Moral Money: our reader’s concerned about losing his late mother’s hard-earned money
Dear Moral Money,
My parents were happily married for 30 years until, sadly, my mum passed away from cancer around 10 years ago. She was ill for some time, and told my dad that, when the time came, he should move on.
My dad, who is now 69, met someone new a couple of years ago. She is 15 years younger than him, has no children of her own, and is an only child.
My dad sold our family home – a four-bedroom house – and his new partner sold her two-bedroom flat. Together, they bought an even bigger house, mortgage-free, for the two of them to live in, and my dad has now proposed to her.
When my dad was living in the house that just belonged to him and my mum, it was pretty simple that my brother and I would inherit the property when he died. But now that he has a new property and soon-to-be new wife, where does that leave us?
I’m concerned that his new partner could essentially profit from the money our mum put into our family home. What if my dad died and she got a new partner – could she inherit everything and just move someone else into what had been their shared home?
I’ve tried broaching the subject with my dad, but he’s not particularly open to talking about it. He assures us: “I’ve sorted it out” – but we have no idea what that means. Apparently he does have a will, but no one knows what’s in it.
When a parent dies, it may be difficult to see the surviving parent move on. It can stir up a lot of emotions and, as you’ve experienced, bring a new level of complexity to a family set-up.
According to law firm JMW Solicitors, there was a 45pc surge in inheritance dispute cases in 2022, partly because rising costs means people are more likely to kick up a fuss over money they think they should have received – but also due to the issues “blended” families can kick up. As your father is intending to remarry, your family will soon become one of these.
I sense you might be somewhat mistrusting of your father’s fiancee – whether that’s because she’s a lot younger than him, or just because you’re struggling to accept him moving on with anyone, I don’t know.
But I would remind you that the vast majority of people do not marry with a view to getting their hands on a spouse’s eventual inheritance.
If she was with your father for that reason, she might have a long time to wait. While your father is older, at 70 their marriage could last a good 20 years if he remains in good health.
Therefore, unless you have evidence to the contrary I would give her the benefit of the doubt in her intentions.
As to the question of what this means for your father’s will, this is something that’s deeply personal to him, and it’s perhaps understandable why he doesn’t seem open to talking about it – he’s under no obligation to, after all.
While you may see the money tied into the house your parents owned together as rightfully yours, for now, it’s his and, painful as it may be, he can do whatever he likes with it.
If, indeed, he does maintain that you and your brother receive the full sum of money from the house that belonged to your parents, I’m interested to know what kind of outcome you’d be happy with.
Given that money is now tied up in the home he’s bought with his fiancee, would you seek for her being forced to sell it when he dies to free up the cash? Would you consider her to have “earned” more of a share depending on how long they’re together?
I imagine what you’re most worried about is a situation where your father leaves a significant sum to you and your brother, and his new wife contests the will.
There are only a handful of instances where this is possible, but she may be able to if she can prove the will does not contain a “reasonable provision” for her to live from. This is usually only possible if she can prove she has been financially dependent on your father.
Without knowing how financially savvy your father is, or the specific steps he’s taken when he tells you he’s “sorted it out”, it’s hard to say whether or not this kind of contest would be possible, or necessary.
He doesn’t sound like an unreasonable person, so there’s every chance he’s managed to organise his affairs to provide for both his new wife and his children. If he doesn’t want to talk to you about it, you may just have to trust this is the case.
In the meantime, perhaps you should trust he knows what he’s doing and try to be happy that he’s managed to find love again later in life.