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Dublin Opinion >>
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Thursday March 17, 2011 20:48 by John Scully
Parents died leaving Family home intestate. Mick, one of the sons took out a High Court administration form and sold the family without consulting with his brother and four sisters. The other son John took him to court and won the case. It was discovered in court that Mick had defrauded the form in order to sell the home. The case ended up in the Circuit Court and the High Court but both courts decided that John was right to bring the case and he was awarded his share of the family home proceeds plus costs.
I was born at Foxhill, Athy, Co. Kildare. I lived there with my parents, my four sisters Lily, Maureen, Kathleen and Pauline and my brother Mick. Times were hard then and my father did not have a permanent job. We lived in a two-roomed cottage measuring only ten square feet each. When I reached my teenís times were even harder because eight of us shared these two rooms. There was no running water, heating or electricity. But despite this poverty we were all very happy there. As I grew older I knew that some members of my family would need to move out. My father was born in that house and lived there all his life until he died in 1982.The house originally belonged to my grandfather and some other relation of his before that so it had been in the family name for centuries. I could not and would not have even considered the mention of any other members of my family to move out, why should I after all it was their birth home as well as it was mine. So that left me to be the first one to cry on moving out as I just had to make a little extra space for the rest of the family.
England entered my head and I decided that was where I would end up. About three years after moving to England Lily and Kathleen joined me there. So three of us were now out of the house and this was leaving some more breathing space. Maureen got married and obviously she too left the house leaving Mick and Pauline there with my mother and father. Mick married and moved to England where his wife wanted to move to be near her parents but they broke up and Mick returned to the house. Pauline then moved to London for awhile but eventually she too moved back to the house. I returned to Ireland in 1972. Of course I realized in those times it was not only my family who were deciding on moving outóemigration had affecting many other families.
My parents had told me that whenever I returned I would always have a home to come back to. My father said that when he died the house would be left for us all to share. My mother died in 1988 and on her death the house remained intestate. That left Mick and Pauline in the house. My parentís were exceptionally good as they made sure all of the family, were catered for on their death. I had often thought, who could expect better parents? Even though I had been out of the house for some years at a time I had always come back to visit my father and mother.
About 1999 Pauline married Chinese man in what one would call a Ďquickie marriageí and he moved into the house. Mick continued living there with them. Before my father died he made some changes to the grounds of the family home and on one part he left ground for Mick to build his own house if he so wished. This was a nice gesture because as it stood then Mick was given his part of my fatherís estate. My father then began the task of building Mickís new house and he got as far as the wall plates when he became ill and was unable to complete it. The house stood in that condition for about nine years without a roof. I was never sure if the ground marked out for the new house was actually placed in Mickís name or whether in fact it had been left all in with the family home.
After Pauline married the Chinese man things began to change and she expected dates and times of our visit to the house. At the time I was unwell and entered hospital on occasions and had not been at the house for about a year. During this time Mick went to the High Court office and filled out an Administration form for the purpose of selling the family home. When I came out of hospital I went down to Athy and discovered builders renovating the house. I was shocked and disappointed that the house I was born in no longer existed for us to enjoy. I asked Mick what was going on and he said he was renting it to a local person and the lease was for a year only. He said donít worry about it as it would be back in our hands at the end of the year anyway. At first I believed him but I had second thoughts and decided to visit the Land Registry office so as to satisfy for myself what was going on. I was informed there that the family home was not leased but in fact had been sold. I found it hard to believe that Mick could stoop so low as to ride over our parentís wishes. They completed the new house with the proceeds of sale and moved in.
I was advised by the Land Registry to visit the High Court office and find out why Mick could get an Administration on a home that was intestate. It was then discovered that when he filled in the form he announced himself as an only child in the family. I was totally disappointed with him for this because we got on well together all our lives particularly at school. Pauline did not care about the rest of our family, she was hell bent on her relationship with the Chinese man but he indicated to her that he might only be staying around for a while and may return to China. She pleaded with him not to leave, as she would make sure he would stand to inherit all she had. On one occasion she told Maureen that Mick had given her and the Chinese man the unfinished house as a present and Iím sure this was part of the deal to stop him from leaving. Pauline had always been the type to stop at nothing to get what she wanted. I know she had driven Mick because he was not the type to do what he did. But nevertheless he did it anyway and what he did was criminal, fraudulent, mean and corrupt. Pauline had a major grip on Mick and Iím sure he was literally afraid of her.
