Below are a few examples of the types of matters that we have assisted our clients with in the past.
Challenge to the validity of a deathbed will
We acted for a son in relation to the Estate of his late father. On the father’s death it was discovered that he had signed a Will leaving his estate, in its entirety, to his daughter in law.
The client had serious concerns regarding the Deceased’s mental capacity at the time that the will (which was executed on his deathbed) was prepared and executed.
There was a failure by the solicitors drafting the will to comply with the “golden rule” thus whilst the doctors at the hospital had expressed concerns regarding the Deceased’s capacity at the relevant time, the solicitors had failed to obtain a medical opinion to satisfy themselves as to the capacity and understanding of the Deceased.
We made further enquiries with the solicitors who prepared the will, obtained extensive medical evidence. Negotiations followed which resulted in a settlement being reached. The terms of the settlement resulted in our client receiving a substantial cash lump sum from his father’s estate.
For this case, we were able to accept our client’s instructions being funded by way of a conditional fee agreement, more commonly known as ‘no win no fee’.
We were asked to advise the long-standing partner of a deceased who felt that she had been left inadequate financial provision following her partner's death.
Although she was not married to the deceased, our client had lived with the deceased for many years and had been entirely financially dependent upon him for her day-to-day requirements and standard of living. The deceased died intestate (i.e. without leaving a valid will). Upon his passing, our client found herself in a very difficult and worrying situation which threatened to leave her homeless.
Due to the impending expiry of the strict time limit imposed for starting claims of this nature, our client issued court proceedings against the estate. There followed some negotiations with the other interested parties which resulted in a settlement being reached. The terms of the settlement provided our client with a lifetime interest in the equity of the deceased’s home and a significant cash sum.
In this instance, we were able to accept our client’s instructions being funded by way of a conditional fee agreement, more commonly known as ‘no win no fee’.
Challenge to the Validity of a Will
We recently assisted a client who challenged the validity of his late mother’s will. Our client and his brother were the only beneficiaries named in the disputed will, with our client’s brother receiving a lifetime interest in the deceased’s property and being named as the sole executor. The property made up the bulk of the estate and the terms of the disputed will departed from the terms of the deceased’s former wills.
Our client was concerned with the circumstances surrounding the making and signing of his late mother’s will, such events taking place a matter of weeks before her death. Central to his concerns was his mother’s mental capacity at that time. His late mother was reported to be in severely ill health, which had drastically deteriorated thereby affecting her judgement and reasoning.
We made further enquiries of the deceased’s medical history and the persons concerned with the drafting and signing of the will. We also obtained an opinion of an independent medical expert as to the mental capacity of the deceased.
In light of the favourable evidence gathered on behalf of our client, we successfully negotiated a settlement providing our client with a 50% interest in the entire estate and a significant contribution towards his legal costs.
We were instructed by an executor who had been accused by his co-executor (who was also a beneficiary) of misappropriating a six figure sum from the estate fund. The net estate was valued in the millions of pounds.
Two sets of proceedings were issued in the High Court against our client, one for repayment of the allegedly misappropriated estate funds and the other seeking the court’s approval that the co-executor’s legal costs of the claim could be taken from the estate.
We conducted a thorough examination of the estate papers and liaised closely with the other estate beneficiaries in order to build a defence to the claim. We also successfully opposed the co-executor’s claim for the estate to meet his costs. As a result, the claim was successfully settled through mediation on terms that our client was to retain all monies properly received by him from the estate. Both the executors and the beneficiaries were present at the mediation.
Executor Negligence due to Maladministration
We were asked to assist a residuary beneficiary of an estate. The estate was worth in the region of £1.3 million. The executors were named as two partners of a particular firm of solicitors.
The bulk of the estate assets consisted of the deceased’s shareholding. There had been some considerable delay in the executors administering the estate which led to the estate’s shareholding remaining unsold for nearly 3 years after the date of death. This was despite our client’s requests for the estate to be dealt with more urgently. In that time, the shareholding depreciated in value which reduced the value of our client’s inheritance.
High Court proceedings were issued by our client against the executors seeking compensation for the decrease in value of their inheritance. The matter was settled through successful negotiation, which we conducted on behalf of our client. Not only did our client receive a substantial cash payment to compensate them for their loss, they also recovered a significant contribution towards their costs.