This particular radio programme concerned how step-children within an increasingly common modern family scenario may have different tax treatments in an inheritance context.

Modern family

I had the rare occasion of listening to Joe Duffy’s Liveline when driving back to the office from court at lunchtime and probate law was the dish of the day.

 

YOU CAN LISTEN BACK TO THE RADIO SEGMENT HERE;

 

Essentially this man was explaining that he wished to make a will with his wife, and they both had step-children and together they had a very happy family.  Neither wanted to treat the step children differently to their own children when making their Will.

They viewed no difference between the status of child or step child after twenty five years together, but yet in the eyes of the law, and in this instance more importantly Revenue, the significance in terms of tax liability is major.

After all, the child at law can receive a tax free Class A threshold of €310,000 on inheritance but the Class C designated stepchild only €16,250. Quite the jump!

Fairness has two faces

Yet, like everything at law there are two ways of looking at what constitutes fairness.  Is it fair that one child of a blended family gets treated differently or in this instanced tax differently than his or her step-sibling?  Arguably not.

Yet is it fair that a child of such a modern blended family (who essentially has two parents and one or two step parents) gets three or possibly four tax-free allowances of €310,000 (i.e. €1,240,000 over the course of a lifetime!), rather than the child of a single parent who only ever is likely to get one Class A tax free allowance?

The next caller had another experience of unfairness as she saw it at the hands of the law. She was an executor of a will that spent eighteen months tied up in litigation and has she rightly called it a merry-go-round of solicitor’s appointments, court appearances, not to mention the ongoing resultant stress and upset.

The dispute she said was spurious and needless and caused her much distress relating to her Mother’s death and the legacy her Mother had saved tirelessly to provide.

Ultimately it seemed from her story that the judge had agreed with her and the case was dismissed and costs awarded against the applicants personally and not out of the estate. Thus it would seem fairness had prevailed. Although none of this spared the stress borne out of an upsetting court battle.

Getting proper wills & probate advice

First and foremost you want a solicitor who is knowledgeable on this subject. For example, you want a lawyer who will not needlessly take on a case and push you into a court battle that is not winnable and not in your interests.

Secondly, you are better advised by someone who can advise you rationally and impartially and see both sides of the coin to give you a fair and truthful assessment of matters.

There is little point after all in simply having the lawyer who tells you all what he thinks you would like to hear, rather than the likely outcome. 

I am sure the person in the aforementioned second case who got an order for costs against them for instance would never had taken that case had they anticipated the contesting their late Mother’s will would leave them with a bill of tens of thousands of euro – not to mention the untold upset that would be experienced by the wider family and end up the subject of discussion on Joe Duffy!

You want a lawyer who will ultimately always have your best interests in mind and who won’t be afraid to give you the cold hard facts, even if unpalatable.

Lastly, notwithstanding the ‘highfalutin’ language sometimes associated with solicitors, you want a solicitor who ‘gets it’, who can speak in plain English and whose advice you can understand and trust.

 

POSTSCRIPT: Our new year’s resolution at Carmody Moran this year is to be better Facebookers – by that more creative with our writing or rather our blog musings!  Hopefully you will enjoy them and possibly learn a legal tiDbit or two along the way! 

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