I vowed that I was not going to take the loss of the family home lying down and after a couple of years I decided on taking legal action. This was mainly because my fatherís wishes had been ignored and also that Mick and Pauline choose to make someone outside the family more well off than we were ourselves. They lived in luxury in that new four-bed bungalow all from the proceeds of the family home and of course with my late fatherís help. They spent nothing whatever on the new house as all the expense came from the sale of the family home. I believe the price they received for the home was in the region of E43000 but Iím quite sure a lot more had been paid. I made enquiry from an estate agent as to the real value of the home and he said that if he were selling that house the new owner wouldnít have much change out of E100000. He said he was basing the price on the situation and convenience of the home so near to Athy town. I think the reason for not disclosing the true price was fear that if they were found out theyíd only be paying shares out of the E43000. I was certain that Mick and Pauline treated the rest of our family much worse than strangers would have done.
I was now faced with the task on where I would begin seeking legal advice? I didnít have a weekly income and I knew it would be hard seeking solicitorís advice as they normally look for a deposit up front. As far as I knew my other sisters were not keen to get involved as they said their lives could be made hell if they did. They considered that if they had been dealing with Mick alone on the issue they might chance being involved but certainly not with Pauline. So it looked very much that Iíd be going it alone on taking this action. I wasnít that bothered about having my life made hell because at least Iíd be fulfilling my parentís wishes. First, I thought I should write to Mick and let him know that what he had done was not right and unless I received a proper answer as to why I didnít receive a share of the estate weíd be winding up in court. I also asked why he had told a lie about renting the house to a local man but he did not answer this question. Knowing the type of person Pauline was I decided to send the letter by registered post. Two weeks later the letter was returned stating (not known at this address.) I knew Pauline was responsible for the return of the letter.
So, it looked as if they were not recognizing my letter and I began the task of seeking advice. I was aware this would be a long drawn out process but I knew there was now no alternative. I contacted four different solicitors and they all wanted fairly large deposits before they could even begin discussing the case. Some of them indicated in advertisements that the first consultation was free but obviously this wasnít the case. I was beginning to feel a shiver down my spine at the thought that I may have to abandon the action. I contacted another solicitor in the same area and I was told to come into the office. He asked for a brief description of the case and then requested E500. He said you are taking on a complex issue and that normally these family home cases were a waste of time and money and nobody ever wins. He said, if youíre concerned about going ahead with this I would require E500 as deposit and I hope you understand this would be a costly case. I told him I didnít have it right now but I would come up with it soon. Two weeks later I had the money and I went to his office. He said he needed certain documents to work on which I gave him, and heíd first, consult with a barrister he knew well and that he was one of the best around. He said these barristers know a lot about family home cases and he would be a good guide for him. He said give me two weeks and Iíll then see you again. I felt great relief he had taken the case and hoped thereíd be no problems. I gathered up some more money just in case he requested it on my return. He contacted me and said he needed to see me which would have been short of the two weeks he had previously stated. I certainly didnít like this at all and I felt something must have gone wrong. He said you have no case. I have heard from my barrister and he was of the same opinion. I was getting a little angry at this news and I asked about the money I paid. He said surely you understand that it has cost me money to talk to you and also that there were barristerís fees to be paid as well. I told him I needed this money to make contact with other solicitors. He said I could allow you E100. I protested and said thatís not enough and he agreed to pay another E50. He said thatís it I cannot allow anymore. I left his office thinking what a waste of money with nothing to show for it and yet I was charged E350. As far as Iím aware the barrister the solicitor mentioned has recently been promoted as a judge in the Law Courts and yet he did not understand the stateís 1965 Family Home Act. The solicitor who charged the E500 had a brother who was a senior minister in government.
