What if I’ve helped to pay the mortgage of the deceased’s house or led to believe that I would inherit it?

Written by Terry Johansson | 18th September 2013

If you contributed directly to the purchase of the step-parent’s home, paid for substantial improvements or renovations to be done to the home, or you have been helping to pay the mortgage on an ongoing basis, then you may be able to commence proceedings to protect the financial interest that you have in the property.  This is commonly called an “equitable interest”.

A court may recognise your interest in the property and make an order that your step-parent held the property, or a share of the property, “on trust” for you.

You may also have a claim if your step-parent lead you to believe or encouraged you to believe that you would inherit their property after their death. However, to be successful  in a claim of this kind you must be able to prove that you suffered detriment, meaning loss or damage as a result of the deceased’s conduct towards you, in such a way that it would be unfair for the deceased to change his / her mind. In such a situation, the court could act to prevent the property being dealt with without your rights or interests being recognised first.

As discussed above, if you were successful in a family provision claim, the court could order that the deceased’s house or the deceased’s share in that house could be transferred to you.

These claims may be a valuable alternative if you are unable to contest division of the Estate or your rights are weak.  However, they will only be available if you contributed to the acquisition or maintenance of the deceased step-parent’s house.

These are complex areas of law and you are strongly recommended to obtain legal advice.

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