You and the Law – 31st August 2010

Claim query

I would like to know if my brother and I have any claim on the estate of our step-mother, who died two years ago.  She had one daughter (our half-sister) who was living with her when she died.  My half-sister kept everything and is now talking of selling the house.  Will we have any claim on it?  TG

I take it your father is no longer alive, and that neither he nor your step-mother made a will.  If your father and your step-mother owned the house in joint names, it will have passed to your step-mother when he died. 

On her death her property goes to her issue ‘her daughter’ and no one else is entitled to a share.  If your step-mother had died before your father, you and your brother would have shared your inheritance with your half-sister.  I’m afraid this is what happens if people who remarry don’t make a Will.

Moving fence

I have a small farm.  About two years ago a neighbour put up new fences round her land, but extended her boundary by about 10 yards on to my property.  She said the new position was the correct boundary if I checked my title deeds.  She was right, but the land had been fenced in the original position for at least 40 years.  I have been told I have squatter’s rights to the land, but is it too late to act now?  NW

It would have been preferable to do something immediately while the evidence of the original fence position was still fresh.  However if you can prove that the fence was there for 40 years (more than 12 prior to October 13, 2003, when the law changed will do) and your neighbours never tried to reclaim the land, you should be able to persuade the Land Registry to grant you possessory title to the disputed strip. 

You will need to draw up a statutory declaration to submit with your application, and if you can track down any previous owner to provide evidence, so much the better.

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