Some weeks had passed and I wondered whether to continue or not but I decided anyway to give it one more try. I scanned the solicitorís section of the yellow pages marking out about twelve local solicitors and I picked out one of them. This solicitor worked for a firm of solicitorís named T.B. & Co Solicitors. A solicitor named C.R; there was assigned to my case. She didnít say if first consultation was free but asked me to call to her office. I explained my case and handed her some documents and she did quite a lot of writing about it. She said Iíll first write to your brother Mick and see what reaction will come from that and Iíll see you again in a couple of weeks. When I came home my son asked how I got on and if any fees were requested. I told him the solicitor never mentioned fees. He said when you go in there next time ask what it would cost to take the case through the courts. He asked me to promise that I would do this because he said if you donít ask you could find yourself building up a massive amount of costs particularly if it went to court and the case was lost. I mentioned costs on my next visit and she said she was satisfied that I had a very good case and costs would be paid by the other side when the case was finished. She said you are entitled to a share of the family home and that has been proven. I thought, well, it looks as if this solicitor is an Angel sent down from Heaven by my parentís to look after my case. I was delighted at the way things were going and wondered why she saw there was a case and yet the other solicitorís didnít. My wife was delighted too at this development but she decided not to get involved, as she feared Pauline and knew her as a very troublesome person. On my next visit to the solicitor, she said the letter sent to Mick had gone unanswered and his solicitorís Donnelly from my hometown Athy was not very helpful in their correspondence with her. She said the good news now is I have a date set for your case in court. This for me was terrific because I never thought my case would ever see the inside of a court. The solicitor from day one had always been confident of winning the case, but I did have the fear of losing because of information I received that there was too much interference by the State in the (1965 Family Home Act.) It appears they did not understand or take into account the consequences the Act would have on other family members and the nightmare theyíd have to suffer in gaining their rightful share of intestate family home cases. They signed off this unfair legislation as a private case whereby family members would not be able to avail of the Stateís Free Legal Aid System.
I think it was this Act that urged my brother and his solicitorís to continue and Iím sure too that they saw they were on the winning side and were prepared to fight me all the way. I knew this solicitor from my school days in Athy and the rest of my family also knew them. They were very aware of how many of us were in the family yet when my brother went to them with the High Court administration form they readily accepted and decided to represent him in court. They knew full well that the administration form had been defrauded. My own lawyerís were aware of it as well.
The date of the court arrived and I will admit I was nervous as I wondered what might happen if I lost? I knew this was a private case and although I did not have a working income I did not have access to the Stateís Free Legal Aid system. I gathered from my solicitor at the outset of the case that costs could amount to about E15000. My great fear too of going into court was my hearing problem and although I would be accompanied there by my solicitor C.R. and barrister PMcL this still did not lessen my fear. In court I was surprised to see that Lily who initially backed me in receiving a share of the proceeds of the family home was there but she was not on my side. She took sides with Mick instead. Pauline was also there. My wife Barbara and our son were with me. I had a bad time in court I just could not hear what was being said. When I was asked a question I had to be yelled at two or three times before I could sort of grasp the questions. My face was red with embarrassment at not being able to hear properly. My wife and son filled me in with most of the evidence from Mick, Pauline and Lily. In evidence Mick said I wasnít his brother anymore for taking him to court. He was asked who built the house he was living in and he said he did as he had a good pair of hands. I couldnít understand why he was telling these lies. Pauline said I was not her brother and that I was never in the family home. She said she did not know me and that I was not born in the house and as far as she was concerned I was just someone coming into court trying to make money out of them. She was asked if she knew any of our children and although she was our daughter Shreeís Godparent she said she did not. Lily said in evidence that she had never met me at the family home. She was asked if she had met me in England and she said she didnít even though we lived in the same house there. This was a question the other side had asked repeatedly as the Family Home Act barred other family members from receiving a share if they were absent from there for twelve years. They consistently tried to prove that I was never at the family home. Mick had a witness in court and Iím sure he was there to back up their assertion that I was never at the family home. When asked if he knew me he said, ĎYes, he did. When asked where he had met me he said, ĎAt his family home. Iím sure that wasnít what Mick, Pauline and Lily wanted to hear but here was an honest man not wanting to tell lies in a court of law. I had noticed during the court that Lily would smirk quite a lot as she looked towards me but Iím not sure of her reason for this. I could only assume she had considered that I was would probably make a mess of my own evidence in not being able to hear the questions I was being asked. Iím sure too that she considered that Mick and his solicitors had a good case because they repeatedly brought up the (statute barred) clause in the 1965 Home Act. Iím sure Lily saw that this Act would have been a golden opportunity for them to win the case. When Lily and I were on good terms she would always stay close to me whenever there were a lot of people around and I really appreciated her for that, she knew Iíd be more comfortable with someone near me because of my hearing difficulties. But looking back now I could see she had gone completely against me and had turned more of an enemy than a sister had.
