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In Nutt v Nutt the court looked at fairness in a will dispute

The Fairness of Will Disputes: Nutt v. Nutt [2018] EWHC 851 (CH)

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The recent case of Nutt v Nutt, an elderly lady left her house to one of her children and not the others. The case shows the factors that the courts use to resolve will disputes.

The Facts of Nutt v Nutt

Lily Rose Nutt passed away in 2013; she was a widow. Mrs Nutt had made a will in 2005, and another in 2010. Mrs Nutt had three children: Christopher, Vivienne, and Colin. The 2005 will divided the estate equally between the three siblings. The 2010 will left Mrs Nutt’s house to Colin alone; the house was the largest asset in the estate and was worth approximately £350,000. When a will dispute was raised by the other siblings, the judge, Master Clark, had the task of deciding whether or not the will that was made in 2010 was valid.

Testamentary Capacity

One of the grounds the claimants relied upon to challenge the will in Nutt v Nutt was lack of testamentary capacity. In Banks v Goodfellow (1869-70) LR 5 QB 5494, the test to decide whether an individual has the testamentary capacity to make a will was set out:

  • The testator of the will must know the nature of the document they are preparing- that it is a will
  • The testator must have knowledge of their estate and an idea of their wealth and their assets
  • The testator must have an idea of who their dependants are and who might be expecting to inherit from their will

Mrs Nutt was diagnosed with dementia in 2011. The judge decided that this was enough to cast doubt on her capacity to make a valid will. The claimants had asserted that in 2010 when the will was made, the testator was already suffering from dementia and that she could “barely write her own name”. Her correspondence from that time indicated otherwise. The judge accepted that although she developed dementia in 2011, she did in fact have testamentary capacity when she made her will in the previous year, so the claim failed on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity.

Knowledge and Approval

The claimants also raised a claim on the grounds of lack of knowledge and approval, in other words, that the will was invalid because the testator did not know or approve of its contents. Colin gave evidence that his mother had insisted on leaving him the house in the 2010 will and called upon third party witnesses to support the view that Mrs Nutt had been adamant that the bequest was her intention. The judge accepted this evidence and rejected the claim of lack of knowledge and approval because the evidence suggested that she not only knew about the new will, but also was intent on making it.

Undue Influence in Nutt v Nutt

In Re Edwards [2007] EWHC 1119 (Ch), the burden of proof in undue influence cases was set out:

It is not enough to prove that the facts are consistent with the hypothesis of undue influence. What must be shown is that the facts are inconsistent with any other hypothesis.”

The claimants alleged that Mrs Nutt’s will had been made under the coercion of Collin and was therefore invalid. They argued that Collin Nutt was dominant and domineering. Their evidence was that Collin had told Mrs Nutt to put on a different pair of shoes and coat so she didn’t get cold, and that he had been “holding court” at both Mrs Nutt and her late husband’s wakes. However, as evidence that Collin had behaved in a dominant way, this did not convince the judge.

The claimants also said that Collin had taken money from his mother for making repairs to her house. The judge rejected this evidence and said that Collin had not been paid for the repairs other than cash for the cost of materials. The judge said there was no evidence to support the claims that Collin controlled Mrs Nutt financially. The judge accepted Collin’s evidence that he was not involved in the 2010 will and therefore there was no undue influence.

Conclusions of the court in Nutt 

Master Clark stated in the judgement,

“it is not my task to decide whether the 2010 will was justified or fair; I am only required to decide if it is valid. For the reasons set out above I find that it is valid, and that the claim therefore fails.”

This case serves as a reminder that in will disputes, the court ultimately has to decide whether a will is valid based on legal principles such as capacity and undue influence: it is not for the judge to decide whether or not the provisions in a will are morally fair on the beneficiaries.

This case illustrates an important aspect of many will disputes. Just because a will is not fair does not mean it is invalid. In some cases, it may be more appropriate to bring a claim for reasonable provision under the Inheritance Act, but this can be a difficult claim to bring for an adult child who is financially independent.

For expert advice on your situation, get in touch with Will Claim solicitors. We are expert will dispute lawyers and will be able to explain how the law may support your claim. We can offer a free claim assessment and will usually be able to act on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.

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worried about will fraud or forgery our will disputes experts can help

Forged Wills and Will Fraud

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Most will disputes arise from common grounds for a will dispute such as lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence or the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. However, some of the less common situations that give rise to will disputes are the grounds of forgery and will fraud.

