Last Grasp
January 4, 2019 10:46 AM   Subscribe

You're not my solicitor, but I still want to ask you questions about issues relating to an inheritance. (How) can I refuse an inheritance under certain circumstances, ideally preemptively and bindingly? I'm in the UK.

My Dad and I (34) have a strained but improving relationship; until this last year or two we were estranged for some time, as I pulled away from what I perceived to be a controlling and undermining attitude that was making it hard for me to function, let alone maintain a relationship with him. He regards me as an underachiever and irresponsible, though he shows it less nowadays. His relationship with my sister is slightly better, and me and my sis get along well. Also in the picture is his sister/my aunt, who me+sis regard as being a rather dysfunctional person who drives a lot of Dad's attitudes (they are each other's main companions).

Dad is in ill health. He has some substantial assets he anticipates leaving to me+sis, though I gather it may be due to go to Aunt first, until she in turn passes on (which may not be for a long while). He has told my sis (but not me) that he wants to put my portion of the state in a trust, to control how it's spent under the guidance of a trustee - probably to make sure it's spent on a house of a type and location he (perhaps posthumously) approves of, but possibly in other ways.

I think he also wants to use the inheritance to ensure that we maintain a relationship with Aunt after he dies. I wouldn't be surprised if she will be granted ownership of and responsibility over it, if he goes first.

I have no interest in accepting any money from him under such conditions, as to me it would be a permanent capstone on the unhealthy and destructive aspects of our relationship. I don't *need* the money as I'm financially self-sufficient, or at least, no less so than the average millenial. I would much prefer the money went to my sister or some good cause, than deal with everything that would be associated with accepting it conditionally.

I'm (reluctantly) mentally gearing up to try and engage him on this subject in a healthy way. However, I anticipate it being very difficult to convince him, especially given the influence of Aunt. What I would like to do is preemptively, and bindingly disclaim myself from any inheritance that would come to me through that type of trust. It would not be a bluff -- but I suppose I would still like the option to accept the inheritance if it is given in a (to me) more normal and respectful way. I'd also like to avoid it sitting in limbo with some solicitor forever.

What I would like is:

* General thoughts on the situation - am I just being petulant? Is this a normal sort of arrangement? Should I just accept whatever conditions are imposed?
* If not - how (if it's possible) do I go about settling the issue quickly and decisively now, by getting some kind of legal instrument or assurance, so that I can discuss it with him without him feeling that he can call my bluff? Or is that the wrong approach?

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
posted by Drexen to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Putting money into a trust with specific terms is not unusual. Can live life as if it is not there while it sits in the trust. One day either you change your mind or the trust comes to an end. I would let the chips fall where they may, not even bring this up, and after he has passed, you can decide what to do with it.

Also, if it is for a specific say house in a defined area, can always buy the house and then sell it a year or two later.

As for settling it now, I think the only way would be to tell your father not to leave anything to you, to give it to either your sis or your aunt or whomever he wishes, but not to Drexen.
posted by AugustWest at 10:58 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]

I think it is perfectly reasonable to say "I heard from Sister that you are thinking of putting my inheritance in some sort of a trust, and I wanted to tell you that - if that is the case - I would rather it just went to Sister or some good cause. I'm not interested in accepting money from you with conditions imposed."

For what it's worth, if I were your sister and he did give your share of the estate to me, I would hand it over to you immediately. You might talk to your sister about that, if the money would be truly lifechanging.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:26 AM on January 4 [14 favorites]

Leaving money in a trust is not unusual among people with significant assets, but it's also not unusual for it to be another way to be a petty control-freak from beyond the grave. There's probably nothing you can do about it right now other than have a conversation with him about how you'd prefer he not do that. Which won't bind him in any way, so it may or may not be worth it to you to make your wishes known. I'm not aware of any pre-emptive legal way to say he's not allowed to set up a trust however he wants.

What you can do is decline the inheritance when the time comes, and then it will go to your sister or however else he's set it up. If you want to give Future You the maximum possible flexibility, your best bet is probably to just leave this whole thing alone, and then Future You can assess their needs and whatever conditions turn out to be imposed, and accept or not at that time.

The other thing you could do is to get your sister in league with you on this. It sounds as if they have enough of a relationship that he's already talking to her about this stuff. So if she's willing, maybe she can be a voice of reason here and advocate for him to handle his bequests some other way.
posted by Stacey at 11:32 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]

IANAL so only in answer to a couple of your specific questions:

This is a common arrangement; you can buy "make your own will" kits that allow you to do exactly this.

