Everyone is entitled to play their cards close to their chests when dealing with their own property. However, in one case, a father’s reluctance to confide in others or to seek proper legal advice led to a bitter row between his children after his death.
The father had bought a residential property 12 years before his death and had put it in the sole name of his younger son. His motive for doing so was entirely unclear, although it may have been for tax reasons. He executed no valid will and, following his death, his older son challenged his brother’s entitlement to the property.
The younger son argued that the property had been freely given to him by his father and that it was intended to be his home. However, after his brother launched High Court proceedings, a judge found on the evidence that their father had bought it as an investment and that he remained its beneficial owner on his death.
The ruling meant that the property formed part of the father’s estate and that the brothers were thus each entitled to half of it. However, the need for the costly litigation would have been avoided altogether had the father seen a solicitor and left a paper trail behind him, clarifying his intentions.