Both forgery and will fraud occur when someone has deliberately interfered with a testator’s will to change who inherits property from the testator’s estate. Some examples of fraudulent situations are when someone has deliberately destroyed someone else’s will, or where someone has deliberately told the testator something untrue to convince them to change their will. Examples of forgery include creating a fake will or writing a false signature on a will.

If either will fraud or forgery is successfully proven, the fraudulent will is revoked, as it will not be a valid will, and the estate will be divided according to the most recent previous valid will. On the other hand, if there is no previous will, the estate will be divided according to the intestacy rules.

Suspicious Circumstances may indicate will fraud

There are some situations that suggest will fraud has taken place. Circumstances that can lead to a suspicion of will fraud include:

  • The witnesses to the will have a close relationship with the only beneficiary
  • A sudden radical change between the testator’s previous will and the testator’s new will, for example suddenly leaving property that was to be divided between beneficiaries to one individual
  • Before they died, the testator became heavily dependant on the beneficiary of a new radically different will, for example a carer
  • The signature on the will appearing to be different from the testator’s signature
  • A will that was made without the help of a solicitor (a “DIY” will)
  • The witnesses were not present when the will was signed

Burden of Proof in cases of forgery or will fraud

There is a high burden of proof when challenging a will on grounds of forgery or will fraud. This is partly because fraud is a serious allegation that can have criminal implications for the defendant. It is difficult to prove that someone has interfered with the will deliberately and for this reason, other grounds for a will dispute are considered easier to prove. Another challenge of alleging fraud is that there are usually few witnesses, as the testator has died before the dispute arises. For this reason, it is often difficult to find enough evidence to support a claim of will fraud.

The evidential burden is high because claimants usually need to consult a handwriting expert for an expert opinion on whether the signature on the will is genuine, or if it has been copied. A handwriting expert will need to look at around 15 examples of previous signatures by the testator to compare them to the signature on the will and decide whether the signature is genuine.

What to do if you suspect will fraud

It is important to contact a solicitor to find out what the best approach to challenging a will is in your situation. Claimants who suspect that there has been will fraud should consider challenging the will using different grounds because of the high burden of proof in will fraud cases. The suspicious circumstances that give rise to will fraud claims can also lead to other claims that are easier to prove:

For example, a claim for lack of knowledge and approval can be made if there is evidence that the testator did not know or approve of the will, which would likely be the case if the will has been made fraudulently. A claim of lack of testamentary capacity can be made if the testator did not meet the requirements for capacity to make a valid will, which may be the case if someone has been able to take advantage of them. If one of these other grounds for a will dispute succeeds, the will is declared invalid, so the claim will have the same result for you as a successful will fraud case, but with a lower burden of proof.

Will Claim solicitors are specialist will dispute lawyers. We can advise on all aspects of your will dispute and help you whether you consider a will to be invalid, or you wish to claim for a higher proportion of an estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act. Get in touch to book an appointment with one of our will dispute experts.

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Don't get stuck in checkmate when you challenge a will validity - consider these 5 points before challenging a will

A Reminder of the 5 Grounds to Challenge a Will

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Challenging a will requires a valid reason to go to court. Different grounds will be relied upon in a will dispute, depending on the particular circumstances under which the will was made. If you are unhappy with the contents of a will and the circumstances in which it was made, a vital first step in any challenge will be to establish the grounds on which you will challenge the will. The main grounds for challenging the validity of a will are explained below.

  1. Undue Influence

A valid will must be a statement of the testator’s intentions as to what will happen to their property when they die. A will is therefore invalid if the will has been made by the testator but while they were under someone else’s influence or control. There are a number of examples in caselaw which illustrate the principles of undue influence, and behaviour that could amount to undue influence – but it will always depend on the specific circumstances of the particular will.

In Edwards v Edwards [2007] WTLR 1387 it was decided that there is no presumption of undue influence with regards to will disputes: the burden of proving undue influence is potentially higher for wills than other contracts. Claimants challenging a will on grounds of undue influence will have to prove that coercion has taken place and that this has affected the provisions in the will.

    1. Challenging a will for Lack of Testamentary Capacity

Lack of testamentary capacity arises when the testator of a will does not have the required level of knowledge and understanding to create a valid will. Challenging a will on grounds of lack of testamentary capacity is particularly common when the testator suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The test to decide whether a testator had the necessary capacity to create a valid will was set out in Banks v Goodfellow (1870-71) L.R. 11 Eq. 472:

  • The testator must understand that they are creating a will and the consequences of this decision;
  • The testator must have an idea of their property and its worth;
  • They must know who their dependants are, as well as anyone who is expecting to inherit from the will.
  1. Challenging a will for Lack of Knowledge or Approval

When a will is validly executed, there is a presumption of knowledge or approval – that is to say that the testator knows what is in the will and approves it. The presumption of knowledge or approval does not arise in circumstances where the testator suffered from certain physical disabilities such as visual impairments and paralysis.