Based on the wording of this question, and since you asked: yes you are considering doing something petulant. Exactly what you're trying to convince your father to do is unclear, but I assume you want him to remove the trust and trustee and give you the money directly. This is not of itself petulant. It's probably a conversation that happens a lot in wealthy families. But investigating how to construct a legally binding instrument that forces you to refuse the money if it comes with conditions, and showing that document to your father is, yes, kind of petulant.

And like I say, IANAL but AFAIK you cannot construct such a document. You can't prevent yourself being named a beneficiary in a will. Nor can you preemptively disclaim an inheritance or other gift in a binding way. You can of course disclaim the money when the time comes (this more usually happens for tax reasons).

The only possible legal solution I can imagine involves you establishing your own irrevocable living trust to receive and redistribute the assets. This would expensive and, yes, petulant.

You need to talk about this with your father, or let it go. Rock Steady's script is a great place to start.
posted by caek at 11:33 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]

Speaking as someone with a complicated relationship with my father too, I would advise trying to separate out the money issues from the relationship issues as much as you can.

In terms of the inheritance, the simplest thing is to let your dad know that you would prefer to not be left anything. Adding the bit about conditions is going to pull your relationship and all the challenges right back in, and in light of talking about end of life and about family relationships and about money, all giant emotional buttons for most people, neither of you is going to leave that conversation feeling like anything has been accomplished. A simple "Sister let me know that you are preparing your will, and I just wanted you to know that I am financially comfortable and would prefer that money went to Sister or to a worthy cause."

As to the rest, keep maintaining the boundaries you need to feel secure, but do keep working to have a relationship with your dad. It sounds like it is important and meaningful to you both, however flawed.
posted by goggie at 11:34 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]

When my mother passed away in the UK, I declined my inheritance from her at the reading of the will in the solicitor’s office. I was able to re-assign my inheritance to my neices, without it passing into my hands. The solicitor drew up a document in a couple of minutes, and the whole thing was very easy.

Based on this, I would recommend waiting until your father passes, and deciding what to do with your inheritance then.
posted by monotreme at 11:50 AM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I will not speak to your exact situation. It is impossible to give advice on documents no-one has seen, and may not even exist yet.

Speaking academically, the Saunders v Vautier Rule is still good law in Canada, although I have no idea about other jurisdictions. The Rule permits a sole beneficiary of a trust over a certain age to collapse the trust and get it disbursed to them.

Whether the Rule applies to your situation, I have no idea, and you would need a local lawyer to advise you.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:15 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]

Inheritance in England and Wales always seems to be very open, and people have a lot of leewayto write what they want in their wills. But AFAIK you cannot usually be forced to accept money that you do not want, particularly if there are conditions imposed. I guess there might be an exception if eg you were in the process of becoming bankrupt?

I'd be inclined to let the will go for now and assume that it will be tied up in ways that you do not like. 'Grey rock' the conversations in the meantime. If he's trying to control you then being deeply uninterested is less likely to feed that than arguing. You will probably 'win' by outliving him in any case, and you will certainly win by living your life in a way that makes you happy.
posted by plonkee at 1:06 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]

Wait until you see the will to make any kind of objection to it. You don't need to talk to him about this at all and you don't need to threaten him with disclaiming. If he brings it up, just acknowledge that you heard him and change the subject. Don't take the bait.

You have lots of ideas of ways he could mess with you, but it is just as likely that he does nothing at all or something you never even considered. Either way, you can make that choice when you have to and not before. Your life may change by the time you have to decide and you want to be able to decide what is best for you then and not what you predict will be the best for you now.
posted by soelo at 3:34 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]

The power over you that his money gives him, it's in *your* head.

The idea of a document to show to him, that's an attempt to affect *his* thinking/feelings/behavior.

I think a therapist is a better professional resource here than a solicitor. If you can find your own power and trust in yourself, that'll help you navigate the relationship with him while he's living, and after he's died, in a much healthier way than a battle of paper.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:19 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the great advice, all, it's provided a lot of clarity! I'll think about how to go forward but at least for now I'll let it sit, and see if he brings it up himself.
posted by Drexen at 7:40 PM on January 4

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