Inheriting the Earth - Galway Independent

Written by Deirdre O' Shaughnessy - Galway Independent
Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Deirdre O’Shaughnessy talks to solicitor John G Murphy about inheritance, succession and planning for the future As a practising solicitor since 1980, John G Murphy has seen some very difficult situations involving wills and inheritance, all of which could have been avoided if the property owner had taken as little as one hours professional advice to get himself/herself organised.

Murphy and his colleague, Jason Dunne set about writing a simple, lay person’s guide to inheritance, ‘Inheritance & Succession, The Complete Irish Guide’, after a well-placed client suggested it would be useful.

“Between us, my co-author, Jason Dunne and myself have worked in legal offices for over 50 years. The idea for our book ‘Inheritance and Succession, The Complete Irish Guide’ (published by Liberties press) arose almost by accident when dealing with our editor, Michael Freeman as a client a few years ago.

“Michael was chosen as an executor by his elderly aunt. He asked lots of normal questions as we processed the administration of his aunt's estate. He said he found our answers very helpful and suggested that we should write a book around the subject of succession and inheritance and related matters.

“Even though we are lawyers, the book is very much written for the non-lawyer and our hope is that it will have a positive effect on people who read it.

“So far people have told us that they find it extremely helpful. As it says in the book, the key is to do something, i.e. to get started on your ideas for a succession or inheritance plan and then to make better use of your time with your chosen profession to put it into practise,” he says.

John has recognized a discernible change in attitudes over the past number of years, and, he says, the emergence and end of the Celtic Tiger have both brought their own threats and opportunities.

“Many people who grew up in Ireland in hard times with little or no money have good reason to applaud the so-called Celtic Tiger and its wealth generation. Those people are well placed to compare how things were then and how they are now, and they will have no difficulty coping with what we are now calling a recession.

“I have concerns, however, about how younger people might cope with it, as in their experience over the past 15 years ‘the only way was up’. It is therefore quite a shock to the system to have a very sudden drop, certainly in property values, a credit squeeze and possible the loss of a job.

“Again I believe the key to finding your way through is to take early and timely advice. Note the title to the last chapter in the book, which is ‘Breaking the Worry Logjam’. It concludes ‘so now postpone your worries and focus on your concerns. You have begun your plan’.”

The Irish preoccupation with land, John says, has “if anything, become more important” with the change from an urban to a rural society.

“There has been a dramatic change concerning land over the past 25 years. Land value is still strong (apart from some wild fluctuations in the early 80s and early 90s) but the income generating power of land has lagged very seriously behind other incomes.

“During our recent boom years, some young farmers used the value of their land to back borrowings for so called investments including CFDs (Contracts for Difference). I fear that some of this is going to unravel quite badly.

“There is still a traditional love of the land among many people in Ireland, but that too has lessoned over the years and some people would see it as no more than a commodity like any other property. Obviously such an attitude can give rise to friction between a younger and older generation and so careful discussion of different priorities and needs is very important.”

Generational differences are also something that has a major impact on inheritance issues, he says. John believes there are two aspects to young people remaining reliant on their parents for longer – those who live with them for longer, and those who actually remain financially reliant.

Unless there are particular circumstances giving rise to this, which make it suitable for both parent and child, Murphy believes it is incumbent upon young people to “take stock of their own situation” and not to “drift along”.

“I fully appreciate that in early years people might not be able to afford their own purchase and even more so now with the credit squeeze but there is oodles of property to rent. Our fellow Europeans and other countries have been doing this for a long, long time.”

In this situation, the advice offered in the book is to the point – “you may let your life happen or you may plan it,” he says.

‘Inheritance and Succession, The Complete Irish Guide’ is published by Liberties Press. See also the accompanying website www.myinheritance.ie.

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