In any case, a will can be challenged for lack of knowledge or approval if the circumstances are such that the court finds suspicious. Suspicious circumstances can include, for example, a sudden extreme change in the testator’s intentions and where the testator has not taken legal advice before making their will. This will cast doubt whether the individual knew and approved of what they were agreeing to when the will was signed.

  1. Rectification

Rectification occurs when there has been a clerical error in the will, or the draftsman has been negligent, such that the will does not reflect the intentions of the testator. If there is a mistake in the will, the court will rectify it, using evidence of the draftsman’s notes when the will was produced. There is a six-month time limit from the grant of probate to make a claim for rectification.

  1. Forgery or Fraud

The grounds of forgery and fraud arise in the situation where a fake will document has been produced, or where the testator’s signature has been forged. Such a will is invalid for obvious reasons. Challenging a will using allegations of fraud is more difficult than other grounds of a will dispute because there is a higher burden of proof.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

In addition to the grounds of disputing the validity of a will set out above, there is an additional remedy for disappointed beneficiaries considering challenging a will, in the Inheritance Act. The Act makes it possible for those who were financially dependant on a testator to apply to the courts for reasonable financial provision if this is not provided in the will.  This type of claim does not challenge the validity of the will, but asks the court to make reasonable financial provision out of the testator’s estate.

For more advice about challenging a will, including information about how we can represent you on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, please get in touch with our specialist will dispute lawyers.

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in an inheritance dispute proprietary estoppel may assist where a promise that was made is not kept in a will

5 Things to Know about Proprietary Estoppel

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Proprietary estoppel is a principle that courts use to resolve disputes. Proprietary Estoppel arises when a defendant has made promises or assurances that property will pass to the claimant, and the claimant has relied on these assurances to their detriment.

For example, in Gillett v Holt [2001] Ch 210, a farmer, Mr Holt, made assurances to Mr Gillett that if he worked on his farm for far below the market rate for his work, Mr Gillett and his wife would inherit the property. When Mr Holt tried to give the property to someone else, the court ruled against him- he could not go back on his promise, as Mr Gillett had relied on it to his detriment. Proprietary estoppel arises in will disputes when someone has been promised property, has acted on this promise to their detriment, and then they are not left the property in the person’s will.

  1. Land and Farming

Proprietary estoppel relates to promises that are made with regards to land, and detrimental reliance is often established when the claimant has worked on the land. For this reason, proprietary estoppel cases often involve agricultural land.

For example, in the recent case of Habberfield v Habberfield [2018] EWHC 317 (Ch), a farmer’s daughter was promised that she would inherit the farm, and acted to her detriment by working on the farm for several decades and establishing a dairy farm on the land. When her father passed away and the

farm was not left to the daughter in the will, the courts used proprietary estoppel to establish her right to the value of the farm.

However, proprietary estoppel is not just for farm related will disputes: in the leading case of Pascoe v Turner [1979] 1 WLR 431, an unmarried couple lived together. The man told his partner that the house was hers, and she carried out significant improvements on the property. The court ruled in her favour as she had acted to her detriment in reliance on his assurances.

  1. Assurances

 When a will dispute gives rise to proprietary estoppel, it will be necessary for the claimant to establish that assurances, or promises, have been made. There is no set rule as to what exactly amounts to an assurance, and the court will look at evidence of what the testator said to the claimant.

As the testator will have passed away before the dispute, witness statements from third parties who do not have anything to gain from the dispute are of vital importance to a court, as they give an account of the relationship between the parties and any promise or understanding that was reached regarding the property. 

  1. Reliance

The claimant has to show that they acted in reliance on the assurances. Giving up the opportunity of paid work, making an expensive decision to move home, or working on the land itself are actions that can be regarded as reliance on a promise of inheriting land. 

  1. Detriment

Detriment can be established either by showing that the claimant has suffered loss as a direct consequence of their reliance on the defendant’s promises, or that they would have been in a better financial situation if they had done otherwise.

The extent of the detriment is a factor that is used when deciding on the nature and extent of the appropriate remedy. 

