprised if it has not been professionally prepared.
If your father did not employ a solicitor though, then there is always the possibility that there might have been some influence on him which could call into question the validity of the will.
Should you give up your inheritance and refuse to be an executor?
At this stage, if you want to give up your inheritance and renounce your position as executor of your father’s will, there is very little you can do.
A will is a testamentary document and only comes into effect on death. Therefore, signing anything now along the lines you have suggested would have very little effect and would only need to be completed again in the event of your father’s death.
However, after your father’s death I would see no reason why you should surrender your interest under the terms of his will as there is no benefit to you in doing so.
You may well feel upset but that is no reason to make an unwise financial decision. To a degree it would be ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face’.
Doing this would simply mean your brother would inherit everything which would be rather unwise for you and would not be in keeping with your father’s wishes.
In the event of your father’s death you can renounce your position as an executor without giving up your inheritance, although you are only allowed to do so if you step down immediately before undertaking any of the work.
Again though, I would suggest that would not be a sensible course of action as you would be giving control of the trust to your brother and making him the custodian of your share of the estate.
The far better course of action, in my opinion, would be to retain your position as an executor in the event of your father’s death and keep your share of the estate.
What does being an executor involve?
What other issues should you consider?
Even if your brother resides in the property for the rest of his life and outlives you, you can leave your share of your father’s estate in your will to whoever you choose to.
There is also the possibility that you and your brother could reach an arrangement whereby he effectively buys out your interest in the estate leaving you both free to go your separate ways.
In terms of ongoing bills and expenses at the property in the event of your father’s death, these are generally the responsibility of the beneficiary of the trust, in this case your brother, and most wills drawn up by solicitors are prepared on this basis.
This might be a point worth raising with your father now as if he isn’t sure on this point he will probably want to avoid any potential issues in future.
It is usually the beneficiary of the trust who pays for things like utilities, council tax, insurance and repairs at the property as ultimately they get to live there rent free.
Overall, you should not be considering disclaiming your inheritance or giving up your position as an executor because you are upset.
As with many things, let your emotions settle down after a period of time and perhaps have a conversation with your father to try to understand his rationale.