Island knowledge, national expertise

Father's Failure to Make a Will Plunges His Widow Into Legal Difficulties

One of the best things you can do for your loved ones is to sign a professionally drafted will. As a High Court case showed, failing to take that easy and cost-effective step is to risk plunging those closest to you into legal difficulties after you are gone.

The case concerned a German national who died intestate. Under German law, his widow was entitled to half his estate with the remainder being shared between his five children equally. As a result, his youngest son, aged 16, inherited a one-tenth share in a German property and two garages that were owned by his father. Following the father's death, mother and son settled permanently in England.

The property generated sporadic rental income but, after maintenance, tax and other costs, it was an overall drain on the family's resources. Having received a very good offer for the property, the widow wished to sell it. The son, however, was yet to attain adulthood and, under German law, could not consent to the sale. The German land registry would not register a transfer of the property unless all six heirs gave their consent to the sale. In those circumstances, the widow was obliged to seek the Court's authority for her to enter into the sale contract on her son's behalf.

Granting the authorisation sought, the Court noted that a relatively simple practical problem had given rise to complex legal issues, which were rendered considerably more difficult by the UK's departure from the European Union. It was highly regrettable that, in the absence of a will, the widow had to engage in stressful litigation simply to sell a house in Germany in which her son had an interest.

After accepting that it had jurisdiction to consider the matter, the Court found that it plainly served the boy's welfare for the property to be sold at a price that was well above its current valuation. His mother promised the Court that she would use her son's share of the proceeds of sale for his education, maintenance and benefit.

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The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.