  1. Remedies in proprietary estoppel cases

Proprietary Estoppel can give rise to a wide range of remedies, from a transfer of the property into the name of the claimant, to damages in the amount of the property that was promised, or the loss that was suffered by the claimant. In Jennings v Rice [2002] EWCA Civ 159, the court decided that the appropriate remedy for a proprietary estoppel will dispute was the minimum amount necessary to “satisfy the equity”, i.e the minimum amount to make the situation fair.

If a claimant can successfully show assurances, reliance and detriment, then the court will use proprietary estoppel to consider the appropriate remedy for the situation.

If you are considering a will dispute, and you think proprietary estoppel may be involved, you will undoubtedly need legal advice to set out your claim in the best terms possible. Will Claim solicitors specialise in will disputes and have many years’ experience in this field. Get in touch to find out more about our services.

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What steps could be taken to prevent will disputes? We offer some reflections

The Benefit of Hindsight: What Could Have Been Done to Prevent Will Disputes

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We look at some lessons from case law that may help prevent will disputes in the future.

Making a will is an important step for you to take to ensure that you property will be distributed as far as possible according to your wishes when you die. Without an up to date will, property will either be distributed according to a previous will, which might not reflect your wishes, or the intestacy rules. A will dispute arises when a either beneficiary under a will, or someone who was financially dependent on the testator, or an individual who believes the will was not properly made, challenges the will.

There are several ways someone could challenge your will. It is possible to challenge the validity of a will for lack of testamentary capacity, for example. Someone who you support financially when you are alive might claim for ‘reasonable financial provision’ under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, without questioning the validity of the will itself. Examples of what you as a Testator (the person making the will) could have done to prevent will disputes arising out of lack of testamentary capacity and the Inheritance Act are considered in this blog.

Lack of Testamentary Capacity and The Golden Rule

‘Testamentary capacity’ is necessary to create a valid will. This term refers to the level of understanding that the Testator has of the will and its consequences. The Golden Rule is the general principle that a solicitor, who is preparing a will and has reason to suspect that the testator might not have testamentary capacity, should arrange a medical examination of the testator to ensure that they have capacity. The Golden Rule is especially relevant where the testator is showing symptoms of dementia.

In the case of Key v Key [2010] EWHC 408 (Ch), a solicitor made a will for an 89 year old man whose wife had passed away less than a week before. The solicitor failed to follow the Golden Rule, and the will was successfully challenged for lack of testamentary capacity. In the judgement, the judge stated:

“Mr Cadge’s failure to comply with what has come to be well known in the profession as the Golden Rule has greatly increased the difficulties to which this dispute has given rise and aggravated the depths of mistrust into which his client’s children have subsequently fallen.”

When solicitors follow the Golden Rule, the resulting medical evidence that the testator had testamentary capacity is very likely to successfully defend against a will dispute for lack of testamentary capacity. Failure to adhere to the Golden Rule can lead to a will dispute, and as in the case of Key v Key, cause a great deal of family strain.

Inheritance Act and Codicils could prevent will disputes

In the case of Roberts & Anor v Fresco [2017] EWHC 283 (Ch), a woman whose estate was worth £16 million passed away, without leaving reasonable financial provision for her husband. Her estate was left mostly to her only daughter. The husband unfortunately passed away before he could make an Inheritance Act claim, and only £320,000 was left under his will to his daughter (the woman’s step daughter).

A codicil is a document that officially changes the provisions of a will. Instead of making an entirely new will, it is possible for a testator to make a codicil to adapt the way in which their estate will be divided. Like a will, a codicil must be signed and witnessed. Codicils are common in situations where a person gets married or has a child, for example, because this alters the set of people who are dependent on them financially. The case of Roberts & Anor v Fresco is an example of an estate that would potentially have been distributed very differently if the testatrix had changed her will via codicil when she married her husband.

Conclusions

Unfortunately, testators can fail to consider methods of establishing testamentary capacity, or keeping updated codicils to ensure that their will accurately reflects their changing wishes. It is important for will disputes claimants to be aware of the problems with a will when it was made, or changes in the testators’ circumstances during their lifetime, to help determine whether a will dispute has the potential to succeed.

For expert advice on your will dispute, get in touch! We offer a free claim assessment, and can usually handle claims on a ‘no win no fee‘ basis.

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When a couple make mutual wills, they cannot make different wills later on without the agreement of the other

The power of mutual wills

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Many people – usually couples – make wills which are similar. They leave assets, property and other bequests to the same people. An example would be a couple who leave everything to each other and then to their children. If these wills include an agreement to do this, and not to revoke the will without the agreement of the other, these will be mutual wills.

