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February 24, 2024
PI Global Investments

Your personal finance questions: Can I contest the will of my stepmother as she had promised money to me?

A. As the child or stepchild of the individual creating the will, you don’t have an automatic entitlement to any inheritance, according to Sonia McEntee of Sonia McEntee Solicitors.

This can be a challenging concept to convey, especially as children are often adults by the time their parent or guardian passes away. In the case of a surviving spouse, there is a legal entitlement to a specific portion of the estate, but children or stepchildren typically don’t have such entitlements unless there are unique circumstances, Ms McEntee said.

These special circumstances might include instances such as where the deceased promised a benefit to the child (particularly where the child relied on that promise) or when the child was treated unfairly or unequally in comparison to other siblings.

You should consider that a promise made verbally without witnesses may be difficult to substantiate whereas the will, once admitted to probate, is a legally binding direction to the executor as to how the estate should be distributed, the solicitor said.

You should also bear in mind that there may be strict time limits within which any action can be taken. Given the delicate and intricate nature of this legal area, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so you should seek personalised legal advice.

An experienced solicitor can offer guidance and assist you in determining the most appropriate course of action for your situation.

Q. I am one of those whose mortgage was sold from a mainstream bank to an investment fund in the wake of the Irish banking crisis a few years ago. I’ve never been in arrears on my mortgage until last month as my monthly mortgage repayments have risen so significantly since interest rates started to rise. I have heard that under a new initiative, mortgage customers such as myself now have the chance to switch back to mainstream lenders. Is this correct and how would I go about it?

A. You are correct that a new initiative was launched recently which allows customers of credit servicing firms to switch their mortgages to a mainstream lender, said Annette Moore, head of mortgages with the financial advisory group, MMPI.ie.

However, these mortgage switches are only allowed in certain circumstances and as you have just fallen into arrears, it is unlikely that you will qualify. Under the initiative, the main lenders may be willing to allow a customer of a credit servicing firm to switch as long as the customer has had no arrears for the last two years and can demonstrate repayment capacity.

Ms Moore suggests that you try to clear your mortgage arrears as soon as possible.

Q. My husband and I have been separated for six years and we are considering a divorce, but I have no idea about the potential costs involved in the divorce application process. Is there an average cost that I can expect to pay for a divorce application, including legal fees and related expenses?

A. Since every divorce or separation case is unique, there is no standard or average cost for these legal proceedings, according to Sonia McEntee of Sonia McEntee Solicitors.

Section 150 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 highlights the importance of ensuring clients understand their potential legal cost exposure from the outset, and places clear responsibilities on solicitors to keep clients informed. Estimating these costs can be challenging, but it’s often more practical to work on a time-based fee structure, allowing the solicitor to track and account for their work throughout the case.

For the same reason, any agreements that can be reached between you will assist in reducing the amount of time required from your legal adviser.

Given you are separated some time, you may already have worked out various arrangements. The more contentious the divorce, the greater the legal fees are likely to be. Ms McEntee said it is possible for people to apply for divorces themselves but the law requires that there is proper provision made for spouses, and it’s imperative that clear protections are in place for children (both financial and their relationships with both parents).

The outcome of divorce proceedings should be as fair as it can be in all the circumstances. It’s often not possible for individuals to do that for themselves.

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