Thanks for your response and interest in the story.
Women could inherit property in the 19C but until the Married Women’s Property Act in 1882 their property became legally that of their husband on marriage. Mary’s inheritance was managed under the supervision of the court until she became an adult at 21 in 1865, but she didn’t marry until 1887, after the Act came into force. There would also have been marriage settlements i.e. trusts created by a middle/upper class bride’s father on marriage — I will explain Mary’s parents’ marriage settlement and the rest of Mary’s inheritance in my next post.
The questions about lunacy and the use and abuse of lunacy petitions are very interesting — there is an excellent book called Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty & the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England by Sarah Wise which has more stories about this in it.
Mary’s mother came from a wealthy family herself (the Prestons of Flasby Hall, Gargrave, Yorkshire), and she and Mary lived with them and other relatives for long periods in Mary’s childhood and after. Emily also inherited some of James’s estate and was paid maintenance (£500 a year in the 1850s) out of Mary’s funds, so she would have had a much higher standard of living than most people in 19C England.