Son due to inherit has died before his mother

Q&A: Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 01:00

My deceased brother and I are benefactors in my elderly mother’s will. He was married with children (now adults). How will the will be distributed when my mother dies?

Mr DK, email

The obvious first thought is that your mother should revisit her will to ensure her estate is distributed in accordance with her wishes in light of the changed circumstances, rather than leaving it to chance. It shouldn’t be complicated unless the estate itself is fairly complex, but it will certainly make things easier ultimately.

If that does not happen, then the outcome is very much down to the precise wording of her current will. Certainly, if the will has been drawn up with the assistance of a solicitor, it is likely that it will make provision for such an event. For instance, it is usual that a will makes specific provisions for named individuals on the stated basis that they survive the benefactor (your mother in this case) by a period of 30 days.

If they do not survive that long – or, as in this case, they predecease the benefactor – it is not unusual for a benefactor to make provision for the dispersal of their estate. Thus, the will might state that it passes on to their children or spouse, if any, or that it passes to some other stated person entirely.

If such direct, stated provision is made – including, for instance, provision that it pass to your brother “or in the event of his not surviving me, to his estate” – then that is what must happen. In the event of the above provision, the inheritance would pass to your brother’s estate and be treated in accordance with the terms of his own will, if any.

If he had no will, then it would be treated under the laws of intestacy. In your brother’s case, that would mean two-thirds of the estate going to his wife and one third to be divided among his children.

If the wording of the will does not indicate how the inheritance should be treated given your brother predeceasing your mother, then the inheritance that would have gone to him falls into what is called the residue – that part of your mother’s estate left after she has made specific provision for named individuals. A will normally makes provision for the residue – such as stating that after certain specific bequests, the residue of the estate be divided between you two brothers. In that case, it is likely that all the estate will pass to you.

No closure for Vodafone shareholder I thought it was all over! I did all the right things, got the relevant pack, made my return, sold my Verizon shares and got my cheque. So why has Computershare now written to me and I still have 247 Vodafone shares with a dividend? I thought I’d seen the end of Vodafone.

Ms MR, email

You’re not quite finished with Vodafone yet. Yes, you opted for the cash payment as a gift; yes, you opted to sell your Verizon shares and so did not receive a separate notice of dividend recently from that company but that’s not the whole story.

The Verizon deal only accounted for part of your Vodafone holding – ie, Vodafone owned much more than just its stake in Verizon. The recent payback only related to that part of the business, so you still have shares for the rump of the Vodafone business.

When the “return of value” exercise was finished, Vodafone reorganised its shares so that you should now have six shares for every 11 you held previously, meaning you probably held just over 450 shares before this whole exercise. As these are all now held electronically – unless you actively chose otherwise – it may well be that you were not aware they existed until you got the notice of dividend. But you do still own them.

Not that they’re making a profit, of course. In fact, until last week, they were doing poorly, but they are there nonetheless.

I did raise with Vodafone the issue of them offering a no commission or low commission option to sell small holdings such as yours – designed to let long-suffering former Eircom shareholders some closure on their ill-judged investment, albeit at a loss, while also getting a large number of relatively high maintenance, inexperienced (and largely Irish) small shareholders off the Vodafone share register. No decision has been made on that matter though it is still under consideration.

Send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara St, D2, or email This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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