In the summing up of the case the judge found for me and decided that I was entitled to a share of the family home proceeds. I was completed staggered at this, as I had no idea Iíd get so far with my case. Immediately after the case closed Pauline was the first to leave the court slamming the court door behind her and when she went outside she ran up and down the street in a mad temper. I was confused as to her protest because the case was between Mick and me and should thus have nothing at all to do with her.
As I had won my case my solicitorís task now was to get on with arranging my share of the family home plus other expenses. Two weeks after the court my solicitor contacted me asking that I attend her office. She said Mickís solicitors were applying to the High Court for an appeal. She was a little confused as to why they were taking this action because she had considered they were bound to have abided by the Circuit Court decision. She felt they might have been playing for time, as the appeal to the High Court might not be heard for at least a year. She said our barrister P.McL was concerned about having to wait this length for his fees and suggested if I could come up with at least E2000, which would pay his fees of E1500 and E500 for another barrister she had sought advice from. She said not to worry about losing this money, as it would be promptly paid back to me in the settlement of the share. Although I agreed to try and get the money I could only borrow E1400 but nevertheless she was thankful, as this amount could be paid to the barrister who presided over the Circuit Court hearing. I was disappointed about this because my case was successful and I felt his fees would be taken care of anyway. This outcome had now left me with a great worry because, I wondered if the other side had seen something theyíd be more successful with at the High Court appeal. In the mean time T.B solicitors who were dealing with my case closed up their business and I didnít see my solicitor C.R again. Another solicitor E.H was assigned to the rest of my case for the High Court. The barrister P.McL who pocketed the fees was not at the High Court hearing. The judge in the High Court decided that the other side had wasted everybodyís time in bringing the case as the decision of the Circuit Court still stands and I was entitled to a share of the family home estate. I contacted the new solicitor E.H to find out when Iíd be receiving my share and I was staggered to learn that if I were to pursue my share Iíd have to pay him E5000. This kind of money was out of my reach and perhaps all concerned in the case were aware of this.
After being successful in both the Circuit Court and High Court I ended up with nothing. I never received my share which, Iím told would have amounted to at least E11500 or the E1400 I borrowed for the barrister P.McL at my solicitor C.Rís request. Nothing was done about the fraud although Mickís lawyers as well as my own were aware about it. Both judgesí of the Circuit Court and High Court were excellent and very understanding particularly the Circuit Court judge. But I was disappointed that although the High Court judge decided that the Circuit Courtís decision was final in my case he still called for a full hearing again of my case at the High Court.
Not long after this I was awoken from my sleep by my wife informing me that Maureen had phoned with the news that Pauline had died. Although she did a bad deed on me I was still shocked at her death. A couple of weeks later my wife again woke me from my sleep telling me that Maureen had again phoned with the news that Mick had died. I was completed shocked at both of their deaths. I could not get any information as to the reason for death of Pauline or even where her burial took place. I did want to attend Mickís funeral and Barbara phoned Lily who was making the preparations and she was told I would not be welcome there. Only a short while previously and during the court hearing I had not noticed any health problems whatever with either of them and they seemed perfectly ok. I was concerned as to why both of them had died so soon after the courtís verdict and I prayed it wasnít anything to do with my actions in taking them to court. I found out later that Mickís death was due to a heart attack but I had never been aware that he had any previous heart trouble.
I feel very angry that the house where I was born and where I had spent happy times with my parentís and my brother and sisterís is no longer there to enjoy. Iím annoyed too that a Chinese man who was a total stranger to the family has been left it all and enjoys a free home. The house where my wife Barbara and I live does not belong to us and we pay E500 monthly plus household bills. Our only income is the state pension. My dearest wish would be to return to the family home in Athy and to spend the rest of my days there just as my parentís had done. At least the roof over my head would be mine and for my own family to enjoy. Many thanks to all who read this and I very much appreciate your attention.