The importance of mutual wills in a will dispute

In a will dispute, the claimant will challenge a will arguing that it is invalid. We often talk about the more ‘suspicious’ aspects of will validity – situations where there has been undue influence by someone over the Testator. Another common reason for challenging a will include that the Testator was not well enough to make a will, and did not understand what he or she was doing. People can also argue that the will is invalid because it has not been properly signed and witnessed.

If there is a mutual will in existence, this will mean that any later wills are invalid, without need to challenge them using one of these other reasons.

13 later wills invalid thanks to a mutual will

In Legg & Anor v Burton & Ors, the claimants challenged the final will of their mother, June Clark, made in December 2014. This was the latest in a long line of 13 wills made since she a will she made at the same time as her husband in 2000. Her husband had died in 2001.

The wills made in 2000 by husband and wife mirrored each other with both leaving their property to the other, and if the other had died, then the estate was to be shared equally between the daughters – the claimants in this case. In contrast, the 2014 will left the first claimant £10,000 and the second £30,000 with the rest of the estate, valued in total at £213,000 (net) shared between other beneficiaries.

The defendants argued that the 2000 wills did not have the necessary agreement to make them binding, ‘mutual wills’. The claimants argued that they did.

Looking at the evidence, the judge agreed that the wills themselves were identical in all respects, there was nothing to say they were ‘mutual’ or that they agreed not to revoke the will without the agreement of the other one. The claimants argued that the circumstances that made the wills ‘mutual’ arose outside the will – that there was an equitable trust which arose from the wills. The first claimant had been present when the Testatrix and her husband had executed their wills in 2000. Both gave evidence that the wills had been described as being ‘set in stone’ and that neither party wished to change their will in the future. Although the judge recognised that the claimants had a financial interest in the outcome of the case, he accepted their evidence. He found that the principle of mutual wills had been engaged. As a result, the subsequent wills made by the Testatrix failed, and the 2000 will was the valid will.

Relying on a mutual will needs good evidence

This case highlights a common problem in will disputes – that of obtaining good contemporaneous evidence of what happened when the will was drafted. In this case, the judge accepted the evidence of the claimants, both of whom had been present at (or immediately after, in the case of the second claimant) the execution of the wills. Had the judge not believed their evidence, the outcome might have been different. It also highlights the need for a good solicitor to be involved in drafting the original will. Mutual wills should expressly include an acknowledgement that this is what the intention is, and that the people making the mutual wills agree not to revoke their will without reference to the other.

If you are considering a will dispute, perhaps because you believe there was a mutual will in place that would overturn a later will, we can help. We offer a ‘no win no fee’ arrangement for most will disputes, and provide a free will claim assessment to get the ball rolling.

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inheritance act claims for reasonable financial provision

Will disputes – taking action before the testator has died

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If you suspect that someone has made a will in suspicious circumstances, is there anything you can do before that person dies?

The papers have recently reported a number of situations where high profile individuals: Bill Gates, Nigella Lawson and the like – have declared their intention to leave the majority of their fortunes to charity rather than their children. In these cases it seems unlikely that there is anything untoward going on – but what happens if you suspect that a relative is being put under pressure to draw up a will that does not reflect his or her true intentions?

A recap on the grounds for challenging the validity of a will

It’s worth remembering that there are specific grounds to challenge the validity of a will. These are:

  • The will must be correctly signed and witnessed;
  • The person making the will (the testator) must have the mental capacity to do so, and understand the extent of their estate and who they are leaving it to;
  • He or she should know and approve the contents of the will; and finally
  • There is no undue influence being placed on the person making the will

It is quite difficult to challenge the validity of a will on any of these grounds, usually because by the time the contents of the will have been made public, the testator is dead and cannot speak about his or her state of mind and what was going on at the time the will was drawn up and executed (signed and witnessed).

Action before death

The basic rule is that even if you suspect that someone has drawn up a will that is somehow invalid for one of these reasons, you cannot bring a challenge until the person has died. If you have suspicions about a will, it is important to enter a Caveat at the Probate Registry, which will mean that probate (and therefore the distribution of the estate according to the will you wish to challenge) cannot go ahead without an investigation into the circumstances. However, this cannot be done until the testator has died.

In some states in the USA, there are provisions which allow the provisions of a will to be challenged before the testator has died. Once a will has been drawn up, the beneficiaries, and family members who have been left out, are advised of the contents of the will and then have a specific period to challenge the will. If no challenge is brought in this specific time period, those individuals cannot challenge the will at a later date.

Steps to take

If you are aware of circumstances that could invalidate the will, you can take steps to improve your case by collecting as much evidence as possible while the testator is still alive. Evidence about his or her mental state, for example. Where you feel undue influence is being exerted over the testator, it may be worth talking to professionals involved in his or her care and raising your concerns that way; gather as much evidence as you can – bearing in mind that this may be difficult. You could even talk to a specialist lawyer who deals with will disputes to see what they recommend in the particular circumstances you are experiencing.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a close friend or relative and how that may have an impact on arrangements for their estate, you may need to act quickly following their death, either to prevent a grant of probate or letters of administration, or to bring a claim that you have not been adequately provided for in the will or under the intestacy rules. Taking early advice will put you in the best possible position.

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a library full of books

Reasons to use a will dispute expert

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The importance of choosing an expert in probate and litigation work when you’re thinking of disputing a will.

You may be considering bringing a challenge to a will – and if you are, it’s important to use a will disputes expert, a point that was recently highlighted in the case of Lyons & Anor v Kerr-Robinson

The Facts

Cynthia Lyons died intestate leaving property in Jamaica and England. She had no family. There were competing parties for the grant of Letters of Administration, but despite Caveats being issued, the Letters of Administration were granted to the defendant, Andrene Kerr-Robinson. Kerr-Robinson then engaged a firm of licensed conveyancers to defend herself against claims from the other potential beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate. This firm had no probate experience, and no experience in litigation. Kerr-Robinson went on to transfer over £85,000 from the estate to the firm, which was later moved by the firm into the office account and was used to pay the firm’s bills.

Finding that the defendant should repay the money, the judge found that

  • Kerr-Robinson had not behaved properly in engaging a firm that was not authorised to conduct litigation on behalf of the estate.
  • She also did not act reasonably because she agreed to a retainer without placing a cap on fees and charges
  • She took no steps to keep an eye on what was happening to the money.

Choosing the wrong solicitor can cause big problems

In this case, the decision to use a firm of licensed conveyancers more used to dealing with property sales than with disputes arising out of inheritance and intestacy put the Adminstrator, Andrene Kerr-Robinson, in an extremely difficult position. Not only did she transfer money resulting in the monies being used for the wrong purpose, she failed to keep an eye on what was happening to the monies. If she had chosen a firm of solicitors whose expertise was litigation and will disputes law, it is far less likely that she would have been held responsible in this way.

In other will dispute claims, for example if you are seeking to overturn a will on the grounds that it is invalid for some reason, there is even more reason to use an expert. This is a complex area of law and it can be difficult to prove that something untoward has gone on – such as the preparation of an invalid will. Unless you use an expert, you may receive poor advice as to the strength of your claim, the evidence you might need to prove your claim, or you may receive incomplete advice about whether to settle a claim or pursue litigation to court.

A question of experience & expertise

It’s not as unusual a situation as you might imagine– you have a legal problem, so you approach a solicitor. But it’s important to make sure you use the right solicitor, one who is experienced in the area of law that covers the issue you want to resolve.

If you suffer from arthritis, you would not consult a brain surgeon. Although the brain surgeon will have had the same initial medical training as a rheumatologist, it’s only by seeing the rheumatologist that you will access the most up to date treatments and therapies and receive the best treatment for your condition.

The same is true of solicitors. Although we have broadly the same initial training, during which we may experience different areas of legal practice, we usually specialise in one area of the law once we have become qualified. At this stage, we will concentrate on broadening our knowledge and building our experience in this one area. And while we may not forget what we learned in law school and during training, our knowledge of other areas of law will never be as up to date as our knowledge of our specialist area.

The intricacies of will dispute law

Property law, employment law, personal injury, will disputes – each area of law has its own rules and procedures, its own set of ‘case law’. Although there may be some similarities, for example in the processes that must be followed when bringing a claim to court, you will find that unless you choose a solicitor who specialises in the area you need, you risk an unfavourable outcome, however strong your case may be.

The law which relates to will disputes and associated matters such as trusts and the duties of executors is a complex and changing area. As in other areas, the law relating to will disputes is made up of a combination of legislation (Acts of Parliament) and case law. Some of the legislation is quite old – for example, the Wills Act 1837 which sets out the requirements for a valid will. Case law is essentially the current state of play as the courts interpret legislation and legal rules, putting ‘flesh on the bones’ of the Acts of Parliament.

Using an expert will help you navigate the complexities of the law and reach the best outcome.

 

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